Even though your landlord owns the property you are renting, your landlord does not have the right to do whatever he or she wants to recover possession of the property. Your landlord must comply with the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act (URLTA) and give you appropriate notice (see Termination of Tenancy for more information). If your landlord does attempt to make you move using illegal methods, you may be entitled to recover up to 1-1/2 times your actual damages. Your landlord cannot do the following things in an attempt to make you move:
- Shut off your utility service(s)
- Change the locks
- Take your personal property
- Take possession of the property by force, without a court hearing
Even if your rental agreement claims to allow your landlord to do the above things or claims to waive your right to notice and eviction proceedings, these actions are still illegal. You cannot agree to give up rights URLTA has given you for your protection.
Additionally, your landlord is prohibited from retaliating against you by:
- Raising the rent
- Decreasing services, such as cutting off utilities
- Starting or threatening to start an eviction action
because you did any of the following:
- Complained to or about him not performing his responsibilities under the law
- Exercised your rights as a tenant under URTLA
- Organized/joined a tenant union
It is also illegal for your landlord to threaten to take legal action that is outside of the actions provided by law. This includes charging or threatening to charge you with criminal trespass in order to remove you from the property without a hearing. If this happens, you should contact an attorney immediately to discuss ways to protect yourself.
If your landlord has done any of the above, you may be eligible for certain remedies.