Can a landlord change your locks?
Ask a Lawyer!
Has your landlord changed the locks on your apartment? If so, there are some key things to know.
A lockout is not an eviction.
It is important to remember that a landlord can only legally evict you from an apartment with a court order. The law allows a landlord to change a tenant’s locks in limited situations, but also puts several restrictions on the landlord to make sure a tenant will only be locked out for a short time.
The purpose of the law is to help landlords make tenants meet them face-to-face, nothing more.
The landlord must give you a written notice several days before changing your locks.
The law requires a landlord to give a tenant a written warning before changing the locks. The warning must give three days’ notice if it is hand-delivered or posted, and five days’ notice if mailed. If the landlord doesn’t give that notice before changing the locks, he has broken the law.
The landlord must give you a new key quickly.
After the landlord changes a tenants’ locks, he has to put a written notice on the outside of your door that says:
- Where the tenant can go 24 hours a day to obtain the new key; or give you a telephone number the tenant can call 24 hours a day to have the new key delivered promptly;
- The amount of rent and other charges the tenant owes; and
- Tell the tenant that the landlord must provide the tenant with a new key at any hour whether or not the tenant pays the rent owed.
What if my landlord does not give me a key?
You have a right to get back into your apartment. If your landlord will not give you a new key, you should go to your local Justice of the Peace and ask for a “writ of reentry.”
If the judge issues a writ of reentry, a constable will deliver the writ to the landlord, ordering him to give you a new key. The landlord is supposed to act right away after getting the writ; if he doesn’t, the judge can hold him in contempt, and the constable may use “reasonable force” to get back into the apartment.
You can sue a landlord for breaking the law.
If a landlord locks you out of your apartment, but doesn’t give you the proper written notice and/or does not give you a new key, you can sue him for damages. You should consult with an attorney to learn about your options