Landlords holding keys

Ask Afpop
In this new monthly column, afpop, Portugal’s largest foreign residents’ association, aims to answer some of the most frequently-asked questions by members.

Question: We rent a property and have found that the landlord has a key to it. Are they allowed to enter the property when we aren’t here?

afpop answers: The short answer is no. Whilst most relationships between landlords and tenants of long-term rentals are friendly and amicable, it is always useful to understand what rights the tenant has on taking residence in a property. In fact, we are asked about this occasionally, specifically regarding the landlord’s right to access the house and whether they are entitled to even hold a key for the property.

Some tenants change the locks immediately for the sake of greater security and privacy and it is their right to do so, without prior notice or asking the landlord for authorisation, and they are not required to hand over a copy of the new key to the landlord. The tenant has the right to privacy and to not be disturbed.

However, it should be noted that this is not an absolute right. There are some exceptions, such as situations in which it is mandatory for the tenant to allow the landlord to visit the property, for example to facilitate urgent works or for an inspection when the contract is about to cease under the terms of article 1081 of the Code Civil. It may also be included in the contract that the owner will visit the property periodically, on a date and time to be agreed between the parties, but that is not an obligation and is by agreement between landlord and tenant.

However, even in these situations they cannot enter the property against the tenant’s will. Where the tenant refuses entry, the landlord can bring an action against them and ask the courts to force them to allow entry. When the lease ends, the tenant is obliged to return the leased property in good condition and is obliged to replace the old locks, unless the landlord is happy to keep the new one.

Please note that afpop is not a legal firm and advice should be sought from a qualified lawyer if there are any doubts about your rights, either as a tenant or a landlord.

For more information about the benefits of membership of afpop, the largest association for foreign residents in Portugal, including their extensive list of Information Bulletins, you can visit their website; email them direct on or call the afpop office on 282 458 509 (t/m 938 252 100).

Please remember to quote THE ALGARVE RESIDENT when contacting them.