If a tenant defaults under a commercial lease, Arizona law permits the landlord to re-take possession of the premises by locking out the defaulting tenant. However, if the landlord’s lockout is wrongful, the landlord may be liable for the damages the tenant sustains because of the wrongful lockout. To minimize such liability, here are some general best practices to follow when locking out a defaulting tenant:
- Do Not Breach the Peace. It is vital when performing a lockout to not breach the peace. What constitutes a “breach of the peace” depends on the particular circumstances at hand. For example, if a tenant arrives during the lockout and becomes angry or threatens violence, the landlord should stop performing the lockout and return at a later time. As a general rule of thumb, it is best to perform lockouts in the early morning hours or in the late evening hours when the landlord is less likely to encounter the tenant.
- Provide A Notice of Default. Many commercial leases require the landlord to provide a notice of default before the landlord can lock out a defaulting tenant. Check, double check, and triple check that the landlord followed the lease’s notice of default provisions correctly, including that the landlord sent the notices to all required parties in accordance with the time requirements set forth in the lease.