Can a landlord hold your possessions until all past due rent is paid?

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Can a landlord hold your possessions until all past due rent is paid?

My landlord is a private owner. I was evicted in a verbal form on Tuesday, I was asked to be out of the house on Saturday by 5pm. Most of my belongings are out of the house except for the big pieces that I cannot move. I asked my landlord could I come back on Monday with a truck to move my items. I was told that I could, then quickly called back and told I could not move my furniture until I paid on my rent. I was wondering did I have any other options of getting my furniture and could my last months rent and my security deposit be applied to the remaining balance.

Asked on June 15, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Illinois

Answers:

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

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The rule in most states is that a landlord cannot seize a tenant's personal property for back rent. What the landlord must do instead is take the tenant to court have a judgement awarded in order to collect. If the tenant happens to leave property in the rental unit, the landlord must follow setlegal procedures before selling, claiming or otherwise disposing of it.

Some jurisdictions do permit a landlord to seize a tenant's property for unpaid rent via a "landlord's lien", but it requires obtaining a court order.

If a landlord wrongfully takes a tenant's possessions, they can be sued in civil court for the return of the items or for their value. The tenant can also file a criminal compliant for "conversion" (theft).


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