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Do You Need to Switch Locks Between Tenants in a Rental Property?

October 18, 2018


In Texas, locks on rental properties are governed by the Texas Property Code. A tenant cannot waive the right to the security devices and procedures listed in the code, no matter what language is in the lease. Here is what you should know.

Changing locks on Rentals

Required Security Devices

Every rental unit in Texas must have the following security devices installed at the landlord’s expense:

  • One window latch on each exterior window
  • A doorknob lock or keyed deadbolt on each exterior door
  • A keyless deadbolt on each exterior door
  • A peephole or other viewing window on each exterior door
  • A sliding door pin lock AND either a handle latch or a security bar on each exterior sliding glass door

All exterior locks must be changed or rekeyed at the landlord’s expense within seven days of a new tenant moving in.

Note that if at least one exterior door has both a keyed deadbolt and a keyless deadbolt, and all other exterior doors have a keyless deadbolt at the time the lease is signed, the landlord does not have to install additional keyed locks. Also note that if the tenant is older than age 55 or has a mental or physical disability, and the written lease allows or requires the landlord to check on the tenant’s well-being, keyless deadbolts are not required as long as proper keyed deadbolts are installed.

Tenant Remedies

If the landlord does not provide a required security device or fails to rekey the locks on time, and the tenant does not owe money to the landlord, the tenant may:

  • Install or rekey the security device and deduct the total cost from the next rent payment
  • File suit against the landlord to force compliance

Changing Locks After a Break-In Attempt

If there is an actual or attempted break-in either in the tenant’s residence or within the apartment complex, the tenant may, within the next two months, request that the landlord change or rekey the locks. If the tenant notifies the landlord of the break-in attempt and is not delinquent in payments, the landlord must comply within three days.

Other Security Devices

A landlord must install or rekey certain additional security devices at the tenant’s request, but the tenant is responsible for the total cost of labor, materials, taxes, and extra keys:

  • A keyed deadbolt on an exterior door if the door has a doorknob lock or a keyless bolting device but not a keyed deadbolt (subject to notes above)
  • A security bar on each exterior sliding glass door if the door already has a pin lock and a handle latch
  • Additional rekeying of a lock at any time

Note that a tenant may not be held responsible for repairing or replacing a security device that failed due to normal wear and tear.

Landlords have a legal responsibility to provide living premises that are safe and habitable. If you have any questions about the legal requirements for locks and security devices on rental properties in Texas, we recommend that you speak with a local attorney who is experienced in rental property law.

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