Lockouts

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Can the landlord lock me out?

Yes, it is legal for the landlord to lock you out in certain limited situations, but the landlord must always provide written advance notice and also provide a key upon request. Texaslawhelp.org explains this more at this link

For more advice on lockouts, check out this page from Austin Tenants Council. 

Can the landlord remove locks and doors?

No. A landlord CANNOT remove doors, windows, locks, doorknobs, or any other appliance (such as a refrigerator or stove) supplied by the landlord because the tenant is behind on the rent. If a landlord removes one of these items for repair they have to make repairs quickly. For example, they should not remove a door over night without a replacement. Below, you will find a form demand letter that you can give to your landlord, demanding that they put this property back.

If the landlord illegally removes this property or locks you out, you can also get a court order, called a Writ of Re-Entry (below). If you get a court order, the landlord would have to return the property to you and you could end (terminate) the lease. In addition, you may sue the landlord for actual damages (the cost to you) + one month’s rent and $1,000 + reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs, minus any rent or other amount you owe to the landlord. See Tex. Property Code Section 92.0081(h). If you need help filing a lawsuit, we have provided a form petition (below) that you can fill out and advice on how to Sue your landlord.

For more on lockouts and your rights, check out this FAQ from Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid.

Writ of Re-Entry (form here)

The PDF below, from Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, explains your rights if you are locked out and provides a Writ of Re-Entry form that you can fill out and bring to your JP court so that you can get back into your home if the landlord locks you out or removes doors, windows, locks, or other furniture.

Letter demanding return of doors, windows, locks, furniture, and appliances (form letter here)

A landlord is not allowed to remove a door, window, appliance, furniture, door knob, lock or other fixtures even if the landlord owns the item, unless it is for repairing the item or in an emergency. Landlords sometimes do this when the tenant is behind on the rent, which is completely illegal. This letter demands that the landlord follow the law and reinstall the item immediately.

Lawsuit against landlord for removing landlord’s property (form lawsuit petition here)

You can use this form for filing suit in justice court, also called justice of the peace or JP court. If a landlord illegally removes a door, window, appliance, lock, doorknob, furniture you are entitled to recover actual damages, one month’s rent plus $1,000, attorney fees, and court costs, minus any delinquent rent or other amounts you owe the landlord. Justice court has a jurisdictional limit of $20,000 and is sometimes more friendly to landlords because JP courts hear evictions in their courts frequently. But, it is easier to represent yourself in justice court, cheaper to file the suit and you get to trial much quicker than in other courts. See Sue Your Landlord to learn how to file suit and try the case in justice court.