Skip to Main Content

Who can change the locks in a rental residence?

There are times when a landlord and tenant may change the locks. However, there are strict conditions placed on when they may do it and what other conditions they have to follow.

Keep in mind that that rules may differ from province/territory to province/territory in regards to the changing of the locks and this is just a very general overview of rules governing lock changing. You should consult the residential tenancy act of your province or territory to find out exactly who and when someone can change the locks on the rental unit or property.

When can a landlord change the locks?

In general, there should be agreement to change the locks between the landlord and the tenant. It’s not a good idea for the landlord or the tenant to spontaneously decide to change the locks without informing the other party.

Landlords have to be careful when they enter a residential unit, because the tenant has a right to quiet enjoyment and peaceful occupation of the premises. However, that right to quiet and peaceful occupation has to be balanced with the landlord’s right to enter in limited circumstances.

Accordingly, the landlord must give proper notice to the tenant before entering premises. The landlord must also notify the tenant that he or she is changing the locks.

However, if a unit or premise is between tenants and nobody is occupying the unit/premise at a time then the landlord can change the lock.

The landlord is usually the one that has to change the locks and providing residential tenants with keys to their unit. The landlord is also one that usually is responsible for paying for a lock change.

A landlord can refuse to change in the circumstance in which he or she changed locks after the previous tenant moved out.

Furthermore, it’s possible, depending on the province or territory of residence that permits for a landlord to switch the locks on doors giving access to residential premises as long as the change is made.

When can a tenant change the locks?

If you are a new tenant, then you can request that your locks be changed at the beginning of the tenancy. However, the landlord may already have done it when the previous tenant vacated premises, which is why you need to check with the landlord before any changing of the locks is done and to get permission if you want to change the locks. You cannot change locks without the landlord’s permission.

If you are given permission by the landlord, you will have to provide him or her with a copy of the keys. If you fail to give the landlord a copy of the keys then you are going to be in violation.

If you are in a situation whether you’re a tenant or a landlord in which the other party has changed the locks to the residential unit or property without your permission, you may want to contact to lawyer to explore your options.

Read more:

A guide for landlords & tenants in British Columbia

Tenant rights and landlord rights in the Northwest Territories