Can a Landlord Change the Locks Without a Court Order?
No. A landlord cannot lawfully evict a tenant by taking matters into his or her own hands, changing the locks, removing the tenant's property, etc. All evictions must go through the court. Only after a court issues an order allowing the landlord to change locks and remove property can these things be done.
Utah law says: "It is unlawful for an owner to willfully exclude a tenant from the tenant's premises in any manner except by judicial process." Utah Code 78B-6-814. There is an exception to this, and that is when the premises has been abandoned by the tenant.
But what if the lease states that a landlord can retake possession of the premises without notice or a court order? It doesn't matter. That provision of the lease would be considered void under Utah law. The reason for this is that Utah law provides a relatively quick process for obtaining an court-okayed eviction. The law wants to make sure tenants are rightfully evicted and that the peace is kept. If a landlord violates the law against forcible entry, he can be held liable to the tenant for damages.
This Article provides general information only and should not be considered legal advice. Please consult a professional regarding your specific situation.