Can I change the locks on the doors?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I change the locks on the doors?

I lease a commercial building in Colorado and I rented 1/2 the space to someone without a lease. He owes me 5k and he is over 30days late on moving his equipment out. Can I change the locks on the doors until he pays me? Can I sell his equipment to recoup some money?

Asked on March 21, 2019 under Real Estate Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

1) You can evict him for nonpayment of rent, but must do so by filing a legal action in court and proving your right to evict (e.g. for nonpayment of rent) and getting a court order (commonly called a writ or warrant) for his removal. You cannot simply unilaterally change the locks; if you do so, you will be in the wrong and he can sue you.
2) You may NOT take or sell his equipment--if you do, that is theft. The only time that a landlord may be able to use the tenant's possessions to satisfy a debt (e.g. unpaid rent) if there is a written lease specifically giving the landlord that right--but you indicate there is no written lease.
Eviction law can be very "technical" in that a small error in paperwork or procedure can force you to start over. It is recommended that you retain a landlord-tenant attorney to help you.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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