Can I lock out somebody who is not paying their rent?
Can I be penalized for illegally locking someone out
if they owe me rent?
Sec. 92.0081, Texas Property Code: Removal of Property
and Exclusion of Residential Tenant.
(a) A landlord may not remove a door, window, or attic hatchway cover
or a lock, latch, hinge, hinge pin, doorknob, or other mechanism connected
to a door, window, or attic hatchway cover from premises leased to a tenant
or remove furniture, fixtures, or appliances furnished by the landlord
from premises leased to a tenant unless the landlord removes the item
for a bona fide repair or replacement. If a landlord removes any of the
items listed in this subsection for a bona fide repair or replacement,
the repair or replacement must be promptly performed.
(b) A landlord may not intentionally prevent a tenant from entering the
leased premises except by judicial process unless the exclusion results
from:(1) bona fide repairs, construction, or an emergency; (2) removing
the contents of premises abandoned by a tenant; or (3) changing the door
locks of a tenant who is delinquent in paying at least part of the rent.
(c) If a landlord or a landlord's agent changes the door lock of a tenant
who is delinquent in paying rent, the landlord or the landlord's agent
must place a written notice on the tenant's front door stating: (1) an
on-site location where the tenant may go 24 hours a day to obtain the
new key or a telephone number that is answered 24 hours a day that the
tenant may call to have a key delivered within two hours after calling
the number; (2) the fact 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.
(d) A landlord may not intentionally prevent a tenant from entering the
leased premises under Subsection (b) (3) unless: (1) the tenant is delinquent
in paying all or part of the rent; and (2) the landlord has locally mailed
not later than the fifth calendar day before the date on which the door
locks are changed or hand-delivered to the tenant or posted on the inside
of the main entry door of the tenant's dwelling not later than the third
calendar day before the date on which the door locks are changed a written
notice stating: (A) the earliest date that the landlord proposes to change
the door locks; (B) the amount of rent the tenant must pay to prevent
changing of the door locks; and (C) the name and street address of the
individual to whom, or the location of the on-site management office at
which, the delinquent rent may be paid during the landlord's normal business
(e) A landlord may not change the locks on the door of a tenant's dwelling
under Subsection (b) (3) on a day, or on a day immediately before a day,
on which the landlord or other designated individual is not available,
or on which any on-site management office is not open, for the tenant
to tender the delinquent rent.
(f) A landlord who intentionally prevents a tenant from entering the tenant's
dwelling under Subsection (b) (3) must provide the tenant with a key to
the changed lock on the dwelling without regard to whether the tenant
pays the delinquent rent.
(g) If a landlord arrives at the dwelling in a timely manner in response
to a tenant's telephone call to the number contained in the notice as
described by Subsection (c) (1) and the tenant is not present to receive
the key to the changed lock, the landlord shall leave a notice on the
front door of the dwelling stating the time the landlord arrived with
the key and the street address to which the tenant may go to obtain the
key during the landlord's normal office hours.
(h) If a landlord violates this section, the tenant may: (1) either recover
possession of the premises or terminate the lease; and (2) recover from
the landlord a civil penalty of one month's rent plus $500, actual damages,
court costs, and reasonable attorney's fees in an action to recover property
damages, actual expenses, or civil penalties, less any delinquent rent
or other sums for which the tenant is liable to the landlord.
(i) If a landlord violates Subsection (f), the tenant may recover, in
addition to the remedies provided by Subsection (h), an additional civil
penalty of one month's rent.
(j) A provision of a lease that purports to waive a right or to exempt
a party from a liability or duty under this section is void.