What to do if a Tenant Changed Locks Without Permission

Every tenant has the right to privacy and the peaceful enjoyment of the rental property. But, do they have the right to change the locks without your permission? The answer is, the type of permission needed depends on where you live.

Provincial & Territorial Regulations

For those of you renting properties in Ontario and Manitoba, under provincial law your renter isn’t allowed to change the locks without your permission. You, however, have every right to change the locks as long as you provide the tenant with a new set of keys.

If you own a property in Alberta, the tenant must ask permission from the landlord to change the locks of a property. (And, the tenant must provide the landlord with a key as soon as the change is made.) Without permission, the tenant may only add on locks that are used on the inside, like a chain lock. Also, the landlord must also get the permission of the tenant to change the locks.

Over in B.C., the situation is similar, locks must be changed at the start of a new tenancy. If the tenant wants to change the lock during the tenancy, they will need the permission of the landlord. Where a tenant can prove that the landlord has entered contrary to the Residential Tenancy Act, the tenant may apply to have the locks to the rental unit changed.

Similarly, in other provinces and territories —such as PEI, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut— the locks can’t be changed without the consent of both parties: the landlord and the renter.

Safety & Security Considerations

There are many scenarios where a tenant might want to change the lock due to safety or security reasons. For instance, if the tenant has lost their key, or there has been a break-in, or if there has been an abusive relationship… the list goes on. The tenant should write a letter to the landlord asking for permission and outlining their concerns.

If the tenant adds an additional lock, they must provide the landlord with a key immediately.

The Landlord’s Responsibility

As a landlord, you cannot change the lock without providing the tenant with a key, except in the situation of a legal eviction. Without a legal eviction, if you do change the locks, your tenant has the right to call the police to gain entrance to their home. After that, they can file a complaint with the local/provincial landlord and tenant board.

So, The Tenant Changed the Lock... Now What?

The landlord always needs a copy of the key in case of emergencies and for routine inspections. First, give the tenant the benefit of the doubt. Send a polite email asking for a copy of the key to the premises and let them know that they have contravened the law and must correct the situation within an explicit and reasonable period of time. It’s up to the tenant to change the locks back and pay for the work done or give you keys to the new locks within that stated timeframe. If the tenant doesn’t do any of the above, you can apply to your local Landlord and Tenant Board for an order telling the tenant to provide the key, or pay you the cost of altering the locking system and providing them with a new key. Fill out all the proper documentation, because you might need it to start an eviction process if the tenant does not intend to give you a key.

How Property Vista Helps

While we can’t get the locks changed back for you, Property Vista’s property management solution is aimed at helping in a multitude of other ways. First, we give you a communication portal so you can easily and professionally communicate to your tenant, and have a digital record of all back-and-forths. Secondly, we have a maintenance portal, where the tenant can submit a request like changing the lock for your approval. Lastly, we have a document storage area and forms, like eviction forms and N4 forms, built in. You have everything at your fingertips. Go here to request a demo and see pricing.