Can a Landlord Enter the Property Whenever They Want?

Written on June 27, 2016 by , updated on December 9, 2016

Can a Landlord Enter a Property?Territory wars – that’s really what it’s all about.

We witness territorial behavior among animals and humans all the time. But why? There are a variety of theories, but two reasons are common to most:

  1. Competition
  2. Dominance

So you can imagine that when it comes to property rights, particularly about whether a landlord can enter the property and when, landlords and residents both are marking their territory … well, not literally (we hope!).

The Status Quo

The unfortunate truth is that too many landlords and property managers think they can just show up whenever they want. Lucky for you, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Landlord Math

Related: Tip #17: NO!, You Can’t Just “Pop-In”

The Landlord Owns the Property

As a renter, ideally, you think of your rental property as your home. You’ve set up residence, have decorated, and are living your life there. In your mind, this is your space.

But you know deep down that the property you rent really isn’t “your” house. The rent you pay gives you many rights, but someone else owns the place, and with ownership comes rights, too.

So where do a landlord’s rights to enter their own property and a tenant’s right to privacy begin and end?

The lines between landlord and tenant rights are often blurred.

Required Notice Varies by State

One way to find the answer is to look up your state’s law. Some states have specific laws on how much notice a landlord must give a tenant before coming over — which is usually 24 hours.

If your state specifies how much notice a landlord must give, then that’s that. If your landlord doesn’t give you notice before coming over, let them know the statutory requirement in your state, and ask that they obey it – regardless of what the lease says.

Ask for a Clause in the Lease

If you live in a state that doesn’t specify when a landlord can enter the property, you can request that your landlord give you 24 hours’ notice before coming by. You can even ask that this be put in the lease before you sign it. This request is reasonable.

It’s a red flag if a landlord refuses to give you 24 hours’ notice before coming over.

The state where I live and own rental property has no formal statute on this matter, so I spell this out in my standard lease, as such:

5 Legitimate Reasons a Landlord Can Enter a Rental

Your landlord should leave you alone for the most part, which is basically what is meant by “quiet enjoyment,” a legal term that gives residents the right to enjoy the property they rent undisturbed.

But there are times when the landlord or their representative, such as a property manager, needs to come over.

1. Routine check for maintenance and safety issues

It’s typical for landlords to make a yearly, semiyearly, or quarterly inspection of the property. This allows them to protect their investment by allowing them to inspect and maintain it.

2. An emergency

If there’s a fire, water leak, or any other type of emergency, the landlord can enter with no notice to take care of the problem.

3. When a repair or service is needed

If you notified the landlord when something needs fixing, the landlord or a repair person can enter the property to get it taken care of. The landlord needs to give you notice before they or a repair person will be there.

4. To show the property

Landlords have the right to enter their rental property when they wish to show it for sale or rent. The landlord should notify you in advance, and when that time comes, you need to let them in.

Landlords, however, cannot show the property excessively. But what’s excessive to one party might not be to another. Generally, if the landlord keeps showings to two or three days during the week and maybe every other weekend that isn’t considered excessive. But daily showings probably would be.

Related: Tenants’ Rights when Selling an Occupied Rental Property

5. When you leave for an extended period

If you leave for an extended period, which is usually more than a week, the landlord typically has the right to enter the property to ensure everything is okay and to perform any preventive maintenance tasks.

What If You Don’t Let Your Landlord In?

If you don’t like the idea of your landlord ever coming in, you need to wrap your head around the idea that your landlord can come by for a valid reason.

You’re not allowed, in most states, to take self-help measures, such as changing the locks and not giving your landlord a key.

And you’re not allowed to “just say no” if your landlord is coming over for a valid reason and (unless there’s an emergency) gives you proper notice. If you do refuse entry, the landlord can come in anyway, and then potentially even terminate your lease for the violation.

Related: Lock Lock, Who’s There? The Rules for Changing Locks

Bottom Line

If your landlord plays by the rules regarding when they can enter the property, you need to also. Otherwise, you might not have your lease renewed. And if you’re a month-to-month tenant who’s being uncooperative, you might receive a notice to vacate in the near future.

But if your landlord is violating your privacy rights as a tenant, you could sue your landlord or possibly break the lease.

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95 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Bryan Wenzel

    In my lease agreement i was guaranteed 24 hour notice prior to entry by landlord or representative/repairmen, with the exception of emergencies (flooding, fire, etc), however, multiple times every month i’ve come home to find my rental apartment was entered while i was away (without any explanation or notice), or they tried to break in past the door-jam when i WAS in the apartment and in the shower. I have told them after each of these instances that i require a phone call at any time 10am-4pm the day before they wish to enter and NEVER have they done this. Do i have grounds to sue or break lease agreement because it’s starting to become a serious issue/question of security.

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Bryan,
      I’m not an attorney, but it sounds as if you might be able to break the lease. Document each time the landlord breaches the lease by coming over unannounced, and speak with an attorney.

  • Courtney P

    I’ve lived here for 8 mos.. my landlord never comes over until here resently after my husband moved out two months ago he’s been caught 2 times just walking into my house not even calling to even let me know he’s coming over..the first time thank god my top lock was latched because I was in the shower and my 9 yr old told me he opened my door and tried to come in the second time I was pulling in my drive way and caught him walking out my door…I’m a. Single mom of two and work and have no family in the area so I have friends and co workers that come over to my house to sit with my kids so now he swears I have people living with me and is trying to evict me now because some of my sisters have brought animals with them .rent is always ontime

  • Elizabeth

    Thank you for providing such extensive information! I rent a room in the same house that my landlord lives in, and he had an appraiser come by this morning without notifying me. They knocked on my door while I was sleeping to have photos taken of the room I rent. I was not properly dressed and two men (I am a woman), one I did not know, invading my privacy unexpectedly felt incredibly intrusive and uncomfortable. If I’m only renting a room and not the whole house, does this still count as invasive? I wish I had simply turned them away in retrospect.

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