Illinois Tenant's Right to Have Locks Changed

Landlord's Responsibility to Change a Tenant's Locks

Illinois’ landlord tenant act includes rules which are meant to protect the safety of all tenants. One right that is included in this act is the right of a tenant to have the locks on their rental unit changed or rekeyed. Here are the basics of changing a lock in the state of Illinois.

Right for Dwelling Units

The right to have the locks changed or rekeyed applies to dwelling units in the state of Illinois.

A dwelling unit is considered a room or “suite of rooms” that is designed for human habitation. A landlord and tenant must have a written lease agreement for the unit.

Who Must Change the Locks?

The responsibility of changing the lock on the dwelling unit lies on the person who has leased out the unit, most commonly the landlord.

What Locks Must Be Changed?

The locks that the landlord is responsible for changing, or rekeying, are the locks on the doors that grant direct access into the tenant’s unit. This would be the front door of the tenant’s unit and the back door, if there is one.

When Must the Locks Be Changed?

The locks on the unit must be changed after the previous tenant moves out of the rental unit and before the new tenant moves into the rental unit.

Illinois’ Definition of Change or Rekey

Illinois’ landlord tenant act defines the different ways a landlord can meet the obligation to change or rekey a tenant’s lock.

It lists five different ways for this goal to be accomplished. A landlord can:

1. Replace the entire lock.

2. Replace the internal cylinder or locking mechanism of the existing lock so that a different key is necessary to open the lock.

3. For digital or combination locks- changing the combination so that the old tenant can no longer access the unit.

4. Changing an electronic lock so that the method of unlocking it is different for the new tenant than it was for the prior tenant.

5. Making another alteration to the way in which the tenant gains access to the dwelling unit so that it is different than the way the previous tenant was able to gain access to the dwelling unit.

Failure of Landlord to Change or Rekey Lock

Under Illinois law, a landlord is obligated to change or rekey a new tenant’s locks prior to the tenant moving into the unit. If the landlord does not fulfill this obligation, then he or she could face legal consequences.

In everyday situations, the fact that the landlord never changed the locks may never come up. However, if there is a theft at the unit that could have been prevented if the locks had been changed, then the landlord could be liable. In this situation, the landlord could be responsible for paying for any damages that occurred from the theft because, if the landlord had changed the locks, then feasibly, the theft would not have happened.

Exceptions to Landlord’s Responsibility to Change Locks

Under Illinois’ landlord tenant act, there are four situations where a landlord is not responsible for changing the locks before a new tenant moves into the unit.

These include:

1. In the lease agreement, it specifically states that it is the new tenant’s responsibility to change the locks.

2. In an owner-occupied building where the entire building is four units or less.

3. In an owner-occupied single family home, where the tenant is renting out a single room.

4. Landlords whose rental properties are located in counties with a population of less than three million people are not responsible for changing the locks on a tenant’s doors.

Illinois’ Law on Changing Locks

To view Illinois’ law on a tenant’s right to have the locks on their rental unit changed, please see Illinois Compiled Statutes 765 ILCS 705/15.