Do you live in constant fear, wondering whether your landlord will pop in unannounced any moment? Sure, the landlord owns the property and has a right to visit it, but that doesn’t mean they can treat you like hired help. Not respecting your boundaries and privacy by making a habit of entering your unit any time of the day or night is a big no-no and one that you shouldn’t have to endure.
But you also can’t expect your landlord never to come by. For all the landlord knows, you could be destroying the front yard by turning it into an auto repair zone. Jason Hartman, president of Platinum Properties Investor Network, says that although it’s “all over the board” regarding how often landlords visit units, he thinks it’s fair for landlords to come by once a year to do an inspection.
When you rent a property, you have the right to chill there — according to the law, this is called “quiet enjoyment.”
About quiet enjoyment
All tenants who rent a property have the right to “quiet enjoyment,” the right to privacy with an expectation that the landlord won’t enter the unit without your permission.
“It’s important to review your lease,” says Massachusetts attorney Stanley A. Brooks. “It usually lists the circumstances under which the landlord can enter your apartment.”
A typical lease agreement might state the following reasons:
- an annual inspection
- in case of an emergency
- to make repairs
- to show the unit to prospective buyers or tenants
- when you give permission
You should get notice
If the landlord wants to come over, he or she usually needs to give you notice, typically 24 to 48 hours. Many local jurisdictions require landlords to come over only at reasonable times — not at 9 a.m. on a Saturday when you worked until 2 a.m. the night before. That’s what happened with Bonny Jones of Winter Park, FL. Her landlord would drive over unannounced, even after Jones told her that 9 a.m. was a bit early.
Jones used the first remedy every tenant should try: Work things out by voicing your concern in a friendly manner. That often does the trick.
If it doesn’t, there is a progression of steps to try, according to a NOLO blog entry:
- Send your landlord a friendly letter. It can be an email, says Hartman, that asks to receive notice before a visit. You don’t have to give a reason, but it makes the note more personable if you do. Most landlords should understand that your baby is on a strict nap schedule, that you want time to get your dog confined, or that you work odd hours and want to be awake before the visit.
- Send a second letter or email but with a businesslike tone. This step requires you to research your state’s landlord-tenant law to see what your state says about the issue. Let your landlord know what your rights are under your state law. In California (where I was a landlord for many years), landlords must follow Civil Code, Section 1954. In Georgia (where I’m currently a landlord), there is no statute, but there are recommendations based on the Georgia way of “common sense and good manners.” When there is no statute, mention your right to quiet enjoyment.
- Sue if your landlord continues to come over unannounced, through a lawyer or by going to small claims court.
- Move. If your landlord won’t stop the unannounced visits, you might be entitled to break the lease. The “implied covenant of quiet enjoyment” pertains to every tenancy.
What not to do
Although it might be an easy solution to change the locks to prevent the unannounced intrusions, you cannot do that legally. You don’t own the property, after all, and the landlord could evict you for doing that. The same goes for withholding rent. That’s typically a risky endeavor, which often gets tenants evicted.
Have you dealt with an intrusive landlord? What did you do about it?