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:
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.
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:
Landlord’s Access for Inspection and Emergency
Landlord or Landlord’s agents may enter the Premises in the event of an emergency, to make repairs or improvements, or to show the Premises to prospective buyers or renters. Landlord may also enter the Premises to conduct an annual inspection to check for safety or maintenance problems. Except in cases of emergency, Tenant’s abandonment of the Premises, court order, or where it is impractical to do so, Landlord will give Tenant twenty-four (24) hours’ notice before entering.
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.
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.
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.