Evicting A Roommate? When Can You Change The Locks?

30 November 2017
 Categories: , Blog

Having a roommate (or several roommates) can provide many benefits, from companionship and chore-sharing to a break on your rent or mortgage payments. However, when these roommate relationships go south and you're the only one listed on the mortgage (or lease agreement), you may find yourself in the position of having to evict someone who lives in your house. What steps should you take both before and after the eviction to provide yourself with security while staying within the bounds of the law? Read on to learn more about when (and how) you can do things like change your locks and remove former tenants' personal belongings from your home. 

When Can You Legally Change Your Locks? 

Each state's landlord-tenant laws can vary, with some states providing landlords with fairly expansive rights when it comes to evicting roommates or in-home tenants. However, other states have much stricter standards and can require you to provide a lengthy notice period or even go through a court hearing before you're legally permitted to take any action to evict a roommate. Because of this, it's usually a good idea to consult a landlord-tenant attorney in your state to ensure you're acting on the right side of the law.

Once you have your attorney's blessing and have provided your tenant with requisite notice that you're ending the lease or sublease, you'll likely be permitted to change your home's locks to prevent your now-ex-roommate from entering. In some cases, it can make sense to simply purchase brand-new locking doorknobs for each room, especially if you're not sure whether your roommate made copies of the house key (or who could have a copy).

In other cases, it may be a better idea to "re-key" your existing doorknob. This is usually wise whenever you have a doorknob you'd like to avoid replacing, for whatever reason, or you don't trust the security of the mass-produced, installation-ready doorknobs sold in most department and home supply stores. For more information on replacing locks, contact local locksmith services.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Eviction Process? 

There may be some exceptions to the normal process if you have credible evidence that your roommate's continued presence is compromising your safety. If your roommate has made threats against you or otherwise indicated an intent to cause you harm, it's possible for you to obtain an emergency order that will allow you to change your locks and take other measures to secure your home even before you've proceeded through a formal eviction. 

Again, it's always best to seek the advice of an attorney before pursuing this route.