Lock Outs

Can My Landlord Lock Me Out? 

  • Landlords cannot force a person to leave without an agreement or due process, including changing the unit locks.
  • California Civil Code Section 789.3 explicitly states that landlords are not allowed to “prevent the tenant from gaining reasonable access to the property by changing the locks or using a bootlock or by any other similar method or device”.
  • A lockout can only occur by a sheriff fulfilling a court order.

Steps to Take When Locked Out:

Find out if the lockout was court orderd:

  • To do this, call your local sheriff’s department and provide the tenant’s first and last name. Give a case number if you have one, otherwise provide them with the unit address.

If lockout was not court ordered:

  • If your city has a rent mediation/rent board, contact them to help.
    • Tenants Together has provided links to the rent boards for Oakland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles (click below), but many other cities also provide these services.
      • San Francisco
      • Oakland
      • Los Angeles
  • Make sure to document every action.
    • Always also have document proof of your residence (i.e. bills, lease, letter)
  • You can call a locksmith
  • Inform law enforcment to make them are aware of the landlord’s actions (only if it is safe to do so, and should use discretion on case by case basis).
  • If legal action is taken and the case is found in your favor, your landlord is required to cover all the legal costs (including a lawyer).

Landlords Claim the Abandonment:

  • Under California Civil Code 1951.3, the landlord must go through the due process of formalizing the unit as abandoned, they cannot just claim the tenant has left.
  • In order to do this, the landlord must give a written notice of belief of abandonment. They can do this based on:
    • Reasonable belief that the property is abandoned
    • If the rent is overdue 14 days (During COVID-19 State of Emergency tenants who are unable to make full rental payment need to respond within 15 days from date rent was due with a Declaration of COVID-19 Impact)
  • Tenants have the opportunity to respond to landlord abandonment notice with proof of residency.
  • Even if the landlord proves abandonment, a tenant always has a right to their personal belongings and property within the unit.
  • Be careful with how to proceed, because legal action is often evoked in these cases. Ultimately, make sure to document everything.   

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