I lived in a shared house but had my own individual lease. I moved out last month. The landlord knew when I was moving out and I sent him a message confirming I had moved out and provided my new address. He never replied but almost 3 weeks latter he contacts me asking for the key to the front door. I can’t recall what I did with it. I may still have it. I was under the impression we would meet to inspect the place to get my damage deposit back. Now he’s saying that he will deduct the cost of changing the locks if I don’t return the key by tomorrow.

This is ridiculous as clearly it hasn’t been an issue for two weeks and in theory I could have made a copy if I wanted to sneak back in anyway.

To my understanding where I live it’s the landlords responsibility to make time to do a move out inspection. I took pictures of the place to ensure I have evidence no damage was done. Also the landlord failed to do a written report on the move in inspection. Does the landlord have anything on me? Can he charge me for not returning the key? What if I find it latter?

From https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/residential-tenancies/ending-a-tenancy/moving-out

It’s the landlord’s responsibility to schedule the condition inspection (or “walk-through”)

What should I reply to the landlord?

  • 3
    An inspection has absolutely nothing to do with you returning the key. Even mentioning it would suggest you don't understand your obligations as a tenant (either contractual or regulatory depending on jurisdiction and text).
    – user4657
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 3:17
  • 5
    The key is the property of landlord. You should have thought about how to return it when you were about to move out — irrespectively of the inspection. You failed to return it, now you have to pay for the consequences.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 5:07
  • 1
    What I meant is I assumed I would give him the key when we met in person. This never happen and now he's saying he will withhold a portion of the deposit without giving me a chance to fix the problem.
    – Jollygator
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 10:10
  • 1
    Maybe he'd accept a video recording of you sending the key via next-day delivery service as sufficient evidence that you don't represent a threat to the security of the apartment, in which case he probably wouldn't replace the locks or charge you for replacing them. But since he said "by tomorrow," the video recording might be overdoing it. Just send him the keys.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 16:28
  • The issue isn't that you "could have made a copy of the key", your landlord needs to be able to give one to the new tenant. Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 0:40

2 Answers 2


If the landlord gave you a key, and you can not give it back to him he has every right to charge you for correcting the oversight.

I put to you that if you can't provide it back to him, he can't be certain that it has not fallen into the wrong hands, and he would be prudent to change the lock - and indeed, he may not even have another copy of the key in which case he really does not have a lot of alternatives.

If you look at the section on "Claims for Damages or Loss" pdf there is a section B - Damage which confirms that Loss includes less tangible impacts including "loss of a service or facility provided under the tenancy agreement"

Section C of the same document goes on to assert that "The purpose of compensation is to put the person who suffered the damage or loss in the same position as if the damage or loss had not occurred".

There is arguably a question of the amount of loss suffered, and they can't sting you for punitive damages, but they can charge you a reasonable amount to get a new key cut (or possibly to replace the lock) - but that was not your question, and would probably arise if the amount he charges was unreasonable in the circumstance. Depending on if he has already taken action - and if not, how much the bill would be - promptly remedying the breach by finding and returning the key or equivalent action might save you some money.

  • 1
    Fair enough but I was never given the chance to return it. I don't think he can change the locks and charge me for them if I find the key within a few days of being asked for it.
    – Jollygator
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 10:09
  • 1
    No offense, but maybe take this as a lesson that on vacating a property (or returning a rental car) it's important to return/attempt to the keys as a key part of vacating the premises and giving up possession of the property. As a landlord I'd expect the tenant to be somewhat proactive as I don't have control their movers etc.
    – davidgo
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 10:38
  • 4
    Rereading your post it seems you had 3 weeks to give back the key and arrange a final inspection. He is giving you a day to remedy the breach - which is not great, but not entirely unreasonable either - presumably he needs to get another tenant in and needs the key. It might be relevant how far away you have moved and how hard you tried to schedule a final inspection.
    – davidgo
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 10:45

You've had 3 weeks to wrap the key in a sheet of paper with a note written on it and mail it to your ex-landlord, or to go around to his place of business and hand it to him.

Saying or thinking that you haven't been given the chance to return it is untrue, and unhelpful to your situation.

It is normal for the landlord to have the locks changed if he can't be assured of having keys returned, and this is your responsibility.

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