Tag: landlord

Be Careful! Commercial Landlords Should Exercise Care When Tenants Don’t Pay…

By:  Benjamin Tenenholtz

What happens when commercial tenants don’t pay their rent?  Commercial landlords, much like residential landlords, have the right to lock a tenant out of the subject property. However, landlords must be careful to follow very specific rules outlined in the Texas Property Code, lest they subject themselves to a suit for unlawful lockout and reentry onto the property.

1. Make sure your tenant’s rent is delinquent

First, the landlord should make sure that the tenant is actually late in paying all, or at least part, of the rent. This sounds simple, but it is good practice to ensure that your accounting has been done accurately, and there are no outstanding credits or other billing issues.

2. Post notice of lockout

Next, the landlord should post a written notice on the tenant’s front door stating the name and address or phone number of the individual or company from which the tenant can obtain a new key. The new key is required to be provided only during the tenant’s regular business hours, and then ONLY if the tenant pays all delinquent rent.  This is unique to a commercial tenancy, as a residential tenant has a right to reenter regardless of whether he or she has paid the rent.

3. Lockout the debtor tenant

It is important to note that, unlike with residential rental property, the landlord of a commercial property does not need to post advanced notice before locking out the commercial tenant. The posting of notice and the lockout can happen simultaneously.  It should also be noted that to the extent that any provisions in the commercial lease conflict with the law contained in Texas Property Code 93.002, the lease’s language will supersede the Property Code.

4. Take steps to secure payment of delinquent rent

Once a landlord has successfully locked out a non-paying tenant, she can then petition for, and attempt to foreclose upon, a building landlord’s lien. The Property Code is designed to ensure that a landlord’s lien gets paid before other creditors of the debtor tenant. The landlord can also file an application for a distress warrant. A distress warrant allows a landlord to seize some of the debtor tenant’s property (subject to posting a bond) in order to ensure that her landlord’s lien is preserved until it can be foreclosed upon.

5. Be careful!

If you are a commercial landlord or tenant and are unsure of the steps you should take when dealing with a commercial lockout, consult with an attorney. Violation of the rules contained in the Texas Property Code can subject a commercial landlord to fines, attorney’s fees (both for herself and for the wrongfully locked out tenant), and court costs.

Remember folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own.

And as always, our blog postings are not legal advice, nor do they constitute an attorney-client relationship!

Locked out? Late on rent payments? Out of Luck? Maybe not…

By:  Benjamin M. Tenenholtz

Almost everyone has months where money is tight. And as you may or may not know, if you’re late on rent payments for your rental home or apartment, you may find yourself locked out of your property. While your landlord has a right to lock you out if you don’t pay your rent, he must follow very specific rules in the Texas Property Code in order to lock out a tenant.

1.  Warning of the Lockout

If your landlord locks you out of your residence, he must post a notice on your front door which provides you with a 24-hour on-site location to access your new key, or a 24-hour phone number you can call to have a new key delivered within two hours. The landlord’s notice must also tell you the amount of late rent/charges and he must provide you a new key, at any hour, REGARDLESS of whether or not you pay the delinquent rent. It is important to know that your landlord cannot lock you out on a day on which a designated person is not available, or the on-site management office is not open, for you to pay the delinquent rent.

2.   Notice of Lockout and Legal Niceties

Additionally, your landlord cannot lock you out of your residence at all unless your lease agreement tells you that you can be locked out for failing to pay rent, and you are actually delinquent in paying your rent. In addition to these requirements, the landlord is required to provide a warning notice either: five days before the lockout by local mail, or three days before the lockout by hand-delivery or by posting on your main entry door. This notice should tell you the earliest date you may be locked out, the amount you must pay to prevent the lockout, the contact information for the individual or management office to discuss your rent, and tell you in underlined or bold print that you have a right to get a new key to your residence at any hour, REGARDLESS of whether you pay the delinquent rent.

3.  Remedy for Wrongful Lockout

If your landlord violates any of these laws, you have substantial rights to which you are entitled! You may either regain entry to your residence, or terminate the lease. In addition to these rights, you are entitled to recover a penalty from the landlord of $1,000, one month’s rent, actual damages, court costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees (minus the amount of delinquent rent). Additionally, if your landlord fails to give you a key after you request it, you may be entitled to another month’s rent.

Maybe most important to wrongfully locked out tenants… Your lease cannot waive any of these rights!

So in summary, remember these things:

  1. Warning of Lockout–it should come ahead of time in the mail or on your door or by personal delivery and include delinquent amounts and contact information
  2. Notice of Lockout–Posted on the door to the residence, including the delinquent rent amount but more importantly advising you that a key is available to you at any time, within 2 hours, regardless of your ability to pay the delinquent amounts
  3. Vindicating your Rights–Lockouts not done in strict accordance with the property code are subject to stiff civil penalties.  A lawyer can help you recover the damages and fines your landlord might owe you, but you probably still have to pay your rent.