Tenant's Rights: Lockouts
Tenant's Rights: Lockouts
It is against the law for your landlord to lock you out of the apartment or room where you live. This guide will help you understand your rights and the steps you can take if your landlord is trying to lock you out. This guide gives you information about:
- Who is protected against lockouts.
- What you can do if your landlord locks you out.
- How to get the police or court to help you get back into your room or apartment.
- How to bring a court case against your landlord.
- Can my landlord lock me out of my apartment?
- What if I do not pay my rent?
- What should I do if I am locked out?
- Can I be arrested for going back into my apartment or room?
- How do I bring a lockout case against my landlord?
- What happens at the hearing?
NO. It is against the law for your landlord to:
- change the locks on your apartment or room
- keep your belongings, or
- keep you out of your home in any way
A marshal can evict you AFTER your landlord wins an eviction case against you in court. Your landlord can never physically remove you or your things from your home. Only a marshal can evict you. This rule also applies to rooming houses.
What if I live in a hotel or motel?
Generally, you can't be locked out of a hotel or motel room if you've lived there for at least 30 days. If the hotel or motel room is the only place you live, the law considers it your home and you have all the legal rights discussed in this guide.
There are some exceptions:
- have another apartment where you usually live, and
- you’ve been in the hotel for less than 90 days, then
- the room is NOT your home and the no-lockout rules probably don’t apply.
Your landlord can’t lock you out even if you have not paid your rent. If the landlord wants you out of the apartment, he must start an eviction case in court. If your landlord wants back rent he claims you owe, he can sue.
My landlord says I abandoned my apartment, and he changed the locks. Can he do that?
Maybe. Your landlord cannot change the locks unless you have actually abandoned your apartment and are not planning to come back. He cannot lock you out merely because he thinks you have abandoned it.
For example: If you have told the landlord that you will be moving and are in the middle of moving out, he cannot change the locks until you have completed your move-out.
When is it reasonable for a landlord to believe that you have completely moved out?
You abandoned your apartment IF:
- you have returned the key,
- you have moved all or most of your things out of the apartment or room and it appears that you are not coming back
- you told your landlord that you were going to move out of the apartment and you completely moved out.
A landlord should not change the locks unless he is sure that you have moved out. If he is not sure, he should bring an eviction case in court. If he changed the locks and you did not abandon your apartment, it’s a lockout and it’s illegal.
- Call the police at once. A lockout is a crime. (Connecticut General Statutes §53a-214).
- Show the police proof that it's your apartment. Proof may be a cancelled rent check, a rent receipt, or even a utility bill with your name and address on it.
- The police should call your landlord and order him to let you back into your apartment.
- If the landlord refuses, you can demand that the police arrest your landlord.
Can I have my landlord arrested?
A lockout is a crime and a landlord who refuses to let a tenant back in should be arrested.
If you have not abandoned your apartment and are locked out, call the police at once. A lockout is a crime.
- You have a right to file a complaint with the police.
- If your landlord has let you back in, the police may try to talk you out of filing a complaint.
- Whether your landlord is prosecuted will depend on how quickly you are let back in and whether your landlord has done a lockout before.
Can I try to get back into my apartment?
- Before you try to enter your apartment, call the police and give them a chance to talk to your landlord.
- If the police can’t find your landlord or your landlord won’t let you back in, tell the police that you plan to re-enter your apartment or room.
- If you can get in easily, go ahead. You can even break a window or pry off a padlock if necessary.
- BUT don’t cause unnecessary damage and don’t get into a physical fight with your landlord.
- If you expect trouble from your landlord, ask the police to be there when you go back in. The police should stop your landlord from getting in your way. They have a duty to prevent a breach of peace.
You should NOT be arrested unless you caused unnecessary damage to the landlord's property.
- If you called the police before regaining entry, the police should know that you haven’t broken the law.
