Illegal Lockouts And Service Termination

For tenants, find out what you can do if your landlord has locked you out without going through the eviction process or has terminated your utilities or essential services.  For landlords, learn what penalties you could face if you try a self-help shortcut to remove your tenant.

What A Landlord Can't Do

Nevada law makes it illegal for a landlord to use "self-help evictions."  So, for example, a landlord cannot change a tenant's locks without the involvement of the court, the sheriff, or the constable, and a landlord cannot try to force the tenant off the property by making living conditions unbearable.  (NRS 118A.390.)

If your landlord has done any of the following things (and no eviction case has been filed with the court) you can file a complaint with the justice court and get an expedited hearing with the judge:

  • Removed or excluded you from the rental property (by, for example, locking you out or blocking your entry);
  • Intentionally stopped an "essential service" (electricity, gas, heat, air-conditioning, running water, or hot water) or caused or permitted a stoppage;
  • Intentionally stopped an "essential item" (for example, a functioning door lock) or caused or permitted a stoppage; or
  • Otherwise took possession of the rental property in violation of NRS 118A.480 (which says that a landlord cannot recover or take possession of the rental property unless the landlord has filed an eviction case or the tenant has surrendered or abandoned the property).

    (NRS 118A.390.)


Filing A Complaint

A complaint form (called a Verified Complaint for Expedited Relief for the Unlawful Removal or Exclusion of Tenant or for the Unlawful Removal or Exclusion of Tenant or for the Willful Interruption of Essential Items or Services) is available, free of charge, at the Self-Help Center. You can also download the form on your computer by clicking one of the listed formats underneath the form's title below:

VERIFIED COMPLAINT FOR EXPEDITED RELIEF FOR THE REMOVAL OR EXCLUSION OF TENANT OR INTERRUPTION OF SERVICES
Pdf FillablePdf Nonfillable | Instructions 

CIVIL COURT COVER SHEET 
Pdf Fillable 

Click to visit Basics of Court Forms and Filing for specific information about how to file in the justice court or click to visit Justice Courts for links and contact information for your court.

TIP!  Different justice courts may have different filing requirements, so be sure to familiarize yourself with your court's procedures.  The Las Vegas Justice Court, for instance, requires all documents to be filed electronically, so anyone filing in that court needs an e-mail address to set up an electronic filing account.  To learn more about electronic filing, visit the Las Vegas Justice Court website.


Q&A - Illegal Lockouts


What is the deadline for filing a verified complaint for expedited relief?

You have to file your complaint with the court within five "judicial days" after the landlord's unlawful act.  (NRS 118A.390(5)(a).)  If you file after that, the judge must dismiss your complaint.  If your complaint is dismissed, you can still sue your landlord for money within three years after the landlord's unlawful act.  (NRS 11.190(3)(a).)

"Judicial days" do not include weekends and legal holidays.  So when you calculate your five-day period, do not include weekends, holidays, or the day of the landlord's unlawful act.  For example:

On Monday, the landlord changed your locks illegally without an eviction order from the court and without any involvement of the sheriff or the constable.  You must file your verified complaint no later than court closing on the following Monday.  The day the landlord did the illegal act (Monday) is not counted, and the weekend is not counted:

Monday – the day of the lockout is not counted.
Tuesday – counted as day # 1.
Wednesday – counted as day # 2.
Thursday – counted as day # 3.
Friday – counted as day # 4.
Saturday – weekend days are not counted.
Sunday – weekend days are not counted.
Monday – counted as day # 5, your last day to file.

What do I do if an eviction case has already been filed with the court?

You cannot file the verified complaint with the court if a summary eviction or unlawful detainer case has already been filed, unless the rental property is in Las Vegas.  (NRS 118A.390(5)(b).)  Las Vegas Justice Court is the only township which allows for the filing of a verified complaint when an eviction has been filed. A summary eviction case is considered "filed" when the tenant files an answer/affidavit with the court or the landlord files a complaint for eviction.  (JCRCP 102.)

