What are my rights if my apartment complex changed my locks without proper notice?

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What are my rights if my apartment complex changed my locks without proper notice?

Last night at 8:30 pm maintenance came to my door and without knocking started changing my locks. I asked for a key, but office was closed so I had to wait until morning. I said I had to leave for work before it opened, so they had to put my original lock back on. I work all day to come home at 10 pm to find office close, my door locked, with sign that only says “changed the lock” with an overage bill on other side. After calling the leasing company and waiting 2 hours, a cop came to door with a key. I said that this was breaking contract law. He said I had to take it up with the leasing company.

Asked on August 8, 2012 under Real Estate Law, West Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If they changed the locks as part of maintenance--e.g. the locks were old or damaged and had to be replaced--then they technically acted incorrectly in doing so without proper notice, but not in a way that supports any legal action. However, if the changed the locks to attempt to evict you or to force you to pay some outstanding amounts or bills, then you were likely the victim of an illegal eviction. You could go to court to seek a court order barring them from doing this--even if you are liable to be evicted (e.g. for nonpayment), you may only be evicted through the courts, and not by changing your locks. If you incur any costs from an illegal lockout you could sue for compensation, and also for reinstatement in your apartment if you have not been let back in.


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