Can they lock me out without legal notice?

I got behind on rent due to not making as much as usual at work and health issues. A week and a half ago, my landlord stuck a note on my door saying she needed me to write a letter within 10 days saying I was still here and hadn’t abandoned the apt. I complied with her wishes, and dropped a letter through the door. A couple of days ago, she called and told me there was a court date tomorrow but didn’t tell me where or what time and did not supply me with any paperwork on it. She’s said the locks will be changed tomorrow and my things thrown on the street. Can she do this?

Asked on November 7, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Missouri

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No, a landlord may not simply change the locks on a tenant's apartment or home; the only way a landlord may evict someone is through the courts, by bringing and winning an eviction action and having the eviction done by court officers (e.g. sheriffs, constables). If the landlord simply changes the locks, she has committed illegal eviction and the tenant may sue to be reinstated and for damages (e.g. if any of his/her belongings are stolen, lost, or damaged).

A tenant cannot be evicted through the courts without receiving notice of the action and the court date. If you are evicted but never received notice, you should be able to go to the court and have the judment set aside.

However, while you may have good defenses to this eviction, based on the landlord not following proper procedure, she will ultimatley be able to evict you--and it probably will not take more than a few weeks--if you do not pay or are behind on rent. The only way to avoid eviction entirely is to pay what you owe.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No, a landlord may not simply change the locks on a tenant's apartment or home; the only way a landlord may evict someone is through the courts, by bringing and winning an eviction action and having the eviction done by court officers (e.g. sheriffs, constables). If the landlord simply changes the locks, she has committed illegal eviction and the tenant may sue to be reinstated and for damages (e.g. if any of his/her belongings are stolen, lost, or damaged).

A tenant cannot be evicted through the courts without receiving notice of the action and the court date. If you are evicted but never received notice, you should be able to go to the court and have the judment set aside.

However, while you may have good defenses to this eviction, based on the landlord not following proper procedure, she will ultimatley be able to evict you--and it probably will not take more than a few weeks--if you do not pay or are behind on rent. The only way to avoid eviction entirely is to pay what you owe.


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