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Writ of possession issued. Marshals scheduled for +3 months. Tenant left, but no keys were not returned. Can I change the lock?

Washington, DC |

Hi, I subleased my apartment to a sub-tenant who hasn't paid last 4 months. I have the writ of posesion issued for evict the tenant, but Marshal scheduled the eviction for May. Meanwhile, the sub-tenant left the apartment without notice or turning back the keys. I tried to contact him without luck, so I also posted a notice on the unit's door let him know that I would enter the apartment to check if he does not inform me he's living there. Only left overs were on the unit. Can I change the door lock under the assumption that the tenant abandoned the proporty? (taking pictures, checking the unit's use of water,and electricity, taking with me a witness, etc).

To clarify: (i) the Marshals just gave me an estimation vis-a-vis current backlog; and (ii) the tenant is a holdover tenant - lease expired a couple months ago. Thank you very much for the quick answer!

Attorney Answers 1

Posted

You may want to check the writ again. Writs in DC are issued for a seventy-five day period and during that period the eviction could take place on any weekday that the weather is above freezing and not raining or snowing. The landlord usually gets a day or two of notice that the Marshals are ready, so having a specific date set in May would be out of the ordinary. That doesn't mean your eviction will take place soon, the bad weather has created a backlog of evictions. However, regardless of any understandable frustration you may have with the delay, changing the locks is a bad idea. The tenant or the subtenant could come back and sue you for illegal eviction. Even of you have to wait a couple months for an eviction avoiding an illegal eviction is worth it and the only legal thing to do.

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