In most states, landlords can enter without permission to resolve an emergency situation. It’s usually illegal to enter otherwise without a court order.
What Does “Without Permission” Mean?
A landlord entry “without permission” is one where the tenant gives a refusal of consent to enter. A landlord with a valid purpose who follows the legal process has a presumption of consent to enter. There isn’t a consent issue until the tenant voices an active objection.
It’s also illegal to enter with an unlawful purpose or manner. This is not the same as an issue with the tenant’s consent, which is the subject of this article.
When Can a Landlord Enter a Rental Property Without Permission?
Only a few situations give a landlord legal justification to enter a rental property without permission.
By default, anyone who enters in the face of refused consent is a criminal trespasser. This means in most cases the landlord must legally justify overriding a refusal.
Emergencies are the one major exception to consent requirements. Nearly all states let the landlord enter without consent in an emergency situation.
Even this exception isn’t universal. A few places, like Indiana, still require permission for entry even in emergencies, unless the tenant is unreachable.
Waiver is when someone signals that they don’t require permission in a particular case. This doesn’t have to be explicit.
Suppose a tenant leaves for the weekend after telling the landlord “it would be nice to come back to a fixed sink.” Most courts would consider this an implied waiver of consent for access. The landlord could fix the sink while the tenant is away, without asking permission to enter.
By default, a waiver covers one specific entry. For a broader waiver, there must be a general permission, like “whenever” or “any/every time.”
Requested or scheduled services sometimes give a landlord constructive consent to enter. South Carolina is an example of a state with this rule.
If (for instance) the lease says that maintenance will test the water boiler at 9:00AM on the first day of every month, this would be a scheduled service. The landlord would have constructive consent to enter at that time.
Services that give constructive consent to enter are always disclosed in advance. They are often negotiated in the lease before the rental even begins.
No matter how useful the service, the landlord can’t spring it on a tenant without warning. An unannounced service requires tenant consent to enter and provide it.
Other Grounds for Entry
A landlord can sometimes enter without permission for other reasons not described above. The justification for these other grounds will usually be obvious to the tenant.
For example, permission isn’t required when the landlord is enforcing a court order. Likewise, permission isn’t required for entering abandoned property.
When Does a Landlord Need Permission to Enter a Rental Property?
A landlord almost always needs permission to enter a rental property, outside the grounds described above.
The following cases all require permission for entry. Remember that tenants can always refuse consent, but the landlord can take legal action if they do so unreasonably.
Repairs & Property Work
Landlords usually need permission to enter for repairs and property work. This is true even when the law waives notice requirements. Waived notice is not the same as consent to enter.
Only a few places, like Arizona, count a repair request as permission for entry. Some places, like Kentucky, let the landlord enter without permission to repair health and safety issues the tenant caused.
Inspections for code compliance require permission to enter. This is also true for inspections related to potential lease violations.
Showing a property to potential buyers, renters, or contractors usually requires tenant permission.
Many state laws don’t regulate property showings, so the tenant can sometimes waive permission requirements. For example, in Minnesota access policies can waive permission, but not notice.