If there is no written rental agreement, can landlord hold possessions for “unpaid” rent?

UPDATED: Jun 14, 2015

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If there is no written rental agreement, can landlord hold possessions for “unpaid” rent?

Asked on June 14, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Texas


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

The general rule is that a landlord cannot seize a tenant's property for unpaid rent. The landlord must instead take the tenant to court to collect. And if the tenant has left property in the rental unit, the landlord must follow specific procedures before selling, claiming or otherwise disposing of it.

A few jurisdictions permit a landlord to seize a tenant's personal property for back rent; this is called a "landlord's lien". However, it requires obtaining a court order.

If a landlord wrongfully takes a tenant's possessions, the tenant can sue them in civil court for the return of their items or for their value. They can also file a criminal complaint for "conversion" (theft).

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 AttorneyPages.com 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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