What to do if you are illegally locked out of your rental home

December 21, 2022

The holiday season is upon us. For many, this is the time to relax at home and unwind with loved ones. However, for some renters in Ontario they may be dealing with their landlord who carries out an illegal eviction during this time and locks them out of their rental home. It is important to know your rights as a renter when faced with an illegal lockout and how you can get back into your home. 

What is an illegal eviction?

Your tenancy can only be legally ended in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). If your landlord wants to end your tenancy, they must serve you with a notice to end your tenancy, and then file an application with the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) for an eviction based on a reason recognized in the RTA. If your landlord has filed an application to evict, the LTB will send you a notice of this application with a hearing date. The hearing provides you and your landlord with an opportunity to attend a hearing and describe your circumstances to an adjudicator. If the adjudicator finds that the grounds for your eviction are reasonable and fair, then they can grant an eviction order to end your tenancy. This eviction order can only be carried out by the Sheriff’s office, also known as the Court Enforcement Office. Your landlord or anyone acting in the interest of your landlord cannot carry out an eviction order on their own. 

If your landlord changes your locks and prevents you from entering your home, this is illegal. Your landlord is not allowed to evict you themselves, and they are not allowed to alter a lock without providing a replacement key to you. 

What to do if you’re locked out:

It is critical to act quickly if you have been illegally locked out. Taking any of the following steps could help you get back into your home. Document everything that happens related to being locked out of your unit and trying to get back in: 

  • Talk to your landlord. Request a new key to enter your home immediately and remind them that locking you out is illegal. Keep notes about the conversation you have with your landlord. 
  • Call the Rental Housing Enforcement Unit at 416-585-7214 and tell them you’ve been locked out illegally. They can have a Compliance and Customer Service Officer call the landlord and attempt to resolve the situation. 
  • If you feel comfortable, call your local police and ask for help. They may be able to convince your landlord to let you back into your unit, especially if you have evidence or identification which proves your address. In some cases, the police have helped tenants re-enter their units.  
  • Call your local legal clinic and request their urgent assistance in dealing with this situation. 
  • File a T2 application with the LTB along with a Request to Extend or Shorten Time explaining the urgency of the situation. Instructions on filling out these forms can be found here: LTB: Forms. Often, the LTB will issue an interim order requiring your landlord to allow you back into the apartment. If the LTB does not respond to you in a couple of days, follow up. If the landlord does not comply with an interim order requiring that you be let back into your unit, contact your area’s Court Enforcement Office
  • As a last resort you can hire a locksmith to change the locks on your door. You may be required to show proof that you live in the apartment. Keep a copy of the new key for your landlord. Get receipts for any work done and keep them as they can be evidence in any applications you file with the Landlord and Tenant Board or that are filed against you. You may end up responsible for paying for any damage done while accessing your apartment. If you have your unit lock changed, try to get legal advice about the steps you should take next. 

As long as no one else has moved into the unit, the adjudicator at the LTB can require your landlord to allow you back in. Bring an application immediately to give your landlord minimal time to move a new tenant into the unit. The LTB will likely not let you back in once another tenant has moved in, which is why it’s so important to move quickly. 

What if my landlord served me with a notice to end my tenancy (an “N-form”)?

Notices of termination (e.g. N4s, N5s, N6s N7s, N8s, N12s, N13s) are not eviction orders – they are just documents from your landlord requesting that you move out on a specified date. If you receive a notice to end your tenancy and you remain in your unit, your landlord can only end your tenancy by applying to the Landlord and Tenant Board. A hearing will then be held, which is your chance to present your circumstances to the adjudicator. 

You do not have to move out on the date specified in the notice, and your landlord does not have a right to lock you out on that date. 

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