What is my recourse if my landlord changed the locks on the doors to my business and will not allowme to re-enter and get my stuff out?

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What is my recourse if my landlord changed the locks on the doors to my business and will not allowme to re-enter and get my stuff out?

Can I change the key and re-enter to get my things. I have not been legally evicted. I still have my lease; I just am behind on the lease payments.

Asked on January 5, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Don't change the key and re-enter--you risk being arrested for trespassing, breaking and entering vandalism, etc., and even if you later vindicate yourself (see below), you don't need potential criminal liability as something to deal with and fight.

The proper response is to bring a court action for wrongful eviction: even if you were behind on your rent payments, the landlord may not simply change the locks on you, but rather must evict you through the courts; also, he may not detain your belongings. You would bring the court action seeking reinstatement of possession (if you want it), monetary damages for the lock out (e.g. lost profits or costs from being locked out), and access to your belongings. In addition to seeking compensation, you'd also file for an "order to show cause," which is request for fast relief--access to your belongings--due to the continuing harm caused by the lock out.

You can do this yourself--your court's website should be a source of information, sample documents, etc.--though it is recommended that you retain an attorney.


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