In process of Evicting Tenants and they lost key and can't get in

27 Replies

So, I have some problematic tenants. It's almost a comical story if they didn't owe me money. I gave them an eviction notice Monday for not paying rent and they have overstayed their lease. They texted me today asking me to come unlock their house as they lost their key (inside the house presumably). I'm probably going to go unlock it, but just curious what others would do. Just ignore the text? Tell them to call a locksmith? It's not the first time I have had to unlock their house for them and I have told them before to make a copy of the key. Anyway, other thoughts on how to handle this... Thanks. 

not unlock it.  You are deliberately unlocking a door to somewhere where they no longer pay rent.  You didn't change the locks or anything, so it is their fault that they got locked out

I think you need to let them in or you could get in trouble. You can't do anything to keep them from the property until they are legally evicted.

As long as they are legal tenants, you have to treat them like legal tenants. That means you unlock the door for them or require them to hire a locksmith.

Consider adding a charge to your lease agreement. Tenants pay $XX for any unlock, double on weekends.

I would add a charge to their ledger if possible, as others have said.  Just follow what you wrote in the lease, until they're evicted.   It's never good to get creative on charges or delaying access, but especially during an eviction process.    

You'd be a fool to help them. You have not locked them out. You have not done anything to illegally evict them. You are just not going above and beyond what is required by law. They lost the key, but they still have the ability to get inside if they pay for professional help. They can hire a locksmith to get in. I wouldn't even respond to them. 

@Matthew T. When you don’t pay rent I don’t even receive texts or calls. If it was me I was on vacation lol.. let them spend their money since they aren’t paying you and get a locksmith. But you want to know the funny thing in my city Saint Louis you have to show ownership of the house before a legal locksmith will open the door lol!!

While it would be fun to ignore the text and picture them sitting on the steps clueless, they will break windows and screens on you to get in long before they call a locksmith.  

If they do call a locksmith then you won't have a key.  I'd reluctantly open it for them while giving them  'the stare'  the entire time. 

@Matthew T. Some of the advice in this thread is bad. I'd let them in and charge them my unlock fee which will be added to what they owe during the eviction. If they aren't paying rent they won't be calling a lock smith... Something is getting broken to get them back in.

I would unlock, document and add a charge.  If you don't let them in you'll be replacing a window, trim around the door or something else.  Follow the lease and what you are legally obligated to do.  It would be nice to let them suffer but it's not the time for you to be the karma

@Matthew T. I would ask them if they made an extra copy of the key like you had asked them to do. Then tell them you are not available to come over for the next couple days and to call a locksmith to let them in. Odds are if you don't respond for a couple hours they will figure it out on their own though.

@Matthew T. Wise thing to do is to let them in... As they are still legally your tenants.

Now, you can point to the lease (if you have that clause) that you will charge them for coming out to open the door for them from their deposit when they leave, as I can imagine if they are not paying rent they probably won't be paying you for coming out to the property to let them in. 

Let them in and remind them it is their responsibility to cut a spare key. 

Most of these comments are coming from other states landlords. Chicago is a very liberal very tenant friendly city. If you don't respond to lock out the tenant can call it an eviction outside the courts and make you owe them thousands and thousands of dollars. 

Hi Matthew,

If you don't unlock the door they will probably get their friend to come over and kick the door in--damaging the door and the door jamb.

Seems best to just unlock it.

Good Luck!

Just for another funny story of tenants who got locked out.  And also a caution they'll probably just break a window or the door to get back in.

I bought a bank foreclosure duplex from the auction site Hubzu.  There were a number of boarded-up broken windows, which I just chalked up to the property being abandoned for a good while.  But one of the first times we were over there after closing to start the rehab, we started chit-chatting with one of the neighbors.

Apparently, the tenants who had been living there when the house was foreclosed on were overjoyed when the property ownership transferred to the bank.  They lived there for months without paying rent, because a bank doesn't bother with that.  Until the day the bank actually took possession of the house and put their big locks on the doors.  But no worries for these creative tenants!  They just broke some of the windows out and started moving their stuff out through there. 

Wow, some very differing opinions. I did unlock the door for them as I had some of the same concerns mentioned, and I want them out as quick as possible so I can get it rented again. They actually had a moving van there, and I could potentially see them knocking down the door or busting a window to get in. Sorry, I'm actually in Kansas, not Chicago. I changed my location to hide a potential deal I was doing a while back as I've had people pry a little too much into deals, I just forgot to change it back...

I don't have anything about unlocking doors written into my leases, and that is a good idea to add a fee, not something I had considered before.

Yes, unfortunately the smartest thing to do is go unlock the door....add a fee if you can, but you probably wont see the $$.

If you don't. they will break the door or a window....why not, they go nothing to lose......

Sucks to have to do it, but its the smart thing to do......

Many years ago when I was a young dumb landlord, I had a similar situation. Tenants owed me money and planned to move. They had placed items in a storage unit at my apartment building. It was a shared storage unit and only I had the key, by agreement with all using the space. They demanded one afternoon that I let them in to get their property. They were packing to leave town. I said, "pay me the money you owe me first". They realized I was not letting them in and said fine. Later that day, I go up to the building and find the door kicked in. I called them and they claimed the door it was already kicked in. It would have been my word against theirs if I involved police and the only stuff missing was property they owned. This was a small town and I wasn't wasting my time with keystone cop.

I learned my lesson the hard way. Better to let them in and avoid damage. It is also illegal to lock someone out of a property that they have legal rights to. This is the reason I always tell people EVICT and never do cash for keys. Eviction is the only way to legally regain rights to your property.

In this case, it was smart to let them in. You could have told them to call a locksmith, but if they have no money, they likely would have just forced entry instead of calling a locksmith. Also keep in mind some locksmith will drill out locks if they don't have skills to pick them. That beings said, most locks can be picked easily by a skilled locksmith.

A lot of you guy say adding a charge to their account. It’s not like you can collect from them after. The security deposit probably won’t even enough to cover for the eviction cost.