Can a landlord change your locks without any notice?

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Can a landlord change your locks without any notice?

I owe back rent but 2 months ago we agreed that I could stay there as long as I paid each months rent on time and something, whatever I could, on what I owe. And for the last 2 months my rent has be paid on time. Plus, I have paid some on what I owed. What can I do?

Asked on May 20, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Missouri

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

A lease (or month-to month tenancy if there is no written lease) gives a tenant certain rights in the property they are renting - possession and use of the property. As a general rule once theses rights are obtained there is only 2 ways they can be taken away - the tenant can voluntarily give them up and vacate the property, or by a court order (an eviction) if the tenant refuses to move.

Therefore, your landlord cannot just lock you out of the property unless it is court ordered. Even then you have a certain amount of time to be out. The amount time you have to vacate the property varies from state-to-state. If the tenant is not out by the specified time, then a sheriff can physically remove you from the property and/or your landlord can lock you out.  However, if there is no court order then you can sue your landlord for illegal eviction, among other things, and recieve money damages.

Note:  As for any property left in the unit, the landlord has no rights to it unless a legal eviction has taken place. If not, a landlord can face both civil and criminal penalties for taking your belongings.


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