My situation is the following:

  1. I sublet my apartment to a previously homeless person (I did not know this while subletting). We filled out the sublet form, but never submitted it. He has been living in my room for two months.

  2. He has not paid the rent for this month, and has completely stopped all communication. I am currently traveling abroad, and am unable to talk to him in person.

  3. When I talked to my landlord, my landlord said that I am their tenant, they can change the lock codes for me, and then ask the guy to talk to me.

My questions are the following:

a) Is this illegal? Changing the lock codes, and then asking him to vacate the house? He has clearly violated all terms of the contract by being a month late on rent.

b) The sublet form was never submitted. Does this protect me, if the guy decides to take me to court?

c) I am an international student in the US, and will be starting a job soon. If I am taken to court, and lose, will this affect my record and immigration status?

  • 3
    We don't give personal legal advice. Speak to a lawyer. Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 15:31
  • 2
    Yes, you definitely need to talk to a lawyer immediately. It is quite possible that you will need to cut your trip short to return home and deal with this. Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 17:37
  • Whether it's legal or not depends on where the apartment is, among other things. Some states have landlord and tenant laws that favor landlords; others are more favorable to tenants. Losing a civil lawsuit is not going to have any impact on your immigration status.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 20:10

1 Answer 1


It is generally illegal in all US states for a landlord to change the locks on a tenant. Given your description of the facts, this person (henceforth "squatter") is a tenant, lack of forms and lease notwithstanding. When a person violates the terms of a lease, the landlord's recourse is to sue the person for damages and to petition for eviction (where the sheriff removes the person from the premise). Penalties for illegal lockouts tend to be very severe, however the tenant on the lease is not the one at risk on that point.

The squatter can't win in a court case against the former tenant, but he can still file paperwork which the tenant must respond to. If the tenant of record doesn't show up in court, summary judgment will be entered against him. The landlord can sue you for the rent owed.

  • "however the tenant on the lease": why not? The tenant on the lease is the subtenant's landlord.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 20:11
  • The tenant on the lease is not illegally locking the subtenant out.
    – user6726
    Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 20:25
  • It really looks like you’ve misunderstood to question.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 23:37
  • 1
    @user6726 They're asking the landlord to do it though. Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 10:36

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