Can a handyman change the locks?

Industry News, Investors, Property Management, Property Market,  Buyers and sellers,  Property Managers

As property managers, there are occasions that require us to employ the services of a contractor on behalf of our clients to maintain and/or replace locks so the owner complies with their obligations contained in the RTRA Act, as well as taking into consideration common law.

Section 210 of the RTRA Act outlines the lessor’s responsibilities to ensure the property is ‘reasonably secure’, as well as their obligation to supply and maintain all locks and provide the tenant with keys.

‘Reasonably secure’ may relate to:

  • the risk to a tenant’s personal safety
  • the ability of a tenant to obtain home and contents insurance
  • the likelihood of break-ins
  • local community standards about adequate security for properties
  • the physical characteristics of the property and adjoining areas

Locks can only be changed:

  • if the tenant and property manager/owner agree
  • in an emergency
  • by QCAT order

An example of occasions where locks may require to be changed (not limited to) : –

  • Tenants have vacated and not all keys are returned.
  • Keys have been lost or stolen.
  • The property has been abandoned.

We all know property managers attempt to lessen costs for owners, as owners are looking for the most cost-effective means of meeting their obligations.

The question here, however, is, “Can a handyman rather than a locksmith change the locks – is it legal?” The short answer is no.

Section 9 of the Security Providers Act 1993 (Qld) prohibits –

  • non-licenced persons from carrying out the functions of a security provider; and
  • a person from engaging another person to carry out the function of a security provider.

Unless a person holds the appropriate licence, the person is not entitled to any reward for carrying out the functions of a security provider. In Queensland, all locksmiths are required to hold a security equipment provider licence to ensure they are adequately qualified.

The penalties for both the non-licenced person, and the person that orders the service, are up to 1000 penalty units (that’s currently $130,550) or 18 months imprisonment.

The functions of a security provider include rekeying, gaining entry, installing and repairing locks that come with keys.  Please note, it doesn’t include, and handymen may still work on basic security items like internal (non-key) door locks, window locks, letterbox locks and padlocks.

Locksmiths can seem more expensive than handymen (often not the case when there are warranty callouts) but this covers the cost of the mandatory security licences, trade-specific public liability insurance and because they carry superior brands of lock hardware (which isn’t available over the counter at a hardware store).

Other than the statutory requirement, it’s sensible to engage a licenced locksmith because:

  • Public liability insurance policies typically contain exclusions where the insured person performs work illegally; and
  • Handymen will often install new cylinders to “change locks”, which may mean neighbouring houses and businesses in this town, are unknowingly, using the same key.

Security is not something to be gambled with and the main goal is to offer tenants a safe and secure home whilst protecting our lessors’ investment.