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Lock out & possible eviction?

Discussion in 'Commercial Landlord & Tenant Issues' started by wendysbc, Oct 20, 2008.

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  1. wendysbc

    wendysbc Law Topic Starter New Member

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    My jurisdiction is: Texas

    My jurisdiction is: Texas

    I am in need of advice regarding a lock out. I am behind in my rent. My car died shortly after arriving in Texas and I was unable to get a job. I had an interview lined up, but was unable to go because of the car issue. I called an organization that offers rent assistance and was told that if I could prove at least promise of a job they would help me with October's rent. I spoke to the account manager at my complex and she agreed to work with me. I finally found a church that gave me a little transporation car to use and the next day Hurricane Ike hit. We were without power for 13 days here. I talked to the apartment complex manager and she told me to bring a letter of hardship and no late fees would be charged before October 11th.

    As soon as possible I was back out looking for work. I finally started a great job last Monday, however I still am unable to pay my October rent. The day I got hired, I stopped in the office and informed the account manager and she agreed once again to work with me as I tried to get the rent assistance, since I now had promise of work. I called the charitable organization again and was told that due to limited funds I would be put on a waiting list and call backs would begin this week.

    In the meantime I got an invoice from the head office stating that my October rent and November rent were due by November first .. showing no late fees at all. I assumed that meant because of my letter of hardhip they were cutting me a break.

    This past Thursday the account manager here at the complex stuck a 3 day lockout notice in between my door and the door jam while I was at work. It said I owed the rent plus $100 late fee. She stapled a typed letter on top of the official paper saying that if my rent, including late fee, was not in the lock box in front of the office in the morning my rent would not be accepted at all. In less than 24 hours (and this was at 7:00 pm when I received the notices) I was to have the payment in form of money order, cashier's check or certified check. The official notice stated that I must deliver my payment to the account manager herslef at the office "during normal business hours which are 9-6pm M-Sunday". The actual business hours are Monday through Friday 9:00 am - 6:00 pm, Saturday from 10:00 am - 6:00 pm and Sunday from 1:00 pm - 6:00 pm .. and this account manager does not work 7 days a week!

    Are you confused by these notices yet? I sure was! Pay up in full by morning before she arrives with stipulated forms of payment or it will be too late to pay. Or, go see her any time during made up hours "regular business hours" .. whenever is fine! But wait, my bill said November first, no late fees!

    I responded with a letter saying that she had agreed on three prior occasions to work with me while I obtained rent assistance, as late as the week before. I also enclosed a copy of the invoice showing I had until November first with no late fees. I put this response in the lock box before leaving for work at 6:45 am the next morning.

    I came home this evening and was locked out. The lockout notice was again stuck in the door jam and gave no number to call to be able to reenter. It stated that I could go to the office 24 hours a day to be let back in. This is false information, they lock up the office at 6:00pm. At 5:58 I raced over there and was fortunate enough to catch them turning off lights and getting ready to leave. The account manager then came to my apartment and removed the lock out device, but if I had been a few moments later I would have missed them and not have been able to get into my apartment.

    I have been reading up on Texas law and from what I understand my lease is supposed to specify the right to lock out either in bold or underlined print. I finally found this stipulation in the very fine print of my lease ... not bold or underlined. A technicality, I understand, but combined with the faulty lock out notice with no contact number and her typed less than 24 hour note to pay up by morning or no rent will be accepted, do I have any remedy here?

    Sorry, but there's a bit more to this. Before I moved in I called and arranged for my electricity to be turned on. The following month this same account manager said I owed for electricity. I called the electric company and was told that just three days after I had arrived someone in the office had called and cancelled my account as a forced move out and reverted the electric bill to the complex. The electric company said they would straighten it out but that it would take at least 30 days to accomplish. They advised me not to pay the complex because they pay a commercial rate. I would be back billed and the complex would receive a credit. They told me to have the account manager call them if she needed verification. I told her it was being straightened out and she insisted on having my account number with the electric company.

    Later, after that she asked again for me to pay this electric bill and I told her again that it was being straightened out and it would take at least 30 days.

    On October 3rd when I went to her with my letter of hardship from the hurricane, she seemed reluctant to accept it and she started insisting once again that I pay the complex for electricity. I told her I had received my back billing so they must have gotten their credit. She just kept saying over and over that I had to pay this electricity bill. I went back to my apartment and called the elctric company. They said they did not understand why she was giving me such a hard time and that she needed to call them if she thought there was a problem and wondered why she hadn't already instead of "harrasing" me over it. I took my bills over to the office to prove it had been cleared up and told her the electric company wanted her to call them if she thought there was still a problem with her bill. She took my bills and made copies of them.

