One of the most common sources of tension between landlords and tenants comes from the different opinions on landlord access to the rental unit and a tenant’s right to privacy.

Landlords feel that since they own the property, they should have frequent access in order to perform a range of tasks to keep the property safe and well-maintained.

Tenants often resent the seemingly endless intrusions by landlords, who they feel will abuse their position and snoop or even steal from them.

Tenants are often fearful that their privacy is being violated when there is entry into the rental property without their consent.

All in all, it’s important for both landlords and tenants to understand exactly what rights a landlord can enter a tenant-occupied property and exactly what rights a tenant has to privacy to ease tensions, comply with the law and promote a harmonious relationship between the two parties.

Landlord Legal: Rights To Enter Rental Property

We asked our friend Esther at Avvo (who is on their legal counsel) about this specific question.

Check out what she had to say in the short video below.

It’s a good idea to have an understanding of tenant privacy in this situation.

What Exactly Is Tenant Privacy?

Numerous state and local laws ensure that a tenant has the right to a certain level of privacy. However, a landlord must have certain access to the property he or she owns in order to do inspections, make repairs and so forth. Finding that balance is the task of state lawmakers, who have specifically outlined what is required of both parties.

There are certain landlord behaviors that tenants (and the law) considers invasive, which includes but is not limited to:

  • Too-frequent inspections
  • Impromptu visits
  • Visits without proper notice in writing
  • Written notices that don’t specify time or date
  • Entering without tenant permission
  • Allowing others, such as service technicians, enter unaccompanied
  • Conducting inspections and other work outside of reasonable hours
  • Using entry to harass a tenant

Landlords who violate a tenant’s right to privacy must answer to law enforcement and may even face trespassing charges or a trip to small claims court for violating notice rights and so forth. Both landlords and tenants should become very familiar with their state’s laws that detail a tenant’s right to privacy as well as the requirements for landlords to enter an occupied rental property.

When Can a Landlord Enter a Rental Unit?

While there are some variations between states, most state laws outline the situations where landlords can enter an occupied rental unit.

The laws in some states are specific, while other states don’t even have statutes addressing the issue. For states with landlord entry laws, there are a range of variations, so it’s critical that both landlords and tenants become familiar with each specific situation so they can either exercise or defend their rights.

Landlord entry allowances can generally be divided into 6 situations that clearly define when a landlord has the right to enter the rental property that he or she owns, as well as what they can and cannot do there.

Situation #1. In the event of an emergency

In the event of an emergency , state laws allows a landlord the right to enter a rental property without notice in order to care for the problem.

The landlord can enter without giving written notice and can use his or her own key to gain access, whether the tenant is home or not.

Basically, any situation where an event is causing damage and will continue to cause damage if not dealt with immediately can be considered an emergency.

There are several situations that constitute an emergency—generally regarding floods, fire and extreme weather.

For example, if a neighbor reports smoke coming from a rental property, the landlord may consider that an emergency and enter to investigate.

Water leaking from the ceiling is a justified emergency for a landlord to enter the unit above and try to discover the source of the problem.

There are very few situations that the law considers a real emergency, so landlords should be very careful when entering a rental property using this justification.

Situation #2. After proper written notice is given

The law recognizes that in order to maintain a property and protect their investment, landlords must be able to enter an occupied rental property even if the tenant doesn’t want them to.

That’s why state laws outline what type of notice a landlord must provide to the tenant that he or she will be entering the property, as well as the date and time.

The exact details vary by state, but generally indicate that the notice must be in writing and that the notification must happen within a reasonable time before entry.

In most states, a reasonable time is considered to be 24 hours of notice. This means that if the landlord is planning to enter a rental unit on a Friday to do maintenance or repairs, he or she must deliver a written notice to the tenant on

Thursday morning indicating what kind of repairs will be done and the time frame that the landlord will be present in the unit.

The landlord entry time must also be within what the law outlines as reasonable hours—generally defined as during normal business hours from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays.

Some states simply require that landlords only enter rental properties during “reasonable times,” which could logically include some Saturday hours.

Even with a written notice, a landlord is not allowed to enter a rental property before or after these reasonable times and days (except in an emergency, as described previously).

Situation #3. During a tenant’s extended absence

When a tenant leaves the rental property for an extended period of time, many states allow landlords to enter the property to perform basic maintenance and to check for damages. Each state may define an extended absence differently—but it is generally seven or more days.

Other states do not have any allowances for landlords to enter a rental unit for inspections even if the tenant is gone for more than seven days unless it is an emergency.

