Question: We are involved in a commercial property lease and tenant dispute. Our professional cleaning business rents space in an industrial park in east Phoenix. Due to the economy and businesses failing, we have been unable to make the rent payments to our landlord. Our landlord has now locked us out of our leased space, and he will not let us back in to get our equipment, etc. until we bring the rent current. We are personally liable, however, for the lease of the copier and the lease of three industrial sweepers. Can the landlord keep all of our equipment, etc. until we bring our rent current? Is the landlord entitled to keep the leased copier and the three leased industrial sweepers until we bring our rent current?
Answer: Unless there is a clause in any commercial lease such as yours that prohibits the “lock out” of the tenant for non-payment of rent, the landlord is entitled to lock out the tenant and is generally entitled to a lien on the tenant’s personal property until the rent is brought current. This landlord’s lien, however, does not include personal property owned by a third party that is only leased to the tenant. Therefore, the owner of the leased personal property has the right after furnishing proof of ownership to the landlord to enter the leased space and remove the leased personal property such as the copier and three industrial sweepers.
Note: In residential leases, however, if the tenant is delinquent on the rent the landlord has no right to lock out the tenant and has no lien on the tenant’s personal property.