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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71042
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I rent a private apartment in Croydon - in the past, the letting

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I rent a private apartment in Croydon - in the past, the letting agents have given keys to the property out to external contractors (without my consent the first time, and against my explicit instruction not to do so the second time). Fortunately, both times I was home, but the contractors clearly would have just entered if it were unoccupied (on the second occasion the contractor told me that he had been given keys to all apartments by the letting agent "in case the tenants weren't in". At the time I received advice from a solicitor on this site who informed me I could change the locks and bill it to the letting agent - I threatened to do so and they managed to persuade me not to do so, stating it was their admin error and would absolutely not happen again.
Yesterday morning after I left for work, somebody attempted to enter the apartment after I had left for work, and whilst my partner was in the shower. She heard the door unlock and came out expected to see me, however no one was there. She found the door unlocked (I definitely locked it when I left) and a man in the lobby of the building with a clipboard and a number of sets of keys.
I complained to the letting agent and they are essentially now just denying that it could have happened. The admit a man was in the building doing some work, but that he did not have a key to my apartment. This was after first saying someone was doing work in the block, then later denying it (evidenced in emails I have and a recording I made of our discussion).
I know someone attempted to enter (presumably heard my partner in the shower and quickly left) - however I cannot prove it was the letting agent. I can prove they have done this in the past (through their own admission in email).
I just wanted to find out what my options are.. i.e. can I change the locks, seek action against the letting agent etc. As at this moment they are claiming that (unless I am not being honest) then some random stranger has somehow obtained a key (not from them) - but they are saying that I cannot change the lock without permission.
Thank you
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
You are free to change the locks but you need to give them a copy so it defeats the purpose. They are entitled to a key. Whoever told you that you could change the locks and deny the agents access was incorrect I'm afraid.
They are entitled to reasonable access to the property but they should try to make appointments with you first unless it is actually a life or death emergency.
You could sue for trespass. In truth, it would be irresponsible of me to tell you there is any realistic chance as it cannot be shown they were responsible this time. I know it gives rise to an inference but that isn't enough even on the civil standard of proof.
You could sue for trespass for previous occasions and if its been ongoing arguably for harassment.
The difficulty with this is that it is very difficult to quantify the loss. Clearly there is no financial loss. It comes down to the fact that they shouldn't be doing this.
Even if you do sue it doesn't stop them on subsequent occasions.
A cheaper option might be to send them a letter reminding them of the laws upon the point or, if you are prepared to bear the cost, get a solicitor to do it. Such letters before action are often surprisingly effective.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I assumed that would be the case.. the issue I now face is that either they are lying and giving the key to external parties whilst I'm not present - or someone has obtained an illegal copy of it. So I am no longer comfortable leaving the property unattended, and also fear for the safety of my partner if she's here alone and some stranger lets himself in - they have told me I cannot change the lock unless the landlord approves.

Yes, they are right on that particular point I'm afraid. You cannot deny a key to the agents or at least to the landlord.
You can change the locks if your concern is that a third party has a copy without authorisation but you have to give a key to the agents.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

So is it my right to change the locks (without their permission) - provided I give them a spare key to the property? Are they wrong to attempt to block me from doing so?

No, I wouldn't go that far.
Its not a right per se. Its just that there is no action they could take.
I don't think they are wrong. It would put them to cost as they would have to copy the keys freshly and they have no evidence that there is any lack of security. Its just that its not really a cost they could likely recover from you.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Ok thank you for the information. One last question on this matter..

For the occasions where they have given keys to external parties, with instruction to enter (against my explicit permission) - are they in breach of my tenancy agreement and/or the law? I do have evidence that they have done this.

I'm not looking to attempt to sue them (I'm not interested in money) - I just want to know where I stand on this.

If they have done that without an appointment then that would be a trespass.
The difficult is quantifying the loss but you could write to them making the point that is a trespass.
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