Nolo's Fast Facts: A Landlord's Right of Entry
by the Editors of Nolo Press
Copyright (c) 1995 Nolo Press
You may copy this article as long as you include this
Here are answers to frequently asked questions on a
landlord's right to entry.
- Does my landlord have the right to
enter my apartment whenever he or she wants?
- What are examples of situations
when a landlord may enter, but only after giving the tenant
- Assuming it is not an emergency,
but the landlord has a valid reason to enter -- for example,
to make repairs -- what kind of notice is required?
- May a landlord enter a rental unit
any time of day, as long as he's given the required amount
- What are the landlord's options if a
tenant refuses to allow entry even when a landlord has
given adequate notice and has a valid reason to enter?
- What should a tenant do if a landlord
repeatedly violates her privacy rights by entering the
rental unit with no good reason and/or advance notice?
- How can I find out the specific laws on
privacy in my state?
1. Does my landlord have the right to
enter my apartment whenever he or she wants?
It depends on the state. In all states, a landlord or
manager may enter rented premises while the tenant is
living there without advance notice in the case of
emergency, such as a fire or serious water leak. And, of
course, a landlord may enter when a tenant gives
permission. Beyond that, laws in many states guarantee
tenants reasonable privacy rights against landlord
2. What are examples of
situations when a landlord may enter, but only after giving
the tenant reasonable notice?
Typically, a landlord has the right to enter rented
premises after giving tenants reasonable notice in order to
make needed repairs (or assess the need for them) and to
show the property to prospective new tenants or purchasers.
In addition, a landlord may enter rented premises in
instances of abandonment (that is, when the tenant moves
out without notifying the landlord) or by court order. A
landlord may not enter just to check up on the tenant.
3. Assuming it is not an
emergency, but the landlord has a valid reason to
enter -- for example, to make repairs -- what kind of notice is
States typically require landlords to provide a specific
amount of notice (usually 24 hours) before entering a
rental unit. In some states, such as California, landlords
must provide a reasonable amount of notice, legally
presumed to be 24 hours. Landlords can usually enter on
shorter notice if it is impracticable to provide the
required amount of notice.
4. May a landlord enter a rental
unit any time of day, as long as he's given the required
amount of notice?
No. In most instances -- except emergencies, abandonment and
invitation by tenant -- states allow a landlord to enter only
at reasonable times, without setting specific hours and
days. However, some states, such as California, require
that landlords may enter only during normal business hours.
5. What are the landlord's options if
a tenant refuses to allow entry even when a landlord has
given adequate notice and has a valid reason to
A landlord should not force entry except when there is a
true emergency, such as a fire or gas leak. However, if a
tenant is repeatedly unreasonable in denying the landlord
access, the landlord can legally enter anyway, during
reasonable times, provided he does so in a peaceful manner.
However, in no case should the landlord enter if the tenant
is present and saying "stay out."
If a landlord has a serious conflict over access with an
otherwise satisfactory tenant, a sensible first step is to
meet with the tenant to see if the problem can be resolved.
Often, neighborhood mediation programs will, for a low
cost, help work out an agreement. If these attempts at
compromise don't work, a landlord can usually evict the
tenant for violating the lease or rental agreement,
assuming it contains an appropriate right-of-entry
6. What should a tenant do if a
landlord repeatedly violates her privacy rights by entering
the rental unit with no good reason and/or advance
As a first step, the tenant will usually first meet with
the landlord to ask for assurance that this conduct won't
be repeated. If this doesn't work, the tenant (depending on
the laws of her state) may be able to simply move out,
claiming that the landlord's repeated violation of her
privacy amounts to a "constructive eviction." Finally, if
the landlord's conduct seriously interferes with the
tenant's peace of mind, the tenant may have grounds for a
successful lawsuit, asking for damages. Typically, a
tenant will file suit in small claims court without a
lawyer. For details on small claims court procedures and
the maximum amount for which someone can sue, see
Everybody's Guide to Small Claims Court (National or
California Edition), by Ralph Warner (Nolo Press).
7. How can I find out the specific
laws on privacy in my state?
Find your state's statutes at a law library or large public
library. If possible, look for the larger annotated version
which will also contain brief notes as to key court
decisions. Look in the index under Landlord-Tenant and then
for the subheading Privacy. You may also be able to get
information from a local apartment association or tenants'
rights group. Your state Attorney General's Office or
Consumer Protection Agency can also provide advice. Nolo
Press publishes two books on the subject for California:
The Landlord's Law Book, by Brown and Warner and Tenants'
Rights, by Moskovitz and Warner.