Is a tenant liable for damages if the landlord has already broken the lease?

My 2 roommates and I rented an apartment. One of my roommates was caught selling drugs from our apartment. After this incident, my other roommate and I moved out of the apartment. As a result the rent went without being paid. The roommate who stayed was still living in the apartment on his own for over a month. The landlord was frustrated that she wasn’t being paid and that illegal activites had taken place. So about a month later, she decided to change the locks so the roommate who stayed behind could no longer enter the house. She did not give him any notice that the locks were being changed; he had to break the window in order to enter. Are we responsible for rent and damages or did the change of locks breach the contract?

Asked on September 9, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

You are responsible for all rent due and unpaid prior to the illegal lockout by the landlord. You are responsible for the cost to repair the window, because that was not the lawful way to seek access when illegally locked out: the roommate should have gone to the courts for an order allowing him back in and also for compensation for any costs he incurred owing to the illegal lockout (e.g. motel/hotel costs while he stayed elsewhere). You would not be liable for rent during the time period of the illegal lockout, until properly let back in, and you would not be liable for the cost of changing the locks. If the landlord wanted thhe roommate out, she needed to go through the courts--she could not change the locks and bill you for it.

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