I’m willing to bet that among the frequently asked questions on landlord/tenant law, the following is at the top of the list: “If my tenant is not paying his or her rent, can I change the locks of the apartment? Can I turn off the utilities?” The answer, in one word: No!
These actions of trying to evict a tenant without going to court, often called “self-help,” are against the law. Not only will this result in civil liabilities, which could include huge monetary damages, a landlord can end up in jail for doing any form of “self help.” Simply put, a formal eviction is the sole means of dealing with a tenant that a landlord wants to get rid of. This doesn’t mean that a landlord cannot try to settle a case with a tenant outside of court, but any interference with a tenant’s living situation is a huge problem.
No doubt, landlord/tenant cases can be frustrating, but landlords are much better off speaking with an experienced attorney instead of trying to take matters into their own hands. The risks just aren’t worth it.