A landlord may prevent you from entering your leased premises only when your rent is not completely paid (and the landlord follows very strict rules and promptly allows you back in the premises), in an emer- gency situation, to conduct a bona fide repair, or when you have aban- doned the premises. The landlord may not change the locks based on your failure to pay rent unless the lease says that she can do so and she has first mailed or delivered a three-day notice that states the earliest date of the proposed lock-out, the amount of rent owed, a location where it can be paid, and your right to receive a key to the new lock at any hour, regardless of whether you pay the delinquent rent. When your landlord changes your door locks because you are behind on paying the rent, the landlord must leave another written notice on your front door describing where a new key may be obtained at any hour and must give the name and location of the individual who will provide you with the new key. The notice must state the fact that the landlord must provide the key to you at any hour (regardless of whether or not you pay any of the delinquent rent) and the notice must state the amount of rent and other charges for which you are delinquent. The new key must be pro- vided to you immediatel , regardless of whether you pay the landlord anything, or the notice must give you a telephone number that is answered 24 hours a day that you can call to have a key delivered to you within two hours after calling the number. These rules apply no matter what any lease agreement might say and even if the landlord is closing down the premises. The landlord CANNOT remove a door, window, lock, doorknob, or any other appliance furnished by the landlord because you are behind on the rent, unless the removal is for repair or replacement (in which case, a lock, doorknob, or door should be repaired or replaced before nightfall). The landlord also cannot prevent you from entering a common area of the rental property.
If the landlord changes the door locks without giving you the required notices or without providing a new key or removes a door or other item improperl , you may terminate the lease or recover possession of the premises. In either case, you may also recover actual damages, one month's rent plus $1,000, plus reasonable attorney's fees and court costs, less any past due rent owed by you as the tenant.
To get back in, you should contact the manager, management com- pany, or owner for a new key. If your landlord refuses to give you a key, you can go to the Justice of the Peace Court in your area and request a "writ of reentry" which will order the landlord to provide you with a key to your house or apartment.
Landlord Intentionally Disconnects the Utility Sometimes, a landlord will intentionally cut off a tenant's utilities in an attempt to force you to pay rent or move. Even if you are delinquent in rent or have violated some other provision of your lease, your landlord