It is good to note that as a tenant you are provided with certain rights even if you have not paid your rent. This question of tenants involving non-payment of rent is discussed below although it is not necessarily exhaustive information of the tenant’s rights and remedies.
The following information is general overview; one must not rely on it as their only source of legal advice. When confronted with legal problems, you should consider consulting a lawyer.
Tenant did not pay the rent on time. Can the landlord change the door lock?
Yes, the landlord can change the door lock. However, although the landlord has the right to change the lock due to non-payment of rent, he can only do so if the lease agreement has a provision allowing such action. Before the landlord can change the lock, he/she must provide the tenant notice of the intended changing of the lock. The notice must contain the following:
- the earliest date that the lock of the door will be changed;
- the specific amount of rent that the tenant must pay in order to avoid a change of lock;
- the name and address where possible discussion can be made or settlement of the rent is due during regular business hours;
- the right to receive the new key.
In addition, if the landlord changes the door lock, he/she must provide the tenant with written notice that is posted on the door; concerns where to get the key or a notice providing contact numbers where to call to request the delivery of the key. The notice will also provide the amount due of the rent.
My rent is late and the landlord changes the door lock. What should be done?
The first thing to do is to contact the landlord and make a request for a new key. The landlord is obliged to give you the key according to the law. If the landlord refuses, the tenant can regain possession of the apartment/premises by getting a writ of reentry from the court.
The process to obtain the writ of reentry involves filing of a sworn complaint containing the facts regarding the unlawful lockout. After filing of the complaint and the court reasonably believes that the tenant is unlawfully locked out, the writ of reentry will be issued. The writ would entitle the tenant immediate possession of the apartment/premises, pending the final hearing concerning the matter. The conduct of the initial hearing can be done even in the absence of the landlord.
Once the writ of reentry is in the hand of the tenant, he/she must request the sheriff or constable to serve it to the landlord. Failure of the landlord to comply with the writ of reentry or disobedience may hold the landlord in contempt of court.
The landlord on the other hand, may request a hearing on the sworn complaint for reentry any time within eight days after the writ of reentry is served. The hearing will be conducted in the court within the eight days after the request of the landlord. If the landlord does not request a hearing, a judgment will be passed for court costs that will be rendered against the landlord. The filing of complaint for reentry does not in any way affect the right of the tenant to pursue another separate course of action for being locked out unlawfully.