Landlords Locking Out Tenants
A lockout is not an. Some think it is a way to evict a , but lockouts are really meant to make a tenant who is late with the rent talk to the about the problems and payment. If a landlord changes the locks without first getting an eviction order from the court, they must give you a new key.
According to the Austin Tenants' Council, the lockout law says:
- The must include written of the ’s right to exercise a lockout.
- The must be behind on rent.
- The must give advance, written to the .
- The does not have to pay any money to regain entry into the rental unit.
- The must give the a key upon request.
Yes, but only in three limited situations:
1) You owe rent—if your lease allows it and your landlord follows very strict notice requirements (explained below), your landlord may be able to lock you out of your property, but your landlord must always give you a key and access to your property upon request;
2) Your landlord needs to do repairs or construction, or there is an emergency; or
3) You have abandoned the property.
No. Unless the landlord removes the item for needed repairs or replacement, your landlord cannot remove:
1) a door, window, attic hatchway cover, or a lock, latch, hinge, hinge pin, doorknob, or other mechanism attached to any of them; or
2) furniture, fixtures, or appliances furnished by the landlord.
If the removal is for repair or replacement, then the lock, doorknob, or door should be repaired or replaced before nightfall.
Yes. Your landlord must locally mail you a notice at least five days before changing your locks, or your landlord must hand-deliver a notice or post a notice on the inside of your front door at least three days before changing your locks.
That notice must state:
- In underlined or bold print, that you have the right to receive a key to the new lock at any hour, regardless of whether you pay the rent you owe.
The notice must also state:
- The earliest date the landlord proposes to change the locks;
- The amount of rent you must pay to stop the landlord from changing the locks; and
- The name and street address of the individual to whom, or the location of the on-site management office at which, the delinquent rent may be discussed or paid during the landlord’s normal business hours.
Yes. If you landlord changes your locks for owing rent, your landlord must place a written notice on your front door stating:
- An on-site location where you can go 24 hours a day to obtain the new key or a telephone number that is answered 24 hours a day that you may call to have a key delivered within two hours after calling the number;
- The fact that the landlord must provide the new key to the tenant at any hour, regardless of whether you pay any of the delinquent rent; and
- The amount of rent and other charges for which you are delinquent.
Yes. Your landlord may not change your locks unless the landlord or landlord’s agent is available to accept your rent the day the locks are changed and the day before.
No. That would be a violation of the Texas Property Code.
First, you must be authorized by written or oral lease to live at the property.
If your landlord refuses to allow you entry to your property, you can request an order from a Justice Court allowing you to get back into your property. That order is called a Writ of Re-Entry. The sworn request for this order is called a Request for a Writ of Re-Entry, and you must file it with the Justice Court in the precinct where your property is located. Once you file it, you will then state the facts of the unlawful lockout under oath to the judge.
If the judge reasonably believes that your landlord unlawfully locked you out of your property, the judge can issue a Writ of Re-Entry, which is a piece of paper that orders you to get immediate access to your property. The Writ of Re-Entry is served on the landlord by a sheriff or constable, and they may use reasonable force to enforce the Writ.
The landlord can request a hearing on the lockout within 8 days after you gain re-entry. The hearing will be held within a week after the landlord’s request for a hearing. Check your mail, email, and voicemail to find out if there is a hearing so you don’t miss it.
If your landlord violates the law regarding the lockout—for example, illegally locked you out, locked you out without given you any notices, or locked you out on the wrong day—you can sue your landlord for:
- a civil penalty of one month’s rent plus $1,000
- your actual damages
- your court costs; and
- reasonable attorneys’ fees
- less any rent or other sums you owe.
If your landlord refuses to give you a key after locking you out, your landlord could be liable for an additional one month’s rent.
The Texas Justice Court Training Center has forms you can use to ask the court to let you back in your home or to let you get your belongings. All forms below are in Microsoft Word format.
Writ of Re-Entry - A Writ of Re-Entry lets you return to your home when you have been wrongfully locked out.
- Application for Writ of Re-Entry - Form that lets you ask the court for a Writ of Re-Entry
- Writ of Re-Entry - Writ and Return - Form that the court signs that lets you return to your home.
Writ of Retrieval - A Writ of Retrieval lets you back in the home to retrieve any personal property you left behind. It does not give you the right to move back in.
- Application for Writ of Retrieval - Form that lets you ask the court for a Writ of Retrieval.
- Writ of Retrieval - Form that the court signs to let you retrieve your personal property.
- Notice of Hearing on Application for Writ of Retrieval - Form that tells the other party about your Application. This must be served along with a copy of the Application.
- Bond for Writ of Retrieval - Form that sets the security amount you must pay in case you damage someone else's property while retreiving your own. The court will set the bond amount.