Changing the locks on your home after separation is not necessarily straightforward. The RMB Family Lawyer division explains.
Following the breakdown of a relationship, generally one party will leave the property where both parties had previously resided.
Often, the party remaining in the property will seek to change the locks to ensure that the party that has left can no longer come and go as they please. However, is that party allowed to change the locks without the consent of the other party? The short answer is, it depends. Putting it another way: yes, but …
The Family Court is able to make orders relating to a party’s occupation of a property. Without a Court order, there is very little to stop a party from changing the locks. However, the rights of the other party will depend on how the property is owned.
If the two parties own the property together (either as joint tenants or tenants in common) then each party has the right to change the locks. If either party does change the locks, the other party has the right to regain access to the property. Ordinarily, this means that a key should be provided to that party, or they may arrange alternate methods to gain access to the property (such as a locksmith).
However, if one party owns the property, only that party has the right to change the locks. If the other party (the non-owner) changes the locks, the owner will have the right to gain access to the property, and may change the locks to allow them continued access to the property.
If the parties are leasing a property together, neither party has a right to change the locks without the landlord’s consent. In the event that the landlord does consent, the party seeking to change the locks will likely be required to provide a key to any other persons named on the lease, as well as the landlord and property manager.
The circumstances as to the rights of each party to occupy a property may also vary if there is an Apprehend Domestic Violence Order (or other state equivalents) in place, as those Orders may include restrictions on the rights of one party to attend upon, access, or reside in a property.
Whether you should change the locks will depend on your personal circumstances, and you should seek legal advice from a family law practitioner before doing so, your first step should be to contact our office to arrange a free consultation. You can contact us by by phone or our 'Ask a Question' tool on our website.