Who Pays When A Key Breaks In A Lock: Tenant Or Landlord?

Broken Key In Lock

When a key snaps inside any lock, it can be a huge hassle. Not only do you have to find a way to get the key out, but if the lock and key are part of your front door, you could also be locked out of your home. So what happens when a key snaps in the front door lock of your buy-to-let investment property? Who pays to get it fixed? The landlord or tenant?

Landlords are responsible for providing secure doors, windows and locks. So in most cases, the landlord is responsible for fixing a broken key. However, if the lock and key are fairly new and the snapped key was caused by negligence, then the tenant may be liable for the cost of repairs.

If you’re a landlord and your tenant snaps their key in the lock, don’t panic! You can contact a locksmith for help. They’ll be able to remove the key and fix the lock, so your tenant can get back into their home.

If you’re a tenant and your key snaps in the lock, don’t worry! You can still get into your home by contacting your landlord, letting agent or a locksmith. Just be aware that you may be liable for the cost of repairs if the lock and key are fairly new and you were at fault.

In some cases, it may be more cost effective for the landlord to replace the entire lock with a new set of keys, as opposed to just removing and replacing the broken key. I say landlord, because the landlord is ultimately responsible for the security of the property with working locks and keys.

As mentioned earlier, if it transpires that the tenant is liable, then the costs can be recouped either immediately or through the tenant’s Deposit Protection Scheme. Just be sure to keep the receipts including the costs of any emergency call-out charges.

If the tenant knows they are responsible for breaking the key in the lock, and they arrange to have the lock replaced themselves, they are then required to give a new key to the landlord and letting agent as soon as possible.

Are Landlords Responsible For Door Locks?

Landlords are responsible for door locks, and for ensuring that all windows and doors are secure and function correctly. This is part of their duty in providing a ‘secure home’. If a tenant has a problem with any locks or keys, they should contact their landlord or letting agent as soon as possible.

Landlords and letting agents should have a set of spare keys for all locks, so they can provide replacements keys if necessary and gain access to the property for prearranged inspections, repairs and emergencies.

If a tenant loses their key, then they should contact the landlord or letting agent to arrange the collection of another copy. There will be a cost to cover the key cutting fees and administration, or for the fitting of a new lock if the lost key is likely to jeopardise the security of the property.

Should The Landlord Pay For An Emergency Locksmith?

Landlords should pay for an emergency locksmith if the tenant is unable to access their home, and either the landlord or letting agent is unable to assist. However, if the damage was caused by the tenant, then it would be reasonable for the landlord to recoup the costs from the tenant once fixed.

Obviously, the most important thing is to ensure that the tenant can gain access to their home and that they are not left out in the cold. If, for whatever reason, the tenant has needed to involve the landlord, then the landlord has the opportunity to provide a good ‘customer service’.

Fixing the problem should always be the priority, and accountability should be dealt with after the fact.

If you are a tenant and your key snaps inside the lock, there are a few things you can do. You can try to remove the key yourself, or you can contact your landlord, letting agent or a locksmith for help. Just be aware that you may be liable for the cost of repairs if the lock and key are fairly new and you were at fault.

How Long Does A Landlord Have To Fix A Broken Lock?

If a broken lock prevents the tenant from being able to enter the property, then the lock must be fixed the same day. For other locks, landlords have a reasonable amount of time to fix them, usually around two weeks. This is in line with their statutory obligation to provide ‘secure accommodation’.

To assist landlords with replacing damaged or faulty locks, tenants should report any problems as soon as possible. This will give the landlord time to source and fit a new lock, hopefully, before the old one becomes unusable.

Landlords should always work to keep a secure, working property and be available to help tenants with any lock or key issues.

Is A Broken Lock Considered Wear And Tear?

A broken lock could be considered as general wear and tear, if the lock has been installed for a number of years and has been used regularly. If the lock is damaged as a result of misuse or negligence, then it would not be considered as general wear and tear.

Wear and tear refers to gradual damage that you would expect to see in a property over time. It is usually the result of normal use, and is not considered to be the fault of either the tenant or landlord.

Landlords who have had the same tenant live in their property for a number years, can expect to see some wear and tear on the locks. As some landlords will know, this is simply part of owning a property.

For landlords who have a regular turnover of tenants, they should consider replacing the locks between tenancies to maintain the security of the property. This will avoid locks failing due to wear and tear and reduce the risk of having to pay emergency fees for call-out charges to locksmiths.

New locks are not very expensive and can be changed within a few minutes by anyone who is a competent DIY’er. Just ensure that the new locks meet British Standard BS3621, as this is the standard that insurers require.

Andy Walker

Andy Walker is a property investor and landlord with over 20 years of experience, providing free education to help others start or improve their Buy-To-Let business.

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