Landlords must always check with their own state laws to review and understand the specifications about entry during a tenant’s extended absence and the circumstances that would justify entry.

Situation #4. When a landlord needs to show the rental property

Landlords cannot be prevented from showing a rental property to prospective tenants or buyers, but state law dictates the type and frequency of notice that the tenant must receive.

For example, in some states, the tenant must give a 30-day written notice to the tenant that the landlord with start showing the property, then followed up with a 24-hour in advance verbal notification about a visit during normal business hours.

Each state has different requirements surrounding this type of landlord access to the property, so landlords should make certain they are compliant before proceeding.

Situation #5. When tenants give permission

If a landlord requests entry to check out whether repairs are needed in the unit or is responding to a tenant’s request to perform maintenance and the tenant agrees to allow entry, the landlord can enter the property, even if the tenant is not home.

As long as tenant permission is given, either in writing or verbally, the entry will not be considered illegal.

However, landlords should avoid frequent drop-ins to do inspections or look for repairs to do as too many may be considered interfering with the tenant’s quiet enjoyment of the property.

Written notices are the safest and best way to ensure that both landlords and tenants understand what is happening and when.

Situation #6. When a landlord suspects abandonment

If a landlord suspects that a tenant has abandoned a property and has sufficient, reasonable evidence to make that conclusion, he or she can enter legally.

Reasonable evidence that might lead a landlord to conclude a tenant has abandoned a unit could include:

  • The rental property’s utilities have been shut off
  • Other residents reported the tenant stating that he or she was moving out
  • A change of address filed with the post office
  • Witnesses saw the tenant moving furniture out recently
  • The tenant was recently served a 3-day pay or quit notice and is not responding to communication attempts

The landlord can enter the property to gather further evidence of abandonment, such as verifying that there is no food in the cupboards or that the tenant’s possessions are gone. If for some reason the tenant has not abandoned the unit and the evidence is a coincidence, the landlord can still point to the evidence as reasonable enough to justify entry.

A Few Coast-to-Coast Examples

Because each state determines the laws surrounding landlord access to an occupied rental property, it’s interesting to compare to see how different the laws are.

Here are 10 states from across the United States with differing conditions on when landlords can enter a rental property:

  1. Arizona—Requires a 2-day notice, which can be written or given verbally to the tenant. Arizona doesn’t allow landlords to enter during an extended absence.
  2. California—Requires a 24-hour written notice, and the laws don’t support a landlord entry during extended notice.
  3. Florida—Requires only a 12-hour notice and the statute doesn’t specify whether written or verbal is required. Florida landlords are allowed by law to access a rental property during a tenant’s extended absence, defined as 7 days or more.
  4. Idaho—The state has no statue addressing landlord entry into an occupied rental unit.
  5. Kentucky—Requires a 2-day written notice, and allows landlords to enter to do routine maintenance during an extended absence.
  6. Montana—Requires a 24-hour written notice, and allows landlords to enter during the tenant’s extended absence.
  7. New Hampshire—Doesn’t specify a specific time frame, but states that adequate notice be given depending on the circumstances. Landlords can’t enter during extended absences.
  8. Ohio—Requires a 24-hour written notice, and landlords can’t enter for extended absences.
  9. Virginia—Requires a 24-hour written notice for routine maintenance, but no notice is required if the landlord is responding to a tenant request for repairs or maintenance. Landlords can enter a rental unit during an extended absence.
  10. Washington—Requires a 2-day written notice for maintenance but only 1 day if the landlord is showing the property to prospective tenants or buyers. Landlord can’t enter unit during the tenant’s extended absence

Can a Tenant Refuse Entry?

If a landlord has followed the state’s laws concerning proper notification and entry, but the tenant still doesn’t want to allow the landlord to proceed, what course of action do landlords and tenants actually have? If the tenant has a legitimate request, such as not having enough time to clean the rental before showing it to a prospective buyer, the landlord may consider working with the tenant for a better time that benefits them both.

However, if the tenant refuses to agree to the landlord’s notice for entry, even though the request meets all the laws and reasonable requirements set forth. In most cases where the tenant refuses, the landlord may go ahead and enter the unit peacefully and without force and perform the specified task. Some landlords may choose to bring along a witness to back up the legitimacy of the entry, observe the work done and to counter any tenant claims of missing property or misbehavior.

Some states do allow the tenant the right to refuse entry after getting a written notice, but the decision to refuse must be reasonable and justified. Frequent refusals could justify the landlord in suing the tenant for damage and loss caused by failure to cooperate. In extreme cases, the landlord can get a court order to allow access and would most likely terminate the lease agreement at the next available opportunity.