In all other townships except for Las Vegas, if an eviction case has already been filed, you can file a motion in that case and ask the judge for similar relief as in the verified complaint.  (NRS 118A.390(5)(b).)  A form Motion for Expedited Relief for the Unlawful Removal or Exclusion of Tenant or Interruption of Essential Items or Services is available, free of charge, at the Self-Help Center.  You can also download the form on your computer by clicking one of the listed formats underneath the form's title below:

MOTION FOR EXPEDITED RELIEF FOR THE REMOVAL OR EXCLUSION OF TENANT OR INTERRUPTION OF SERVICES
Word Fillable | Pdf Fillable | Pdf Nonfillable | Instructions 

CAUTION! Remember, if the rental property is in Las Vegas, you should not be using this Motion. You should be filing the Verified Complaint!

Click to visit Basics of Court Forms and Filing for specific information about how to file in the justice court or click to visit Justice Courts for links and contact information for your court.

TIP!  Different justice courts may have different filing requirements, so be sure to familiarize yourself with your court's procedures.  The Las Vegas Justice Court, for instance, requires all documents to be filed electronically, so anyone filing in that court needs an e-mail address to set up an electronic filing account.  To learn more about electronic filing, visit the Las Vegas Justice Court website.

Is there a filing fee?

There is no filing fee to file the verified complaint.  (NRS 188A.390(7).)  After any hearing, the judge will require the losing party to pay the court costs and fees (except the judge has the power to reduce or waive the fees as appropriate).

When is the hearing scheduled on my complaint?

After you file your verified complaint, the court will schedule a hearing within three "judicial" (business) days.  (NRS 118A.390(6).)

Must I arrange to have my landlord served with the complaint?

Once you file the verified complaint or motion and receive a hearing date from the court, you must arrange to have your complaint or motion, along with any order issued by the court setting a hearing date, "served" (personally delivered) to the landlord.

Before or at the scheduled hearing, you must provide proof to the judge that the landlord was properly served.  (NRS 118A.390(6).)  If you cannot show the judge proof that your landlord was served, the judge will likely refuse to hear your case.

Under Nevada law, you can serve your landlord by arranging to have someone personally deliver your documents (the verified complaint or motion and any notice or order for hearing) to the property owner or to:

  • A person authorized to manage the rental property;
  • A person within the state who the landlord has authorized to act for the landlord for the purpose of receiving service of process, notices, and demands; or
  • The principal or corporate owner of the property.

(NRS 118A.260(4).)  The landlord should have disclosed the identity of these people to you in writing when your tenancy started.  (NRS 118A.260(1).)  If your landlord did not disclose any of these people to you, you can serve your documents on any person who signed your lease agreement on the landlord's behalf.  (NRS 118A.360(3).)

Because the hearing will be set so quickly (three days), you will need to arrange for service on the landlord as soon as you receive your hearing date.  Do not delay!  If the sheriff or constable is unable to serve the landlord with your documents quickly enough, you can hire a private process server or have someone you know serve the documents.

If you have someone you know serve your landlord, that person must fill out an Affidavit of Service, describing what documents were served and to whom, when, and how the documents were served.  A form Affidavit of Service is available free of charge at the Self-Help Center, or you can download the form on your computer by clicking one of the listed formats underneath the form's title below:

AFFIDAVIT OF SERVICE
Pdf Nonfillable

What can the court order at the hearing?

The court can order your landlord to give you access to the rental property or restore your essential services, or both.  (NRS 118A.390(6)(a).)  The court can award you a money judgment that might include your "actual damages" (meaning money you were forced to spend because of the landlord's illegal act) and up to $2,500 in "statutory damages" (money to punish the landlord for doing a bad thing, especially if the landlord acted in bad faith and caused you significant harm).  (NRS 118A.390(1)-(2), (6).)  The court can also "enjoin" (order or command) the landlord from violating Nevada law in the future and hold the landlord in contempt of court.  (NRS 118A.390(6)(c).)

FYI!  If you're interested in local community resources for tenants – including building & health code enforcement, low-income and subsidized housing, rent and utility assistance, and shelter and transitional housing – click to visit Housing Resources.