Can my landlord change the locks in our house without having the sheriff’s. department delver a notice to quit?

Our landlord gave us a eviction. Notice was for non-payment of rent but the notice was not given to us by the sheriff’s department. It was left in our security door and it looked like one she had printd from a home computer. We have not paid rent because she came to talk to us and said she might be loosing the house. She was using her stepmother’s identity and went on to tell us her real name and basically warning us people may come asking questions. We will not pay rent because we don’t know who to pay it to.

Asked on June 4, 2012 under Real Estate Law, New Mexico


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

No, a landlord may not change the locks on her tenant's rental premises herself; if she does so, that would be an illegal eviction, and you could potential sue for reinstatement in the premises and/or for monetary compensation. The only way to evict tenants legally is to bring (and win) an eviction action in court, then have a court officer (such as a sheriff's deputy) perform the lock out pursuant to a warrant or write  of eviction.

What you should do is, if you are legitimately unsure who the lawful landlord is or who to pay rent to, is to put your rent aside  in a separate account (e.g. a savings account). If you are sued for eviction, you can tell the court you are willing and able to pay, but require a court determination as to whom is legally owed the rent.

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