Depending on which province you are renting in you may be faced with 4-9 separate acts and regulations pertaining to the day to day operation of your rental properties. They cover everything from how big your windows have to be, the rules on damage deposits and as will be discuss here; who’s allowed to change locks and whether or not you can charge for keys. Specifically, we’ll consider the rules in Alberta and British Columbia.
In Alberta a Landlord or Tenant may change the locks at anytime PROVIDED a key is made available to the other party immediately.
The rules in BC seem about the same BUT if the tenant suspects the Landlord illegally entered the suite the Tenant may make a complaint to a Dispute Resolution Officer. If the officer accepts the evidence tendered by the Tenant it is possible for THE TENANT TO CHANGE THE LOCKS AND NOT PROVIDE THE LANDLORD A KEY. At this point it is unclear what responsibility the Landlord is to assume in an emergency situation; since they have effectively been stripped of their ability to enter the suite.
Now, concerning keys.
In Alberta you can charge a fee for a key, but it is considered part of the fees covered by a damage deposit. Your damage deposit CANNOT exceed one months rent. Since you likely already charge the full damage deposit the issue of a key really boils down to any other expense you would consider a damage. (Since you cannot charge a month plus the value of a key.) So, yes, you can with hold the $1.50 to cut a new key when a Tenant loses their copy.
In BC you cannot charge for a key that is the only way the Tenant can access their suite. (Again, you can’t charge rent plus $1.50.) You can, however, charge for a replacement key. You can also charge for additional keys. It is unclear what happens if four tenants move into the same suite, but since they would all need to enter the suite separately it would seem reasonable that they all receive a key for no charge.
Of course these key examples may seem silly until you consider some hotel’s charge $50 for replacement keys. And this is why there are laws in place concerning this topic.
In general, though, I would think it’s probably better to stick with the $1.50 charge and avoid all of the hassle.
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