A tenant is essentially a guest in a landlord’s home. Since a tenant pays the landlord rent, the landlord has certain obligations to the tenant.
In order to fulfill some of these obligations, a landlord needs access to a tenant’s unit. This access is not unconditional. There are still certain rules landlords must follow as to when and why they may enter the tenant’s unit. Every state has unique rules, so make sure to check your local landlord-tenant laws to learn the exact conditions under which a landlord can access the dwelling.
Why Can the Landlord Enter
The landlord is permitted to enter the tenant’s unit for matters related to the maintenance of the property, the sale or rental of the property, for other matters that could pose safety or health concerns or when granted the legal right to by a court of law.
Examples of situations where a landlord has a legal right to enter a tenant’s dwelling include:
- To Inspect the Unit- Prior to a tenant’s move-out, the landlord has the right to inspect the unit to determine the condition of the unit.
- Make Repairs- This includes making ordinary repairs, necessary repairs and repairs that have been requested specifically by the tenant.
- Decorations, Alterations or Improvements- A landlord has a right to enter a tenant’s unit in for the purposes of making aesthetic changes or improvements to the unit. Adding a washer and dryer to a unit which did not previously have one would be an example of an improvement.
- To Deliver Large Packages- If the tenant has received a package that is too large to fit in the tenant’s normal mailbox, the landlord has the right to deliver the package to the tenant him or herself.
- To Provide Services- This includes necessary services or those that have been agreed to or requested by the tenant.
- To Show the Apartment- The landlord has the right to enter the tenant’s unit to show the dwelling to prospective tenants, actual tenants who will be living in the unit once the current tenant leaves, prospective buyers, actual buyers, appraisers, mortgagees, repairmen or contractors.
- Under Court Orders- A landlord can enter the unit if granted access by a court of law.
- If the Tenant Has Abandoned the Premises- If the tenant has abandoned the unit, the landlord has the right to enter.
- If the Tenant Has Violated Health or Safety Codes- In situations where the tenant is violating health or safety codes, the landlord has the right to enter the unit to remedy the situation.
- To Issue Eviction or Ejection Notice- A landlord can enter the unit when accompanied by a law enforcement officer to issue a service of process order regarding the eviction.
The landlord must never abuse the privilege to enter the tenant’s dwelling or attempt to enter the unit to harass the tenant.
When Can the Landlord Enter
A landlord is required to enter a tenant’s unit only during “reasonable hours.” These hours may vary slightly by state, but, generally normal business hours of 9 A.M to 6 P.M. would be acceptable times for a landlord to enter.
These hours may vary in certain situations:
- Emergency Situations- If there is an emergency, a landlord can enter the tenant’s unit at any time. Examples of emergencies would include:
- A gas leak at the property
- A fire
- Flooding at the property
- A natural disaster which could pose immediate danger to the tenant
- Repairs Requested by the Tenant- If a tenant has specifically asked the landlord to repair or service something in his or her unit, the landlords may enter the unit during additional hours. 8 A.M. to 8 P.M. would be acceptable times to enter the unit as long as both the landlord and the tenant agree on the time. Other times, such as 7 A.M. or 9 P.M., would also be allowed as long as both parties agreed to the unusual hour.
- Performing Normal Services- When a landlord must perform scheduled services that have been spelled out in the lease agreement, they can usually enter the tenant’s unit during normal business hours, between 9 A.M. and 6 P.M. These services could include pest control or changing air-conditioning or furnace filters.
Is Notice Required?
Landlords are usually required to give the tenant 24 hours notice before entering the tenant’s unit, regardless of the reason for entering. This requirement may be lifted for events such as:
- Regularly Scheduled Maintenance
- For Health and Safety Violations
- Abandonment of the Unit
- Under Court Orders
However, in these situations, the landlord must still announce him or herself and the reason for needing access to the unit before entering.
Can a Tenant Change the Door Locks?
No, a tenant is not permitted to change the door locks on his or her unit unless he or she first consults the landlord and is granted permission by the landlord to do so. Even if permission is granted, the tenant is usually required to provide the landlord with a set of keys which can open the new locks.