Many landlords retain master keys to the apartments they manage in order to enter the apartment to make repairs or in case the tenant loses his key. The tenant agrees to give up some rights when renting an apartment, in that the landlord is allowed to enter the apartment under certain conditions, such as after giving adequate notice. Also, the tenant typically cannot change the locks himself under the lease agreement. At the same time, by keeping keys to the apartments the landlord owes a duty to the tenant to protect the keys. If the landlord's key is used to unlawfully enter the premises, the landlord may be liable for any damages that result.
The landlord has a duty to protect the keys as a reasonable landlord would, and the failure to do so may be considered negligence. This means that the landlord must keep the keys secure and locked up where they are less likely to be stolen, and should change the locks after a tenant moves out since the old tenants may have retained copies of their keys. If a key is left out negligently and then stolen, the landlord may be held liable by the tenant.
Other steps that a reasonable landlord may be required to take include:
The laws regarding landlord-tenant relationship as well as negligence can vary from state to state. If a landlord has been negligent with your key which led to a break in, an experienced landlord-tenant attorney can advise you of your rights and options under the law. A lawyer can also represent you in court if needed.
Last Modified: 01-06-2015 02:04 PM PSTLaw Library Disclaimer
We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.