Eviction actions in Texas – I’ve been wrongfully locked out. Now what?

A landlord has a limited right to lockout a tenant for non-payment of rent. What happens, however, if a tenant who has been diligently and timely paying rent and has not otherwise breached the lease is locked out?

Both commercial and residential tenants have a right of reentry after an unlawful lockout. A tenant who has been unlawfully locked out by his landlord may file a sworn complaint for reentry with the appropriate justice court.

Because a tenant’s reentry into his home or business is of utmost importance, repossession is a quick process. However, the judge still has to ensure the landlord acted unlawfully and the tenant does in fact have a right of reentry. Because of this, the tenant must specify the facts of the alleged unlawful lockout in his sworn complaint for reentry and must also appear before the judge and orally state the facts under oath. Typically, a hearing before the judge for reentry is held within 24 hours of the tenant’s submission of his complaint.

If the judge reasonably believes an unlawful lockout has likely occurred, he will issue a writ of reentry. The writ of reentry must be served on the landlord, who is entitled to request a hearing on the matter and even challenge the reentry. However, a landlord who does not immediately comply with the writ, can be held in contempt of court, and a sheriff or constable may use reasonable force in assisting a tenant back into the property.

Attorneys at Waldron & Schneider are experienced with handling landlord-tenant disputes and can help tenants navigate unlawful lockouts and other issues. We can also assist landlords whose tenants have defaulted. Please see prior blogs for additional information on landlord-tenant matters.

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