Enter at Your Own Risk: Hard, Fast Rules for Landlords

August 7, 2019 0 comment

Being a landlord requires diligence and attention to the property and its tenants. It’s not an easy job to be always available and on-call. There are also times when a landlord will need to access the tenant’s apartment. This could easily be arranged if the tenant is present or if they make a scheduled appointment. It’s a slightly different case if they are not inside their apartment. While periodic inspections are included in the contract, it still is prudent to know when it is ok to enter a tenant’s property if they are not around. Below are some reasons a landlord may be allowed to enter a tenant’s rental unit.

States usually only allow landlords to come into tenants’ apartments under specific circumstances such as[1]:

  • During an emergency;
  • To make repairs or assess the need for repairs;
  • To inspect the premises for damage;
  • To show the premises to insurance or mortgage companies;
  • To investigate potential rent violations;
  • To show the apartment to prospective tenants;
  • If the tenant invites the landlord in or asks them to enter the apartment; or
  • Under court orders.
During an Emergency

Some states allow for landlords to enter a tenant’s rental unit without advance notice only in cases of genuine emergency (e.g. fire, flood, health emergency, natural calamities).

What is considered an emergency?

Emergency cases may include a gas leak, fire, burst pipes, flooded basement or the immediate threat of a natural disaster that requires immediate attention to avoid serious danger to the property or the tenants.

To Make Repairs or Assess the Need for Repairs

A landlord must keep the rental property in a habitable condition. This not only includes repairs requested by the tenant but also includes making ordinary repairs and necessary repairs. This is stipulated under the Landlord-Tenant Law.

To Inspect the Premises for Damage

Landlords must inspect a property for damage prior to a tenant moving out. This is called a walk through inspection, and it is required by state law.

Ideally, a tenant has to agree to an inspection well in advance, but most states require anywhere from 24 hours to five days of notice. Most lease agreements now include a provision granting the landlord access to the rental property to inspect it for repairs or as part of an annual (or biannual) walkthrough schedule.

Another instance when a landlord has to assess a rental unit is when the tenant has abandoned the premises. Landlords must first need to terminate the tenancy and contact the tenant to confirm they have abandoned the property before entering it. Different states have different laws for defining an abandoned property. In some states, this can include instances when the tenant has stopped paying rent and has given written notice of their intent to leave, or the tenant has returned the keys to the landlord and left in a moving truck. In cases where a rental unit has been abandoned, the landlord would have to inspect for damage, get rid of any possessions left behind by the tenant, and get the rental unit ready to show to prospective tenants.

To Show the Premises to Insurance or Mortgage Companies

Insurance and Mortgage companies conduct their own inspection, and landlords have to accompany them on the premises. These companies usually need to see the inside of the property, including the rental units.

To Investigate Potential Rent Violations

Potential rent violations include violations of the health or safety code. Landlords have to inspect the tenants rental unit in order to fix the issue.

To Show the Apartment to Prospective Tenants

When a tenant forwards his or her intent to not renew or terminate the lease, it’s a signal for the landlord to look for a prospective tenant so that the rental unit doesn’t go vacant. In the process, the landlord may have a few prospective tenants lined up. The landlord can show the rental unit to prospects or actual tenants who will live in the unit once the current tenants leave, as long as the landlord has given advance notice to the tenants to give them sufficient notice. Landlord should also limit the frequency and duration of open house and house showing events to respect the current tenant’s privacy.

If the Tenant Invites the Landlord in or asks them to Enter the Apartment
This could be in the event of repairs, maintenance, health and safety inspections, and other required inspections of the rental unit.

Under Court Orders

A landlord can enter the unit if a court has granted the landlord access. A landlord should not enter a property before the tenant has been properly evicted in accordance with applicable laws. Once properly evicted, a landlord can only enter a tenant’s apartment when accompanied by a law enforcement officer to issue service of process order regarding the eviction.

It is imperative for landlords to refer to the landlord-tenant law as to whether they are allowed to enter the tenant’s rental units under the applicable landlord-tenant laws and the signed lease agreement for the property. Landlords should not forget to include the stipulations of entry according to landlord-tenant laws in their lease agreement. They can also add to the lease agreement circumstances when a landlord’s access to a property is allowed, provided it does not violate applicable laws.

As a general guide, landlords may wish to include these points when creating a lease agreement:

  • Clearly describe when the landlord may enter a tenant’s property and the amount of notice you have to give before entering.
  • Clearly state the reasonable hours for a landlord visit. Usually, these are general business hours, like 9am to 6pm.
  • Confirm that all of the specific circumstances are still within the bounds and consistent with all applicable laws.

In most cases, the landlord is NOT allowed to enter a tenant’s rental unit without due notice. Other states allow for a landlord to enter a property when the tenant has been absent for an extended period of time — for example, on vacation — to perform needed maintenance tasks, but 100% of those instances require the tenant’s consent if the tenant notified the landlord of the absence and is up to date on rent payments.

 

[1] Requirements for Landlord Entry Findlaw

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