What Happens If a Tenant Illegally Refuses Entry to a Landlord?

Last Updated: October 3, 2023 by Roberto Valenzuela

If tenants illegally refuse entry, the landlord can fine them, deny lease renewal, or even evict.

Process for an Illegal Refusal of Landlord Entry

Illegally refusing a landlord’s entry is a serious issue. This is the process for establishing the violation, notifying the tenant, and following up.

1. Determine the Rule

The first step is to determine the applicable rule for a refused entry. Consequences can differ widely for rules which are in the law versus the lease.

Legal violations are more serious. Remedies for a legal violation are usually specific and described in the entry statute. Lease violations, by contrast, are a contract issue. Landlords and tenants have more flexibility in dealing with lease issues.

Jurisdiction determines entry rules. Some states, like New Mexico and California, limit the landlord’s right of access to only what’s in the law. Others, like Kansas, have only a few legal rules and let leases set access policies for the most part.

2. Document the Refusal of Access

Since a tenant has a right to quiet enjoyment of rental property, the landlord must document any refusal of access. Courts place more importance on evidence that’s current with an event, and less on later memories. If a tenant refuses access, the landlord should immediately note down the details in writing, and keep a copy of any access request.

3. Give Notice of Violation to the Tenant

After confirming and documenting a refused entry, the landlord must note the violation to the tenant, usually in writing. This notice should contain all the following information:

  • Date and time of the attempted entry.
  • The purpose of the attempted entry.
  • The specifics of the tenant’s refusal.
  • Applicable rules in the law or the lease.
  • Actions the tenant must take with any opportunity to cure.

3a. Opportunity to Cure

In most cases, the landlord must give the tenant an opportunity to cure. This means an opportunity to fix the situation. For an access violation, this almost always requires giving the tenant another chance to allow entry for the original purpose.

The landlord doesn’t always have to give the tenant second chances. There isn’t a cure for every situation. If a tenant makes a landlord miss a legally binding deadline, for instance, there’s no possible do-over.

4. Consequences for Illegal Refusal of Entry

There are a wide range of potential consequences for a tenant who illegally refuses an entry. These are the most common outcomes:

  • Nothing. In most cases, the landlord doesn’t need to follow up. Tenants often relent and allow access following a notice of violation. The landlord might even be able to ignore a stubborn tenant. Some states, like Nevada, suspend the duty to repair after refusal of access.
  • Entry Fee for Costs. A refused entry is inconvenient and takes valuable resources. Sometimes a landlord can charge an entry fee for valid but refused entry, as with some cases in Washington. This signals strong disapproval about a refused entry, without ending the tenancy. The details of this option are often up to the lease and what happens when there’s a lease violation.
  • Lawsuit. The landlord can sue the tenant for costs and/or an injunction to compel access. Some states, like Alaska, fine the tenant (usually a minimum of one month’s rent) regardless of the landlord’s actual expenses.
  • Non-Renewal. Unlawful refusal of access is good cause to refuse a lease renewal.
  • Eviction. Ongoing refusal to allow entry to a landlord may be grounds to file eviction.