If a tenant breached lease for non-payment, how long before I can change the locks?

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If a tenant breached lease for non-payment, how long before I can change the locks?

I am the landlord and my new tenant has keys to residence. However, they never paid rent or all of security, thus breaching the lease. I served her with a notice to quit (to be vacated in 1 day, since she hasn’t moved anything into the residence yet, minimal stuff in garage). When can I change the locks?

Asked on October 14, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New Hampshire

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Never--not unless you go to court. Landlords are not allowed to resort to "self help" evictions, such as changing the locks; the only way to evict a tenant is by bringing an eviction proceeding in the courts. If they have not paid the money due under the lease, you may file an eviction proceeding immediately, and should do so.

Note that if you did change the locks without first getting a "judgment of possession"--a court determination that the tenant is in breach and you are entitled to re-take possession of the residence, you will have committed illegal eviction and could potentially be liable to the tenant, should she take you to court.


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