Housing

Landlord lock outs and utility shut offs

A landlord is not allowed to change your locks or shut off your utilities to force you out. If this happens to you, take action immediately. Here’s how. 

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Understanding the Basics

See what you need to know to take action.

It doesn’t matter how far behind you are in your rent. It doesn't matter what kind of fight you’re having with your landlord. In Ohio, it is illegal for a landlord to change your locks or shut off your utilities as a way of forcing you to leave. It’s against the law for them to even threaten to do these things. 

Instead, if your landlord wants you out, they must follow the eviction timeline and process of the court. Here’s what to do when a landlord takes matters into their own hands anyway. 

  • Call the police. Your landlord does not have the right to put you in danger. If they have turned off the heat in the middle of the winter, for instance, call the police for help. When the police come make sure you have proof that you live in the home. For instance, a copy of your lease, a copy of a utility bill with your name on it or a photo ID with your name and address.         
  • Call the utility company. If your landlord had your gas, water or electricity turned off, ask the utility company to turn them back on in your name. 
  • Use reasonable means to get back in. If your landlord has changed the locks, you have a right to get back in. It doesn't matter if your rent is late. For instance, you could call a locksmith. If you call a locksmith, like the police, they will want proof that you live in the home. As a tenant, you have a right to be in your home.  
  • Get a lawyer. If you can’t afford one, contact Legal Aid to find out if you qualify. See Legal Help and Lawyers to find organizations that might be able to connect you with a lawyer.

Learn more about what to do if you think you might be evicted. 

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