If you pay rent and are treated as a tenant, can you be locked out if your name is not on the lease?

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If you pay rent and are treated as a tenant, can you be locked out if your name is not on the lease?

Lived in my apartment for 3 1/2 years. Paid rent with checks in my name (signed and printed). The checks also had “rent”written in the memo section. The landlord accepted my checks. My roommate and her boyfriend attacked me, and had me falsely arrested. When I came back the locks were changed. I was told by the apartment manager, who accepted my rent checks, that I had no right to have a key because my name wasn’t on the lease, and I was trespassing because my name wasn’t on the lease. But, neither is my roommate, her lease expired 6 months after she moved in.

Asked on March 9, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Having your name on a lease is not the only way to be considered a tenant.  In addition to being on the lease, you may have achieved the status of a tenant if your landlord accepted rent from you (which they did).  Also, if the landlord, put (or allowed you to put) your name on the mailbox/doorbell, and/or if you and the other tenant rented the place together and it was clear that both of you were on equal footing.  Accordingly, the only way to legally remove you from the premises is for your landlord to file for an unlawful detainer (i.e. eviction).  In fact since the locks were changed you may even a claim against the landlord for illegal eviction.  At this point you should meet with an attorney that specializes in landlord/tenant matters or speak with a tenant's rights group.


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