If my roommate is leaving without paying rent, can we keep her belongings as collateral until we are paid?

UPDATED: Mar 1, 2012

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If my roommate is leaving without paying rent, can we keep her belongings as collateral until we are paid?

I live in a 3 bedroom townhouse with 2 other roommates; 1 of my roommates told us she signed the lease with the rental office but it turns out she didn’t. She is now stating she will be moving out in a month, which is 2 months before our lease is up. She will not be paying. Since her belongings and mail are sent to our address, is it legal for me to change the locks and not return her belongings until the rent is paid?

Asked on March 1, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Virginia


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Unless your soon to be former roommate is willing to sign a written document allowing that you can keep certain of her belongings as collateral until she pays the amount of rent that she owes to your landlord, you cannot legally keep such belongings as security for future rent payment by her to your landlord.

As to changing of the locks, if she gives you a written notice that she is vacating the unit by a certain date, you can then change the locks after that date assuming she is gone for good. Unless that is done, I would not change the locks.

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