Eviction Actions in Texas – Can I lockout my tenant?
A landlord has the right to evict a tenant for numerous reasons, some of which are described in a prior blog post (“Eviction actions in Texas – What the Landlord needs to know before evicting”). Non-payment of rent and breaches of the lease agreement are the two most common reasons for evictions. Eviction is the proper route for a landlord seeking redress against a breaching tenant. Often landlords may desire to lockout their tenants for breaches of the lease agreement; however, Texas law prohibits landlords from doing so in most instances.
A landlord is allowed to prevent a tenant from entering the leased premises without first pursuing an eviction for only the following reasons:
- for bona fide repairs, construction, or an emergency;
- removing the contents of premises abandoned by a tenant; or
- changing the door locks of a tenant who is delinquent in paying at least part of the rent.
However, the landlord’s right to lockout the tenant is not without its limits. In a commercial tenancy, if a landlord locks out a tenant who is delinquent in paying rent, the landlord must also place a written notice on the tenant’s front door stating the name and the address or telephone number of the individual or company from which a new key may be obtained. The new key is required to be provided only during the tenant’s regular business hours and only if the tenant pays the delinquent rent.
On the other hand, before a landlord of a residential property may lockout his tenant for non-payment of rent, the landlord must inform the tenant that he plans to proceed with such a lockout and that the tenant may, nevertheless, receive a new key to the premises. The notice must meet statutory timelines. Further, the landlord’s right to lockout must be delineated in the lease agreement. This requires the landlord to plan ahead and ensure that his lease agreement provides for all statutory remedies before he enters into such an agreement with a potential tenant.
Once the landlord of a residential property changes the door lock of a tenant who is delinquent in paying rent, the landlord must also place a written notice on the tenant’s front door letting the tenant know (1) where a new key may be obtained (24 hours a day); (2) that the landlord must provide the new key to the tenant at any hour, regardless of whether or not the tenant pays any of the delinquent rent, and (3) the amount of rent and other charges for which the tenant is delinquent.
Penalties for violating these requirements consist of monetary damages for the tenant as well as the right of re-possession or termination of the lease.
Attorneys at Waldron & Schneider are experienced with handling landlord-tenant disputes and can help landlords navigate the need for required notices and pre-eviction steps. We can also assist tenants who have been wrongfully locked-out by their landlords. For more on wrongful lockouts, stay tuned for the next eviction blog post.