What if a tenant fails to pay rent? Can a landlord simply change the locks on the tenant…? Shouldn’t an owner be able to change the locks and remove an unruly tenant; after all, the rental is landlord’s property, right?
The scenario typically goes something like this: a landlord’s residential tenant did not pay rent on the first, he is late on the fifth, and now it is the 12th and still no rent. When the landlord calls to discuss the missed rent payment, the tenant becomes belligerent and says something like “go ahead, try and evict me. If you do, I’ll destroy the place.” So, what does this landlord do? Rather than risk damage to his rental, the landlord decides to take matters into his own hands and change the locks on the property. The next morning, when the deadbeat tenant leaves your property in search of his morning latte, the landlord goes to his rental and changes the locks. The landlord thinks he is right because the property is his. Right? WRONG! This landlord has just committed one of the gravest mistakes possible in the realm of Nevada’s Landlord Tenant Laws; the dreaded “self-help eviction.”
In Nevada, landlords are prevented from recovering or retaking possession of a rental property unless the landlord has an order of eviction or the tenant has surrendered or abandoned the property voluntarily. In fact, it is illegal for a landlord to remove a tenant from a residential dwelling by the use of “self-help.” This can include changing the locks without a proper eviction order and the involvement of the proper authorities. This can also include the landlord making the living conditions so unbearable to the tenant in an attempt to force the tenant to vacate the property voluntarily. If a landlord takes either of these actions, or takes any other actions such as the use of force or threats in effort to remove a tenant (common examples include turning off the water, power or other utilities or services), the tenant has the right to file a request with the court, seeking immediate and expedited relief due to the unlawful removal from the property, and the punishment to the landlord can be severe.
If such a request is filed by a tenant, the court must hear the matter within three judicial days of the filing by the tenant. If the court determines the landlord has violated Nevada’s Landlord Tenant laws by improperly utilizing “self-help” remedies, the court may grant the tenant immediate possession of the property or allow the tenant to terminate the rental agreement. As a result, the court can award the tenant his actual damages as well as award the tenant up to $2,500. In addition to these amounts, the court may also award the tenant all costs and attorney’s fees against the landlord, which as the statute puts it, “as justice may require.” The moral of the story is, never use “self-help” under any circumstances. At the very least, you should discuss the matter with an attorney and determine the best course of action to take.
For assistance in taking back your rental property the right way, and to avoid the consequences of wrongfully using “self-help,” call our Las Vegas Eviction Attorney now at 702-823-1354 or send us an e-mail. We are dedicated to helping you retake possession of your rental property quickly and correctly; making your rental property profitable again.