If commercial tenants refuse to pay rent, can I change the locks?

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If commercial tenants refuse to pay rent, can I change the locks?

We have a lease for a space and rent it out for parties every day of the week. About 2 years ago, a tenant wanted to rent every Th, Fri, and Sat. We had a signed agreement on the amount they had to pay prior to each weekend which expired a year ago. Since then, they continued to pay weekly. Now they refuse to pay. Since they do not occupy the whole week. Can we change the locks? They are violating numerous health and liquor laws during their parties. Does that make any difference? If we can’t lock them out, would there be any problem with taking out furniture/decorations/etc?

Asked on December 19, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You have a lease, it is just not a written one. You should give them a 30 day notice period and indicate that they have a certain amount of time to move their things out. If you know they are violating local and state laws and regulations or ordinances, then you may be held to be equally negligent (read liable) if anything should occur. Ultimately, you can report them to the health inspector and of course the liquor board or investigators but changing the locks will only serve to aggrevate the situation not make it better. You need to simply follow the book and not try to shorten the time and risk having it tied up in legal battle for longer.


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