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Landlord/Tenant Law

This legal research guide provides information about landlord and tenant law that is helpful to both the practitioner and the public looking for legal information.

Lockouts


Can a Landlord Lock a Tenant Out for Not Paying Rent?

A common question from both landlords and tenants is whether a landlord can lock someone out of the rental for not paying rent. The answer is "yes," but only temporarily and under very specific conditions. They cannot permanently lock the tenant out. The landlord must give the tenant a key upon request. Locking a tenant out is not a substitute for the eviction process.

A landlord can only temporarily lock a tenant out of the rental when:

  • The lease includes notice of the landlord's right to change the locks;
  • The tenant is late paying at least part of their rent;
  • The landlord gives the tenant advanced written notice that the locks are going to be changed;
  • No one is at home;
  • They have not already changed the locks during this rental payment period; and
  • The landlord gives the tenant written notice containing a number they can call at any time to have a key delivered whether or not they have paid rent.

Please see the text of Texas Property Code 92.0081 for complete details about when a landlord can change the locks on a tenant.

Texas Law

Understanding the Law

What Happens if a Landlord Wrongfully Locks a Tenant Out?

If a landlord violates any of the requirements of Section 92.0081 of the Property Code about lockouts, the tenant has the right to do a couple of things:

  • To either file a request for a writ of re-entry or a request to terminate the lease with the justice court. A writ of re-entry will require the landlord to let them back into the rental. 
  • To sue the landlord for a civil penalty for breaking the law. The court could require the landlord to pay the tenant one month's rent, $1,000, court costs, damages, and attorney's fees. For information on suing for civil penalties in justice court, please see our guide to Small Claims Cases.

Texas Law

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