Apartment block in USA

When Should Landlord Give Keys To The New Tenant?

When Should Landlord Give Keys to the Property?

As the new tenant, your landlord should give you the keys on the same day your lease begins. This means you can only move in once you begin paying rent for the property. If you want to receive the keys earlier than the official move in date, your landlord may ask you to pay extra rent for these additional days.

However, I’ve had experiences in the past where renters have approached me with issues arising when it comes to receiving the keys to their new rental. This article should clear up any questions you have regarding when should your landlord give you the keys to your apartment.

When you Sign a Lease do you get the Keys?

Typically it’s best practice to sign the lease agreement to your new property at least one month before the move in date. Because of this, you’re not going to get the keys when you sign a lease. [1]

Signing the lease one month before the move in date gives both the renter and landlord enough time to get their affairs in order, to allow everything to go smoothly on the move in day. I’ve seen cases where the lease has been signed just a few days before the move in date and then the landlord has found an issue in the apartment that needed to be repaired before the tenants moved in. This then meant the lease had to be mutually voided and a new lease had to be drawn up.

This caused further issues though as the tenants had already agreed a date and time with the moving company, and lost their deposit for cancelling last minute. This is one of the many reasons why the lease should be signed way in advance of the move in date.

Should a landlord have a key to your rental property?

When a landlord signs a lease with a tenant, the landlord turns over their rights of possession to the new tenant. If you’re not sure what to wear to a lease agreement, check out this article. When the tenant moves in, they have the right to access and occupy the property. The landlord gives up the rights to enter the property whenever they want.

In New York Law, your landlord is legally allowed to have a copy of a key to the rental apartment [2]. However should ask the tenants’ permission before entering the property.

If the landlord would like to enter the property, for an inspection for example, it’s best practice to arrange a date with the tenant weeks or even months in advance. Although, a landlord actually only needs to give a minimum of 24 hours notice before entering a property for inspection [3].

If the landlord hires a property management company, the landlord should not own a set of keys, and should instead give these keys to the property management company. This is because the role of the property management company is to manage the interaction with tenants [4].

This means if a landlord has a key to a tenant occupied property, they become exposed to lots of risks. If something were to happen in or around the property, such as tenant’s items stolen, the landlord cannot be classed as innocent straight away, as they own a key to the property. This means by not having a key, the landlord cannot be found liable [4].

What happens once I receive the keys from the Landlord?

This typically happens on the move in day when your lease begins. This is the perfect time to then complete a property inspection with the landlord. Usually, the landlord will give the tenant a move-in checklist and ask the tenant to inform them if there’s anything wrong with the property. The tenant and the landlord walk around the property side by side. This is the best opportunity to let your landlord know about any issues you have with the property, e.g., cleanliness of a room [5].

A top tip for tenants is to take pictures of every room when you move in. This means if there’s an item such as furniture that already has a stain on it when you initially move in, your landlord cannot accuse you of causing the stain. The tenant should email all pictures to the landlord on the day they move in, as documented evidence [6].

When do you Start Paying Rent?

The first month of rent is typically paid before the official move in date, usually on the same day as the lease signing. At the lease signing, the landlord cannot ask for any more than the first months rent and the security deposit. Most leases start on the 1st or the 15th date of the month, so this could be the day you begin paying rent [7]. Make sure to have this agreed with your landlord before you move in to avoid any problems.

As the Landlord, when Should I Give Keys to the Tenant?

Make sure you’ve completed all the following steps before giving the keys to the tenant.

Ensure Rental Property is Ready

First, make sure the rental property is completely ready for move in. Sometimes the tenant can be anxious to move in, but make sure you’ve completed all planned renovations and repairs before you give them the keys [8].

If the tenant offers to do any of the work for you in order to move in early, simply refuse.

Complete Background Check

Complete your background check of your potential tenant before handing them the keys. If you find out the tenant has been evicted previously multiple times, or has a criminal record, it could be too late to cancel the lease agreement if you’ve already handed them the keys [9]. Make sure to also check your tenant’s credit score, and verify their income. If there are any concerns, the tenant may not be able to pay rent on time, and then you’re losing out on rental income [10].

Have All Documents Signed

Ensure all parties have signed all documents. This includes the lease, pet addendum if applicable, and a guarantee if it’s a commercial property. Do not give the tenant the keys before the documents are signed, and trust them in good faith to return them to you. This means if you get into any trouble with the tenants, you don’t have any signed agreement.

Tenant has Fully Paid

This is probably the most important one. As a landlord, you must make sure you’ve received the full first month rent, and security deposit, before giving the keys to the tenant. If the tenant is trying to negotiate paying both at the same, this is an immediate red flag. This means in the future it’s likely they won’t be able to pay rent on time.


So do you get keys when you sign a lease to your new apartment? No. You’ll need to be patient and wait until your official move in date. It’s in the best interests of both the renter and the landlord for the keys to be transferred on the same day the tenant moves into the property and starts paying rent. In my experience, this strategy minimizes the risk of conflict between the renter and landlord further down the line.

People Also Read

Can Your Landlord Cancel a Lease Agreement After Signing It?

Reference List

[1] https://www.common.com/blog/2022/02/when-do-you-sign-a-lease-for-an-apartment/

[2] https://hmgdjlaw.com/blog/2021/07/do-i-have-to-give-my-landlord-a-key/

[3] https://rentprep.com/blog/property-maintenance/rent-inspection/#how-to-notify-tenants-about-landlord-inspections

[4] https://envypropertymanagement.com/will-i-get-a-key-to-my-rental-property-when-hiring-a-property-management-company/

[5] https://www.avail.co/education/articles/move-in-checklist

[6] https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/why-you-should-take-pictures-of-your-apartment-every-time-you-move-239167

[7] https://borrowell.com/blog/lease-start-date-vs-move-in-date

[8] https://www.baymgmtgroup.com/blog/move-in-procedures-perfect-tenant-experience/

[9] https://www.avail.co/education/articles/5-reasons-landlords-must-require-tenant-background-checks

[10] https://www.mysmartmove.com/blog/how-to-verify-tenant-income

2 Responses

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *