A residential landlord can recover a rental property from a tenant in one of three ways.
1. Surrender. The tenant vacates voluntarily and returns possession of the keys.
2. Abandonment. A residential rental property shall be determined to be "abandoned" if a tenant fails to respond after five days from the time the landlord shall post a notice of abandonment on the door to the rental property or any other conspicuous place on the property and send the tenant a copy of the abandonment by certified mail, return receipt requested, addressed to the tenant's last known address and to any of the tenant's alternate addresses known to the landlord.
3. Eviction. A landlord files an eviction action, obtains a judgment and then obtains a written order served by the constable directing the tenant to vacate the property.
Even if a tenant has failed to pay rent, or has with recalcitrant impunity breached the lease by bringing in unauthorized pets, roommates, or even trashing the property, a landlord may not recover or take possession of the dwelling unit by action or otherwise, including forcible removal of the tenant or his possessions, willful diminution of services to the tenant by interrupting or causing the interruption of electric, gas, water or other essential service to the tenant, except in case of abandonment, surrender or as permitted in this chapter.
If the landlord unlawfully removes or excludes the tenant from the premises or wilfully diminishes services to the tenant by interrupting or causing the interruption of electric, gas, water or other essential service to the tenant, the tenant may recover possession or terminate the rental agreement and, in either case, recover an amount not more than two months' rent or twice the actual damages sustained by him, whichever is greater, and the landlord must return all security deposits
If a tenant will not surrender a rental property, the best practice and the safest way to avoid liability is to bring an eviction action and obtain a judgment of possession followed by a court order restoring the property back to the landlord. Having the judgment for possession and the order restoring the property creates a powerful legal presumption that a landlord had the right to retake possession of the property.