Can a Landlord Show a House While Occupied?

Last Updated: October 3, 2023 by Roberto Valenzuela

In a majority of states, landlords have the right to show an occupied rental property. Landlords must otherwise reserve this as a right in the lease, or get the tenant’s consent for a showing.

State Laws About Showing an Occupied Rental Property

While the lease is the best place to look for details about property showing, laws that cover a specific topic overrule anything contradictory in the lease.

Most states have laws that give landlords the right to show an occupied property. In most cases, like California and Iowa, the landlord can show a property no matter what the lease says, following the regular notice and entry process.

Some states take a more complicated approach. For example, in Tennessee, the standard depends on who’s seeing the property. Tennessee landlords can show property to contractors as well as potential buyers or mortgagors. With new potential renters, though, the right to show must be in the lease, and the existing tenant gets special notice before a showing.

What if There Are No State Laws About Showings?

If state law doesn’t cover showings for rental property, the landlord’s options are limited. A right to show must be reserved in the lease. If not, the landlord must get the tenant’s separate consent for showing.

Lease Provisions

The lease is always the first place to look for rules about a property showing. Almost every state lets a landlord and tenant agree in the lease on a policy for showings.

Lease provisions about property showings usually control when there’s a question. Courts will uphold a showings policy unless it is either against the law, or so unfair that no informed person in a fair negotiating position would freely agree to it.

When the Law and the Lease Are Silent

Sometimes neither the law nor the lease mention property showings. In these cases, a landlord generally can’t show a property without the tenant’s approval. The tenant controls the private part of the rental property, and the landlord must respect the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment.

A tenant’s approval for property showing doesn’t have to be in the lease. If a tenant tells a landlord a particular property showing is okay, the landlord can usually hold the tenant to that agreement.