NSW Security and Locks

The landlord is responsible for providing and maintaining the security of the premises. Each tenant on the agreement is entitled to a copy of the key at no extra charge when moving in. Generally, the consent of the other party is needed before the locks can be changed.

This guide covers landlords (or head-tenants) and tenants (or sub-tenants) in a Residential Tenancy. This applies to the majority of share accommodation and residential property rental situations. To confirm it covers your situation visit What is my share accommodation situation?

Who is responsible for security and locks?

It is the responsibility of the landlord to provide and maintain the locks (or other security devices) to ensure that the rented premises is reasonably secure. This means that the landlord must hand over the rented premises to the tenant in a secure state, and if notified that it has become insecure, performs maintenance to rectify that problem.

The landlord must give a copy of the key (or other opening device) to each tenant listed in the tenancy agreement. Therefore, if there are multiple co-tenants under one tenancy agreement, then each tenant should be given a copy of the keys (or other opening device) by the landlord.

The tenant should be given keys (or other opening device) that allows them access to both the areas that they occupy exclusively and to any common or shared areas. Therefore, in share accommodation situations, the tenant should have keys (or similar) giving them access to their room and to shared facilities such as a bathroom or kitchen.

The tenant should be initially given the keys free of charge. The landlord can, however, charge the tenant for the cost of supplying additional or replacement keys.

When is a rented premises ‘reasonably secure’?

Ensuring that the premises is secure is one of the most important parts of a tenancy. Tenants should feel safe living in the rented premises and are entitled to a minimum level of security. It is in the interests of the landlord also for the premises to be safe and secure. If the tenant suffers loss or damage to their belongings because the landlord did not provide a secure premises, then the landlord may be held liable.

There is no set standard for when a premises is considered ‘reasonably secure’. Ultimately, what is ‘reasonably secure’ will depend on the nature of the premises and its surroundings. There are a number of things that landlords can do, however, that may help to make the premises at least reasonably secure: - consider the adjoining property and the general nature of the area. Is there a high crime rate? How easily can someone unlawfully access the premises? - compliance with Australian Standards and Building Codes on locks and safety devices is very helpful. - using deadlocks on all doors and windows, especially on the ground floor. This is especially important in urban or city areas. - avoid using locks located inside the doorknob. Just having these locks alone on a door, without a deadlock, may not be sufficient for the premises to be reasonably secure. This is especially important for external doors.

In share accommodation situations, it may be necessary to have locks on both the external doors to the premises and the internal doors for each tenant’s bedroom. The landlord should consider the relevant degree of security that is required for each lock.

How do I change the locks?

There are limits on when the landlord or tenant can change the locks, or other security devices for a rented premises. The locks can only be changed under 2 circumstances:

  1. Consent - the other party agrees to the locks being changed
  2. Reasonable Excuse - the locks may be changed by the landlord or tenant if they have a ‘reasonable excuse’. A reasonable excuse is usually some kind of exceptional circumstances, and includes:
    • emergencies
    • if the Tribunal orders it
    • if a co-tenant has moved out
    • if a tenant or occupant is prevented from having access to the premises because of an apprehended violence order (AVO)

If the locks have been changed by either the tenant or the landlord, a copy of the new key must be provided to the other party within 7 days of the alteration. A copy does not have to be given to a tenant or occupant who is prevented from having access to the premises because of an apprehended violence order (AVO).

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These legal guides provide a brief summary and introduction of the laws and regulations affecting share accommodation. They do not cover all cases in all legal jurisdictions and might not apply in your specific share accommodation situation. It is important that you use this information as a guide only and seek independent Legal Advice or consult the Relevant Acts. We do not accept any liability that may arise from the use of this information.