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Landlord Rights: Can I Legally Lock Out a Tenant?

At Toepfer at Law, we understand how frustrating it can be to wait for eviction proceedings when you want a nightmare tenant gone yesterday. Here’s our promise to you: We’ll do everything in our power to make sure the eviction process goes as smoothly and quickly as possible. Contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation today.

When you’re the property owner, it can be maddening to have renters who don’t respect you or your home. They may destroy property, cause intentional damage or be a nuisance to the neighbors; they may violate their lease agreement and fail to pay rent. They may cause you the kind of stress that makes you want to pull your hair out.

But here’s the thing: You should never lock your tenants out. In situations where the tenants are causing enormous damage or even verbally assaulting you, locking them out may seem like the best course of action. However, doing so could land you in a world of legal trouble if the tenant decides to sue you. You may face the same problems if you shut off their utilities.

When a tenant’s behavior is extremely destructive, it seems reasonable to do anything you can to get them off your property. However, the law simply isn’t on your side. That doesn’t mean you don’t have any legal recourse, though. It might take a little longer than you’d prefer, but an experienced eviction attorney can help you remove them as quickly as possible.

At Toepfer at Law, we understand that it’s not always easy being a landlord. That’s why we do everything in our power to offer you the best possible legal support. Call us at (320) 497-4416 to schedule a confidential consultation.

Why You Shouldn’t Lock Out a Tenant

If a renter is putting you through the ringer, the idea of paying for an eviction may seem unfair. However, it will be much cheaper than defending yourself in a lawsuit. 

When landlords take matters into their own hands and try to force out tenants, they’re taking a big risk. Threatening or intimidating tenants, shutting off their utilities, locking them out or attempting to physically remove them are all illegal actions. Doing so could result in you being sued for trespass, assault, battery, slander or libel, intentional infliction of emotional distress and wrongful eviction. 

In almost every state, landlords who break the law by throwing out tenants can face harsh penalties. But beyond legal issues and fines, there’s a practical reason not to throw out renters on your own: It’s dangerous. This situation has a huge potential for violence against both you and your property. 

Alternatives to Locking Out Tenants

There are several alternatives to trying to force tenants out. They may not be as gratifying, but they can work and, most importantly, they’re legal. 

Try Mediation

If you’re feeling high levels of discomfort, your renters probably are, too. Unless a serious line has been crossed, you may want to consider hiring a mediator to help you talk things out. It’s possible you both got off on the wrong foot or that there was a critical miscommunication. In the event that the tenant is totally unreceptive to working things out, a mediation will give you the chance to explain the legal actions you plan to take if the situation doesn’t improve. 

Offer an Incentive

If you need your tenant to leave but don’t want to pursue eviction, you can try to make a deal. Some landlords try a “cash for keys” approach in which they actually pay tenants to move out. It’s not ideal, but it is an option if you can’t wait another day.

Pursue Eviction 

When a tenant stops paying rent, violates the lease agreement or acts in a threatening or dangerous way, eviction may be the only solution. The good news is that it typically doesn’t take that long to achieve, especially if you have an experienced attorney helping you file the legal paperwork. 

Modify the Lease Agreement

A lot of problems stem from shoddy lease agreements. When you’re going through an untenable renter situation, it can be helpful to ask yourself: What provisions could I have included in this lease to make their actions an eviction-worthy offense? It may not help you this lease cycle, but it will next time. 

Call Our Experienced Minnesota Eviction Lawyers 

Landlord-tenant issues are complex, and the laws around them aren’t always intuitive. Even though locking out a tenant may seem like a reasonable response to their actions, it will only make your situation worse. You could end up being sued by them or, in a worst case scenario, being the victim of violence. 

One of the best things that landlords can do to protect themselves while remaining within the law is to hire an experienced eviction attorney. A lawyer can review your case, offer valuable insights and help you pursue the best course of action. They can also help you draft legal documents that prevent similar situations from arising in the future. 

When you need a compassionate, knowledgeable team of eviction lawyers, there’s no better firm to turn to than Toepfer at Law. We’ve been protecting landlord rights in Central Minnesota for years, which has earned us the trust and confidence of our community. Ready to work with the best? Contact us online or give us a call at (320) 497-4416 to schedule a consultation today.

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Meet Tony Toepfer

Attorney Anthony (Tony) Toepfer began his legal career in the area of business and technology law. While successful in that field, he felt there was something missing. He turned down opportunities, because, as he says, “I wanted to see the faces of the people I was helping.” He transitioned into family law practice, and found what he was looking for.

About Tony Toepfer

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