|My Landlord Locked Me Out of My Apartment||
Last updated: May 2011
A lock out is when your landlord:Changes the locks on your apartmentShuts off your heat, water, or electricityShuts off any any other essential utilityYour landlord may be able to lock you out if:You and your family have left the apartment for 21 days, taken your belongings out of the house, and have not paid your rent;You and your family have left the property for 32 days or more and have not paid rentBefore locking you out of your apartment, your landlord must:File an eviction action in courtGet an order from a judge evicting youClick on words that appear like 'this' to learn what these words mean.When can my landlord lock me out of my apartment? Before locking you out of your apartmeny, your landlord must:File an eviction action in court, andGet an order from a judge evicting you Your landlord may be able to lock you out if:You and your family have left the apartment for 21 days, taken your belongings out of the house, and have not paid your rent;You and your family have left the property for 32 days or more and have not paid rentCan a lockout be something else besides changing the locks? Yes. If your landlord shuts off your heat, water, electricity or any essential utility this is also a lockout. You have the same rights if your utilities are shut off that you have if your locks are changed.What should I do if the police say they cannot help me? If the police officer who is making the report says they cannot help, you should write a demand letter to the officer’s supervisor. Use the "Letter to Landlord and Police from Tenant Illegally Locked out of Home" in the "Forms/Letters" section for an online program that will help you write your letter.You can mail or hand deliver this letter but make sure that you address it to the highest officer at the police station. What if the police tell me that the eviction is a civil matter and that they can't get involved? If you gave the police the demand letter and they still refuse to help you, you should gather what belongings you can and leave your apartment in a peaceful way. This way you will not be arrested for disturbing the peace. The police may not be able to help but they cannot physically remove you. After this, you will probably need to go to court to be able to get back into your apartment.Try contacting your local legal aid office. Search the "Find Legal Help" section for legal aid organizations that can help you with lockouts. What does my landlord have to do to evict me? Your landlord cannot just lock you out of your apartment. Most of the time, your landlord must give you some form of notice before going to court to evict you. The most common forms of notices are a 5-day notice for non-payment of rent or a 10-day notice for a lease violation. Your landlord can also give you a 30-day notice if you are a month-to-month tenant. If your landlord has not given you notice and has not gotten an eviction order from a judge, you may stop your landlord from locking you out of your apartment. Even if your lease has expired your landlord must give you notice before they can evict you.To learn more about evictions, see the articles under "Related Articles."Will I have to go to court? If your landlord does not let you back in after getting your demand letter and the police cannot help, you may have go to court for help. If you have to go to court you will need to file a complaint for injunctive relief asking for a temporary restraining order to stop your landlord. The temporary restraining order will allow you to stay in the apartment. It will stop the landlord from continuing his illegal lockout. If being locked out costs me money, can I be repaid by the landlord? Maybe. Keep track of how much extra money you spend because you are locked out of your home. If you end up suing your landlord in court, you can ask the judge to make your landlord pay you this money. That is called your "damages." Damages could include:Money you pay for somewhere else to live because you can’t get into your own home, for example, staying at a hotelMoney you pay for new clothes, medicine, or household items because you can’t get your own things out of your homeMoney you spent on extra transportation because you were not at your homeLost wages if you had to take time off work to deal with being locked out of your homeContact Your Local Police Department If your landlord is locking you out of your apartment right now, tell the landlord that they are acting illegally. Tell your landlord that they must file an eviction action before evicting you from your apartment. Call your local police department. Tell the police that your landlord is illegally locking you out of your apartment. Ask the police to come to your apartment.When the Police Arrive When the police arrive ask the officer to assist by telling the landlord that what they are doing is illegal. Ask the officer to tell the landlord he must let you into the apartment. This can include:Giving you copy of any new keysReturning any removed property Turning on utilities that your landlord shut offYou also should have the police make a report so that you will have a written copy of what happened. Make sure you write down the police report number. Leave the Apartment If the police cannot help you and your landlord hasn't let you back into your apartment, you should leave the apartment peacefully. If you can, gather your belongings from your apartment.Send a Letter to Your Landlord If your landlord won't let you back into your apartment you should hand deliver or send your landlord a demand letter. Use the "Letter to Landlord and Police from Tenant Illegally Locked out of Home" in the "Forms/Letters" section for an online program that will help you write your letter. The letter sets a deadline for the landlord to let you back into your apartment. The letter tells the landlord the date for your court hearing. You will need to contact the Clerk of Court in your county to schedule a court hearing.Send a Letter to the Police You should hand deliver or send a letter to the police department that lets them know about your situation. If you send it you should address it to the highest officer at the station. If you hand deliver it you should ask that it be given to the highest ranking officer at the station. Use the "Letter to Landlord and Police from Tenant Illegally Locked out of Home" in the "Forms/Letters" section for an online program that will help you write your letter.You should keep a copy of the letter. If you mail it, you should get a return/receipt requested from the post office. If you hand-deliver it, you should have the person you gave the letter to give you a written confirmation that they received it.Your letter tells the police the date that you were forced to move out of your apartment. Your letter also tells the police what your landlord did. Contact Your Local Legal Aid Office You may want a lawyer to help you if you have been illegally locked out of your apartment. Search the "Find Legal Help" section for legal aid organizations that can help you with a lockout.File a Temporary Restraining Order Against your Landlord To file a temporary restraining order, you will need to file a complaint for injunctive relief and damages and an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.You will have to file an affidavits with your motion. Your affidavits need to show the facts that help your claim.You must let your landlord know that you have a filed a motion and also tell them the date the hearing will be on. You must deliver a copy of the motion and complaint to your landlord. You should try to call your landlord and tell them about the motion and when the hearing date is. Legal aid organizations and self-help centers in the "Find Legal Help" section may be able to help you with this.Attend Your Hearing Things to remember for the hearing:Bring copies of all the documents you filed and any other papers you have on your caseYou should bring any witness or documents including your police report to your hearingArrive early and dress neatlyTell the Clerk you are ready for the hearing when calledWhen called, tell the judge who you are and be ready to answer questions the Judge may ask you about your case
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