What happens if my landlord locks me out?


Reprinted with the permission of the Ohio State Legal Services Association

Q. What is a lockout?

A. If a landlord has an unresolved problem with a tenant, the landlord may try to change the locks or shut off utilities in order to force the tenant to solve the problem.  A lockout is when a landlord changes the locks to a unit for the purpose of trying to make the tenant leave. The landlord does this without first going to court.

Q. Are landlords allowed to do this?

A. No. Lockouts were made illegal in Ohio in 1973 when the Landlord/Tenant Act was passed.

Q. When can a landlord change the locks?

A. There are two occasions that a landlord can do this legally.

• If the tenant voluntarily gives up possession of their unit. This usually happens when the tenant tells the landlord they are leaving and returns the keys to the landlord. The landlord can then change the locks.
• A court can authorize the landlord to evict the tenant, and if the landlord follows the proper court procedures, which vary from county to county, then the landlord may change the locks.

Q. Can I sue my landlord if I am illegally locked out?

A. Yes.

Q. What can I sue for?

A. There are various remedies:
• A tenant can sue asking the court to order the landlord to let the tenant back in. This is called an injunction.
• A tenant can also ask the court to order the landlord to return any possessions of the tenant’s if the landlord is holding them.
• A tenant can sue for any damages they suffered, such as loss of possessions, motel bills, restaurant bills, etc., that were incurred by the tenant because the landlord locked them out.

Q. Can I get a lawyer to represent me?

A. Possibly. Legal aid programs sometimes represent those who are locked out and/or give them specific advice through a hotline. Contact Community Legal Aid in Akron at 1-800-998-9454.

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