Landlords have a right to enter rental property for lawful purposes. Find out when tenants can refuse entry, what the consequences are for illegal entry, when landlords can enter without permission, and more.
When Can a Landlord Enter a Rental Property?
A landlord has a right to enter rental property for reasons that are important to the tenancy. These valid reasons are to maintain safe rental property, correct lease violations, and follow the law.
The most common standard allows entry after reasonable advance notice to the tenant (usually at least 24 hours), for these purposes:
- Property Work. This includes maintenance, repairs, and improvements. In most cases, it also covers modifications, decorations, and necessary or agreed-upon services. In some places, property work entries must relate to health and safety concerns.
- Inspections. A landlord can enter to inspect for code compliance and lease violations. Landlords can’t inspect with a frequency or manner that harasses a tenant.
- Emergencies. Every state lets a landlord enter to resolve emergency situations. Emergency also waives notice and permission requirements (with rare exceptions, like Indiana).
Can a Landlord Enter Without Permission?
Landlords generally can’t enter without tenant permission, outside of emergency situations.
“Without permission” means entering against a tenant’s explicit refusal. When the landlord uses a lawful notice and entry process, the tenant’s consent is usually presumed unless and until the tenant objects.
In a few places, like Arkansas, the tenant can refuse entry even in emergency situations.
Can a Landlord Enter Without the Tenant Present?
Landlords can enter without the tenant present. No state requires the tenant’s physical presence for a landlord entry. A tenant also doesn’t have to be present to grant or refuse consent for a landlord entry.
Can a Landlord Show a House While Occupied?
For the most part, landlords can show a house while occupied. This is common in states which have passed a version of the Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (URLTA).
However, the right to show a house is not a default part of common law. The law is silent on property showings in several states, like West Virginia. Tenants can refuse property showings when the law or lease don’t have specific language to reserve this right.
How Often Can a Landlord Inspect a Rental Property?
A landlord can inspect a rental property at will. No state regulates the timing of landlord inspections. The only standard is that inspections can’t occur with a frequency or manner which harass the tenant.
How Much Notice Does a Landlord Have To Provide Before Entering?
Notice requirements depend on location and method. Many states have no specific notice rules other than “reasonable” landlord behavior. Specific legal standards vary from 12 hours (as in Wisconsin) to 6 days (for mailed notice, in California).
If the law and the lease are silent, a minimum of 24 hours’ advance notice is typically reasonable, without a specific reason to justify a longer or shorter notice period.
Can a Landlord Enter Without Notice?
In most places, a landlord can’t enter a rental property without notice outside of an emergency situation. A landlord can show up with no prior notice. This isn’t the same as having permission to enter. The tenant usually can refuse a no-notice entry and ask to schedule a more convenient time.
Several states have a specific exception when the tenant is already aware of the potential for a justified entry. The landlord doesn’t need to provide extra notice in these situations.
In South Carolina, for instance, the landlord can enter without notice for repairs a tenant recently requested. The request puts the tenant on notice that the landlord will be entering soon to address the issue.
Can a Tenant Refuse Entry to a Landlord?
Tenants can refuse entry to a landlord who wants to enter in an unreasonable time, place, or manner. What’s reasonable depends on the law and the situation.
The landlord usually must respect the tenant’s refusal, even an unreasonable one. Forcible entry is by default a criminal trespass that lets the tenant call the police, even on a landlord.
It’s rare for the law to let a landlord enter rental property over the tenant’s objections. This usually takes a court order or an emergency situation.
What Happens If a Tenant Illegally Refuses Entry to a Landlord?
Most states have no law with specific penalties for an illegal landlord entry. This means it’s treated as a lease violation, more often than not.
A landlord might be able to evict based on a refused entry. This isn’t the most common approach, which is serving a notice of violation that the tenant can “cure” by restoring access.
Some states do have entry statutes that provide specific penalties for refused access. In Alaska, for instance, the landlord has the option to recover monetary damages of at least one month’s rent.
Some places, like Nevada, also waive the landlord’s duty to repair as long as the tenant is unreasonably refusing access.
Can a Tenant Change the Locks Without Permission?
Tenants usually can change their own locks without asking permission first. Most states (with exceptions, such as Arkansas) don’t have a law forbidding tenant lock changes. Three conditions will still apply:
- The lease must be silent on lock changes. If the lease restricts lock changes, the tenant is bound by contract to respect those terms.
- The lock change can’t cause any permanent damage to the property. It must be reversible in theory. Otherwise, the tenant may be liable, under rules against “waste.”
- The landlord must not experience a reduction in his right to access the rental property. A landlord locked out of rental property can usually file for eviction. This means in most cases tenants must be prompt about providing copies of any new keys.
What Can a Tenant Do if the Landlord Enters Without Permission?
A tenant’s option if a landlord enters illegally is often only to sue. Tenants can seek an injunction to restrain the landlord from further illegal entries. They can usually also recover related costs (actual damages) and sometimes attorney fees.
The economic cost of an illegal landlord entry is often small, or nonexistent. This is why some states let the tenant sue the landlord for a minimum penalty. For example, in Arizona, a tenant can recover a minimum of one month’s rent per illegal landlord entry.
Sample Access Policy
This is a sample policy for landlord access. It could be part of a lease or agreed separately. Always consider a professional attorney review before signing contracts or lease modifications.
The Landlord reserves the right to enter parts of the rental property under the Tenant’s control. These are the only valid purposes for a landlord entry:
- Property work (including decorations and improvements).
- Inspections for compliance under the law and the lease.
- Property showings.
The Landlord agrees not to disturb the Tenant’s quiet enjoyment of the rental property. Before any entry, the Landlord will provide at least 24 hours of advance notice to the Tenant, unless there’s an emergency. Any form of actual notice in advance is valid. Notice must specify the purpose and approximate time of entry.
Entry must take place during business hours (weekdays, 8AM-6PM), except with the tenant’s written permission. The person entering must announce entry to anyone inside, and, if asked, provide identification and their purpose for entry.
The Tenant can refuse consent to enter, but only with reasonable justification. When the Landlord receives a repair request from the Tenant, the Landlord has seven days of implied notice and consent afterward to enter for the repair.
Offending parties are liable for each violation of this access policy. Liability is either actual damages, or $250 liquidated damages per violation. The non-offending party chooses which measure to use for damages. The parties may also use injunctions to enforce this access policy. If a court holds that the Landlord has abused rights of access in bad faith to harm or harass the Tenant, the rental agreement will terminate immediately with no penalty to the Tenant.
This policy is subject to applicable laws. If a court finds any part of this policy unenforceable, the rest is still valid as written.