Locking me out of rented residence

Can my spouse, in Texas, have the apartments we
live in change the locks without my knowledge in
order to keep me out of the residence? Only her
name is on the lease but I pay bills and rent there
and have resided there since day one. We also have
4 children that live there. The apartment is telling me
that since my name isn’t on the lease I have no right
to be there.

Asked on April 24, 2017 under Family Law, Texas

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If you have been paying the rent and get your mail at that address, etc., then you may have legally attained the status of "tenant" even if your name is not on the lease. This means that you can only be evicted if your landlord has sufficient grounds (i.e. non- payment of rent, your causing damage to the property, or breaching any other term of the lease). The fact that there is a marital dispute beteween you and your wife is not such a ground. Additionally, if in fact it is established that you are a legal tenant, then your wife has no legal right to lock you out. That is so long as there is no final decree of divorce or formal separation agreement in effect that stipulates who get occupancy of the rental premises. This means that until such time, the apartment remains the "joint marital residence". Accordingly you both have equal rights to live there, no matter whose name is on the lease. Further, if your wife attempts to change the locks then she is acting illegally. At this point, you should consult directly with a local lawyer who can best advise you after going over all of the details of your situation.


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