- If the landlord files a complaint against you, an arrest warrant may be issued. Cooperate with the police and they will usually release you on your promise to appear in court.
- If you are arrested, you should call a lawyer at once.
What if the police don’t help me?
You will have to sue your landlord if the police don’t help you get back into your apartment or get back property that your landlord has taken.
What can I sue my landlord for?
You can bring a lockout case in HOUSING COURT if you want your landlord to:
- Let you back into your apartment.
- Return your property.
You can sue in SMALL CLAIMS COURT if you want your landlord to:
- Pay you for missing or damaged property.
- Pay for expenses you had because of the lockout. Attorney’s fees and hotel and meal charges are an example of expenses you might have because you couldn’t get into your home.
Or you can do both.
The law says your landlord owes you at least one month’s rent just for going into your apartment without permission.
- Fill out the court forms. You can get the forms at the housing court or on the web at www.jud.ct.gov.
- Sign and file the forms with the clerk at housing court.
- Give the papers to a marshal to serve to your landlord. Court papers can only be delivered by a marshal. The clerk can give you a list of marshals.
- Go to court on your hearing date and tell the judge what happened.
Tell me more about the forms...
There are 2 court forms you must fill out to start a lockout case. The clerks at the housing court can help you fill out the forms.
1. The form that starts the court case and lists the people involved is the Verified Lockout Complaint and Application for Temporary Injunction (JD-HM-24).
- Fill out the form completely. You are the "plaintiff," your landlord is the "defendant."
- Use this form to describe what your landlord did, such as changing your locks or taking your property.
- Sign the form in front of the court clerk, a notary, or an attorney.
2. The form that sets the court date and tells your landlord what he must do is the Summons, Ex-Parte Injunction and Order to Show Cause (JD-HM-23).
Fill out the top part of the form only.
Give both forms to the clerk. The clerk will show them to the judge. The judge will decide:
1. If you have a case that should be in court.
2. When you and your landlord must go to court (the court date can’t be more than 8 days from when you file the forms).
3. If your landlord has to let you back into your apartment right away.
The judge might set a court date but may not make your landlord let you into your apartment right away. It is up to the judge.
Have the papers served on your landlord. All of the papers the judge signed must be delivered to your landlord by a marshal. The clerk can give you a list of marshals.
Do I have to pay to bring a lockout case?
Yes, but you can ask the court to excuse you from paying the fees if you don’t have the money to pay them. Ask the clerk for an Application for Waiver of Fees (JD-CV-120) and Financial Affidavit (JD-FM-6).
Fill them out and sign them in front of the clerk. The clerk will show the forms to the judge. If the judge signs them, you will not have to pay the filing fee or the marshal fee. The filing fee is $175 and the marshal's fee is about $45-$60 to serve the papers.
1. Be in court on time.
2. Bring any evidence or proof to back up your case. You should bring witnesses, rent receipts, notes from your landlord, police reports, or anything else that you think is important.
At the hearing, you will:
- Meet with a housing mediator. Housing mediators work for the court and help landlords and tenants reach agreements.
- See the judge. If you can’t come to an agreement with the housing mediator, you and your landlord will talk to the judge in the courtroom. This is your chance to tell the judge what happened. This is also your chance to ask the judge for what you want. You can ask the judge to let you back into your apartment or make the landlord pay for things he threw away. Bring witnesses and evidence.
Nervous about going to court? Our video, Getting Ready for Court, will help you get prepared.
You can sue your landlord for up to $5000 in Small Claims Court. The clerk can give you the forms and help you fill them out. You do not need a lawyer to go to Small Claims Court. See the FAQ by the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch: Small Claims FAQ.
This booklet was produced by the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut in cooperation with Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and Statewide Legal Services.
The information in this booklet is based on laws in Connecticut as of 05/2011. We hope that the information is helpful. It is not intended as legal advice for an individual situation. Please call Statewide Legal Services or contact an attorney for additional help.
Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).
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