Where Can Landlords Learn More About Entry Laws?

For landlords who want to learn more about tenant privacy, landlord rights to entry and other situations centered on finding a balance between the two parties, there are a variety of sources:

  • Websites that link to state landlord/tenant laws
  • Landlord/tenant advocacy organizations
  • Landlord/tenant attorneys
  • Your state or local landlord and real estate investment groups
  • Your own state government website that links to landlord/tenant statutes

Landlords and tenants both should become familiar with state laws so that both parties benefit. Landlords seek to protect their real estate investments and keep it profitable by making sure that all repairs and maintenance are done in a timely, effective way. Tenants, on the other hand, want to be left alone and enjoy their home. A successful relationship between tenants and landlords depends on understanding and respecting the other party’s rights when it comes to legal entry vs. legal privacy.

How familiar are you with landlord entry and tenant privacy laws in your state? Please share this article and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Comments

  1. Stephen White

    A landlord has the responsibility to give you 24 hours notice, but you have the right to say “hey this is not a convenient time for me”

    I would address the issue and set up a block of time so that they have to work around your schedule instead of you having to do 5 showings a week. Which is ridiculous to ask of any tenant.

  2. Henry Reese

    What prevents a landlord from using inspection as a pretext for entering tenant’s property for whatever reason he wants. Also, inspection seems to mean just to check up if the tenant is mantaining property. How is that reasonable?

    • Stephen White

      Henry, I’m not sure how it’s NOT reasonable. You have the keys to property that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Of course the owner of that property should do periodic inspections to ensure the property is maintained properly. That doesn’t always mean they’re looking for something that the tenant did wrong. I’ve found smoke detectors that didn’t work, or a small leak in the plumbing that would have otherwise gone unnoticed with an inspection.

      So yes, sometimes the inspection might be a pretext to enter the property for whatever reason the landlord wants. But since they are responsible for the property, I’d say that’s the best reason.

  3. Stephen White

    Tell the landlord that unless you’re violating some part of the lease specifically, you prefer to be left in piece and quiet enjoyment. As you have the right to be.

    Unfortunately some landlords can get pretty anal about stuff and even emotionally attached to the property. I would try to reason, or offer a solution (maybe remove the landscaping for something more functional), and if that doesn’t work, I’d look for a new place. Let him be someone else’s pain in the neck.

  4. Stephen White

    The landlord does not surrender his right of entry in any situation. As long as proper notice is provided there should be no issues. If none of the tenants can agree on a time/date that works, the landlord could still mandate a visit with proper notice. I see this situation when something needs to be fixed or requires attention. Even if the tenant is not cooperating, the work still needs to be done. So it moves from a convenient time, to a required visit with notice.

  5. Stephen White

    If it’s a common area that is accessible to anyone, then no. Notice must be provided to enter your personal space.

    Don’t get me wrong, a courtesy notice in these situations can go a long way, but there are no laws that they have to provide notice to enter common areas.

  6. Allie6

    Im in California and my landlord left a notice of entry on the screen door. The reason stated is to see if unit has been abandoned or surrendered. They honestly know the unit is occupied and im wondering if i can refuse them entry just by telling them its occupied and if this is actually legal for them to do. All utilities r on and they just had another notice served to us 3 days ago.

  7. Stephen White

    So long as proper notice is provided, yes. Most landlords perform at least an annual inspection to be sure that everything is in good working order and to address any damages or concerns they might have. And while most landlords are not as open to say they’re checking for cleanliness, but that’s essentially what they’re doing. It’s a lot easier to manage a hoarder, or damage to a property early on versus letting it go and one day be shocked.

  8. Stephen White

    So I’m confused, were the cats yours?

  9. Stephen White

    It makes no sense to me that you’re being charged for pet damages.. when you never had a pet! If they are being unreasonable with you I’d get an attorney to protect yourself, otherwise you’re likely to be charged for things you shouldn’t be. Obviously I don’t know the entire story here, but so far it sounds insane. The carpets should have been noted upon move-in and taken care of then.

  10. Stephen White

    At the end of the day, this should all be documented by the landlord in a security deposit disposition form (or SODA). This is where your charges are all itemized and listed what will be taken from the security deposit. Once you have this, I would go to small claims court with it. And if you don’t get it definitely go to small claims court because this would be a missing piece that would likely cause the judge to rule in your favor. But even if it does exist, I would think a judge would rule in your favor simply because the charges are not reasonable.

  11. Stephen White

    Did the notice include a broad range or was it specific to an exact time?

