Locking Someone Out of Their House?

How would you react if you came home one day to discover that the locks to your house had been changed? Who would you call? What would you do? Why?

A few years ago, a client called and asked if he could change the locks on a tenant who was behind in rent.

The client-landlord had leased one of his houses to the tenant for a five-year term. The lease required the tenant to timely pay rent and the landlord to pay for certain utilities. The lease stated that the landlord could change the locks if rent became overdue. The parties were more than half way through the lease term, and the tenant had been delinquent many, many times in the past. Now the overdue amount had become quite significant. Fed up, the landlord wanted to immediately call a locksmith.

IMG_0231_2 (1)In Texas, a landlord may only change the locks on a residential tenant based on delinquency in rent if certain conditions are met. First, the lease agreement must expressly allow it. Second, the landlord must give separate, advance written notice that the landlord intends to change the locks if rent isn’t paid. Third, once the locks are changed, the landlord must provide yet another written notice informing the tenant where he or she may obtain a new key at any hour regardless of whether the delinquency is paid.

“Well, maybe I’ll just stop paying their gas bill.” I knew he said this sardonically. Still, I used it as an opportunity to tell him that there are separate rules that govern the disconnection or disruption of utilities and that doing so under these circumstances might not be the most prudent course of action. But, I explained, he did have many other effective tools at his disposal to handle the situation. And handle it we did.

In our Just for Fun posts, we underscore certain construction and real estate topics just for the fun of it.

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