Can I change the locks on the doors?

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 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.


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