Can my landlord change the lock and move my stuff out if I’m a week late on rent?

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Can my landlord change the lock and move my stuff out if I’m a week late on rent?

I came to CA from IDto settle my father’s estate When I became unavoidably detained I had my sister-in-law contact my rental property management. I was a week late on rent at that time. I was unable to get the rent to them and therefore they changed the locks and had my things moved to storage. They are claiming $10,000 damages, mover’s fees, and storage to get my things. I lived there 8 years. Can they do that?

Asked on April 11, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Idaho

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, they can't do these things:

1) Landlords may NOT simply lock out tenants; if a tenant is late on rent, the landlord may evict, but MUST do it through the courts or legal system.

2) Landlord's can't simply make up a number for damages. IF you breached the lease (if there was a *written* lease), you may be liable for the remaining rent due under the lease; if you breached an oral lease, you may be liable for one month's rent; if you damaged the premises, you may be liable for repairs--but all these things are shown and are the only damages a landlord may seek.

3) IF you were properly and legally evicted (see point (1) above), then your belongings may be put into storage and you may be charged a storage fee--but ONLY if the eviction itself was legal.

You should consult with an attorney; there is a very good chance, from what you write, that you may have a cause of action for illegal eviction.


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