Can a Landlord Change Locks Without Notice? – Commercial Property UK
If you are a commercial landlord and you have a tenant who has not paid their rent, then you may be able to forfeit your tenant’s lease by ‘peaceable re-entry’.
A landlord can change the locks on their property after a certain number of days of unpaid rent. The powers of a commercial landlord to deal with non-payment of rent are far-reaching.
Where your tenant fails to pay the rent and other sums due under a lease, there are several remedies at your disposal which are designed to rectify the breach and recover payment.
Changing the locks is often a more attractive alternative for the landlord than going to court as it is generally quicker and more cost-effective. However, it is not without potential dangers and landlords must be incredibly careful when choosing this route.
Our experts can advise on the detailed process otherwise an unlawful re-entry could expose you to potential claims.
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If a commercial property landlord wishes to end a tenant’s right to possession, they have the options of going to court or changing the locks under forfeiture, also known as peaceable re-entry.
Nearly all commercial leases have a clause which will entitle the landlord to re-enter the property, re-take possession and change the locks in the case of rent arrears.
It is important to note that you cannot force your way into the premises and take it over. If you do so you will be committing a criminal offence. Most peaceable re-entries take place outside working hours to ensure no one is in the property.
One of the most important pitfalls to be wary of with forfeiture is to ensure that the right to forfeiture has not been waived. The right can be waived where the landlord has knowledge of the tenant’s breach and performs an act which recognises the lease as continuing and communicates this to the tenant.
- It is a quick, efficient way of dealing with a tenant who appears to have absconded and left outstanding rent payments
- A landlord can re-let the property quickly to minimise losses
- If the re-entry is done correctly there will be no court costs to pay
However, it is highly advised that landlords employ the services of professional bailiffs to perform the re-entry, guaranteeing that the proper notices are put up in accordance with the law.
Landlords should be aware that tenants have the option of applying for relief from forfeiture which is a discretionary remedy available to tenants. This has the effect of putting the parties back into the position they would have been in had the forfeiture not taken place.
In addition to a claim for relief from forfeiture, a tenant will also a have a claim for wrongful forfeiture if the right to forfeit did not exist when it took place. This can leave the landlord open to a claim for damages.
Consideration also needs to be given to the fact that the general position after forfeiture is that the landlord will be responsible for any of the tenant’s goods that remain in the property.
It is wise to seek expert legal advice regarding the complexities of forfeiture.
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