Has your landlord locked you out? In my experience, the best thing a tenant can do is to do the following—in the following order:
1. Make a police report.
2. Confirm the lockout with video and/or witnesses.
3. Send the landlord texts or emails requesting that the locks be changed back.
4. Send your landlord a letter attempting to recover your property.
5. Hire your attorney.
You Should Consider Making A Police Report.
Why? Because later, your landlord may deny ever having changed the locks. Therefore, you will want an independent witness to verify that your locks have been changed. You can later call the police officer as a witness to testify in court on your behalf.
However, for this same reason, many law enforcement officers may tell you that they cannot write up a report—since it is a civil matter. If the officer fails to make a report, there may be no independent evidence of the lockout. However, you will want to insist that the officer makes the report—even if it is a civil matter. In my experience, if tenants inform the officer that this may be an attempt to steal their property—and therefore, this is a potential theft of property, the officer will likely give in and make the incident report.
Be sure, however, to get the officer's name and the incidence number. IF the officer fails to make the report, contact the officer's supervisor. IF, on the other hand, the officer makes the report, save this information for your attorney.
When the police arrive, have your keys, your identification, any texts or emails that you have sent to the landlord, proof of mail that you recently received at the property's address (by going to the mailbox on that day or by retrieving scanned mail from your cloud account), and/or proof that the utilities are in your name.
You Should Consider Confirming The Lockout With A Video Or With Witnesses.
Consider videoing yourself attempting to access the rental premises with your keys. During your video, try not to talk. Other than the keys jingling, the video should be silent. Also, consider taking close up pictures of the locking mechanism if the photographs will show that the lock is somewhat new or different.
Also, if you have other eyewitnesses who can come and witness the fact that you're locked out, these witnesses can assist you in proving the lockout in court.
You Should Consider Sending Your Landlord A Quick Email Or Text Asking For The Locks To Be Changed Back—Or Ask For The New Keys.
Why? Because if your landlord responds to the text or email–by admitting that she or he changed the locks, this can be used as proof in court. Also, if your landlord fails to respond to your email or text (and your landlord has a custom of responding to your texts and emails), your landlord's silence can also be used against the landlord in court.
In my experience, the best types of emails or texts are casual and are pleading—rather than angry:
Can you tell me why you decided to change the locks on me? I do not want to fight with you, I just want to get my belongings out of your home. Therefore, can you please change the locks back or provide me with the new keys?
My locks have been changed. Can you please assist me? I am nervous since I do not have a way to get to my belongings. Any assistance will be greatly appreciated!!!
If you do not hear back from your landlord within 24 hours, you may want to follow up with another email or text:
Hi, I am following up. Please respond. I am locked out of my home.
If you don't get access to the Premises to retrieve your property, you should send your landlord a certified letter requesting such access.
If after 72 hours, your landlord still fails to give you access to the property to remove your belongings, your next step is to send the landlord a letter. However, the letter should be sent in a way that confirms receipt—like certified mail—over overnight mail that requires a signature. Such a letter should be similar in tone to the above-described emails and texts, but it should provide more information. Consider the following example:[Date of Letter] [Landlord's Name] [Landlord's Address 1] [Landlord's Address 2]
Re: [Rental Property Address] Lockout[Landlord's Name]:
As you know, on [date of lockout], you locked me out of my rental home, located at [Rental Property Address].[As you also know, I sent you texts and/or emails requesting access to the rental property to allow me to remove my property. However, so far, I haven't heard back from you.]
Therefore, I am requesting once again to get access to the rental home to remove my items.
I also demand damages. However, until I gain access to the rental premises, I will not know how much in damages you owe me. Therefore, please contact me at your earliest convenience.
If You Gain Access To The Rental Property, Take Videos Of Your Personal Property
Before you start the moving process, take videos. Recording videos is especially important if it appears as if your personal property has been disturbed and/or moved.
Hire Your Lawyer
Once you have confirmed the lockout with law enforcement, confirmed the lockout by video, confirmed the lockout with emails and texts to your landlord—and if necessary, you had to send a letter to your landlord requesting access, it is now time to hire your attorney.
The Law Offices of Debi Rumph and her Tenant's Clinic takes lockout cases on full contingency. This means that tenants pay no out of pocket money for her services. If you have not already contacted us about this matter, please complete this questionnaire: https://app.lawmatics.com/forms/share/494a1f70-df84-44af-ace9-4cc868b719d0
Completing this form will start our evaluation process to determine if you qualify for no-out-of-pocket representation. However, if you have already contacted us, your evaluation is already under way.
It is very important for you to collect evidence of your lockout. Therefore, before hiring your lawyer, you should collect the evidence that your attorney will need to prove your case.