    • Eduardo

      Had a broad range

      • Stephen White

        Ask for the time frame to be narrowed down if it’s inconvenient for you. Good communication goes both ways.

  12. Stephen White

    Well you can’t just leave and break the lease. Then you will be in the wrong.

    The correct approach would be asking to be let out of the lease. If there is a habitability issue, then you can certainly start making a case to vacate but you’ll need to have documented attempts to remedy the situation unsuccessfully.

  13. Stephen White

    LOL funny, but not really. On a good note, you have a landlord that obviously cares about the property. And since you obviously care about the appearance/esthetics as well, you have a potentially good situation. I think the binoculars were a gesture to not come walking up to your property and give you privacy. Obviously that backfired.

    Approach this with an open mind and good communication. Make sure the landlord knows you have good intentions and you want to live in a place you can be proud of. No landlord will be disappointed hearing that.

    • Gaby Gaby

      Thank you Stephen! I agree and did not make a big deal about this since I appreciate she respected my privacy…but still….creepy!

  14. Gus

    Hi,

    I live in Boulder, Colorado, and twice per year my landlord sends out an email that they will enter the apartment between 8 am and 8 pm at some point during an entire month (July and February). In other words, they take the right to enter my apartment at any point during the day for 1/6 of the year. Is this considered reasonable notice in my state?

    • Stephen White

      That is not reasonable Gus. It needs to be more narrow than anytime during the month.

  15. Stephen White

    Sounds like they were caught (not adding pets to the lease) and the monthly inspections are due to a trust issue. Inspections can be performed with proper notice and I doubt that monthly (seen as a remedy caused by the technical breaking of the lease) would be considered harassment by Florida statute.

  16. bizkit

    I live in Wisconsin, my landlord sends out a monthly “newsletter” stating what time and what floor the pest control rep will be in the building, one day I was home and the landlord and pest control guy were at the door, I told them I had no written warning they would enter the apartment and she told me “it was in the newsletter”, the newsletter says nothing about entering apartments, only that the pest control will be on =blank floor at blank time=. They both then entered my apartment. I told them this was not right and I had no way of actually knowing they intended on entering. They apparently have been entering my apartment every 3 months for the last 3 years without my knowing. I work nights shift and had no idea that they were even here inside my apartment every 3 months while I was sleeping without my permission or without proper notification. The fact that they state in a “newsletter” a peat control person will be on a certain floor of my building in no way notifies me that they will be entering my apartment. Am I correct? I do have the newsletters that were posted on my door as proof they never said they would be entering and apartment.

    • Stephen White

      Your landlord should obviously be more specific with the times and dates

  17. Lynn

    Pest control tried coming in and woke me up I went to the door and told them I didn’t ask for pest control and shut the door the mgr called short time later telling me they wanted to do an inspection for pests i said that was fine as long as I was given proper notice which I wasn’t and I wanted to be present when any one came in and not just having them walking in . We did schedule it for the the following week and rescheduled my appts only for pest control not to show ..my question is since he never showed when I was told they would be there does the mgr have to give a notice to enter which I never got in first place or does my agreeing for them to enter when they never showed give them still legal right to enter

  18. jean appleton

    A few weeks ago my landlord knocked on my door for pest control but I said no because I never got a notice. Others did. She also said that she actually found a notice on the floor by the front door. That one could have been mine. She was mad and said they might charge me 45 bucks if they have to come back. I said I won’t pay but they can come back the next day. She refused. They then gave me another notice 2 weeks ago to come in and I let them in. Now they just gave me another one to come in again on Friday. Is this harassment and do I have to let them in. They want everything taken out of the cupboards in kitchen and bathroom and sheets taken off my bed. I lost most of my furniture in old home from flood so my bed is in living room. Do they have the right to check other rooms that I use for storage. Thanks

  19. Craig Bishop Fisher

    I have a medical condition requiring the use of a daily in home treatment. I have provided the landlord with documentation which states that during the time of my in home treatment maintenance may not enter. They only recently have started pushing the issue saying that 24hrs notice is all that’s required and the medical issue isn’t a reason to make them what the 2hrs until it is completed. Any suggestions? (i live in Ohio)

  20. RICHARD ALMONT

    My tenant does not keep the yard up, and I get calls from the city, I have asked to keep up the grounds, yesterday I went over and mowed the yard and trimmed, it took 4 hours, also I had a conversation with them and they agreed for a walk thru today and to show the house at 730pm on Thursday, now they are refusing, and we agreed to show the house from 630 to 9, iam I wrong, in the state of Iowa, there year lease was up July 15, 2018, and said they would be out of the house the end of the month

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