    I apologize for the lengthiness of this but I am at my wit's end as to how to handle this situation. Since I was unemployed for so long I cannot afford a lawyer and according to guidelines they use my former salary from what I understand so I would not qualify for legal aid. Any advice any of you can give me or direct me to would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    (a) A landlord may not remove a door, window,
    or attic hatchway cover or a lock, latch, hinge, hinge pin,
    doorknob, or other mechanism connected to a door, window, or attic
    hatchway cover from premises leased to a tenant or remove
    furniture, fixtures, or appliances furnished by the landlord from
    premises leased to a tenant unless the landlord removes the item for
    a bona fide repair or replacement. If a landlord removes any of the
    items listed in this subsection for a bona fide repair or
    replacement, the repair or replacement must be promptly performed.
    (b) A landlord may not intentionally prevent a tenant from
    entering the leased premises except by judicial process unless the
    exclusion results from:
    (1) bona fide repairs, construction, or an emergency;
    (2) removing the contents of premises abandoned by a
    tenant; or
    (3) changing the door locks of a tenant who is
    delinquent in paying at least part of the rent.
    (c) If a landlord or a landlord's agent changes the door
    lock of a tenant who is delinquent in paying rent, the landlord or
    the landlord's agent must place a written notice on the tenant's
    front door stating:
    (1) an on-site location where the tenant may go 24
    hours a day to obtain the new key or a telephone number that is
    answered 24 hours a day that the tenant may call to have a key
    delivered within two hours after calling the number;
    (2) the fact that the landlord must provide the new key
    to the tenant at any hour, regardless of whether or not the tenant
    pays any of the delinquent rent; and
    (3) the amount of rent and other charges for which the
    tenant is delinquent.
    (d) A landlord may not intentionally prevent a tenant from
    entering the leased premises under Subsection (b)(3) unless:
    (1) the tenant is delinquent in paying all or part of
    the rent; and
    (2) the landlord has locally mailed not later than the
    fifth calendar day before the date on which the door locks are
    changed or hand-delivered to the tenant or posted on the inside of
    the main entry door of the tenant's dwelling not later than the
    third calendar day before the date on which the door locks are
    changed a written notice stating:
    (A) the earliest date that the landlord proposes
    to change the door locks;
    (B) the amount of rent the tenant must pay to
    prevent changing of the door locks; and
    (C) the name and street address of the individual
    to whom, or the location of the on-site management office at which,
    the delinquent rent may be paid during the landlord's normal
    business hours.
    (e) A landlord may not change the locks on the door of a
    tenant's dwelling under Subsection (b)(3) on a day, or on a day
    immediately before a day, on which the landlord or other designated
    individual is not available, or on which any on-site management
    office is not open, for the tenant to tender the delinquent rent.
    (f) A landlord who intentionally prevents a tenant from
    entering the tenant's dwelling under Subsection (b)(3) must provide
    the tenant with a key to the changed lock on the dwelling without
    regard to whether the tenant pays the delinquent rent.
    (g) If a landlord arrives at the dwelling in a timely manner
    in response to a tenant's telephone call to the number contained in
    the notice as described by Subsection (c)(1) and the tenant is not
    present to receive the key to the changed lock, the landlord shall
    leave a notice on the front door of the dwelling stating the time
    the landlord arrived with the key and the street address to which
    the tenant may go to obtain the key during the landlord's normal
    office hours.
    (h) If a landlord violates this section, the tenant may:
    (1) either recover possession of the premises or
    terminate the lease; and
    (2) recover from the landlord a civil penalty of one
    month's rent plus $500, actual damages, court costs, and reasonable
    attorney's fees in an action to recover property damages, actual
    expenses, or civil penalties , less any delinquent rent or other
    sums for which the tenant is liable to the landlord.
    (i) If a landlord violates Subsection (f), the tenant may
    recover, in addition to the remedies provided by Subsection (h), an
    additional civil penalty of one month's rent.
    (j) A provision of a lease that purports to waive a right or
    to exempt a party from a liability or duty under this section is
  3. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    Here's the problem - and I'm very sympathetic to your hard times. You haven't paid anyone for items you've been given. You're upset that these people are "harassing" you. Let me ask you this - what if you loaned your truck and he will pay you $1,000 end of month. You trust him but you need the money because you have to the leasing company the money. Your friend has a cash flow problem and doesn't pay you back. What do you do? Do you keep going after him to try to get that money asap? You NEED that money since you're paying out of pocket for the truck that he is still using! Rather offensive to you, eh?

    Well, the same thing is happening here. The landlord may have a mortgage. He's got his own expenses. Sure you're falling on hard times but why is he floating the mortgage payments because you feel that after not paying rent for two months, he should still subsidize you? You see the problem here? Unfortunately there is no answer except find a way to pay the rent or expect to leave immediately.
  4. wendysbc

    wendysbc Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Well, I don't think you quite got what I was asking. But that's fair since you cannot see the paperwork itself and the errors and misinformation in it. However, I was not two months behind in rent, just late paying October. But fortunately God is not as harsh as you and provided rent assistance for not only October but part of November also. : )
  5. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    I got the point but, unfortunately, G-d does not pay the mortgage. ;)

    "Late" is a relative term. You have a lease. It has terms - you need to read them!!! If you don't pay rent for the entire month, chances are they can and will begin to evict you! Times are very hard around the country. Everyone is afraid of defaults and that is why you need to be proactive. Good luck to you!

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