Can a Tenant Refuse Entry to a Landlord?

Last Updated: October 3, 2023 by Roberto Valenzuela

Tenants can typically refuse entry when the landlord doesn’t meet requirements for notice, purpose, or timing. In most other cases, tenants risk legal consequences for refusing entry.

When Can a Tenant Refuse Entry?

The law presumes the tenant has the power to refuse any entry, all else being equal. This is the “common law” rule for entry.

No state incorporates this rule in pure form. Landlords can enter as necessary to uphold responsibilities under the law and the lease. Preventing a landlord’s reasonable and valid entry is usually grounds for eviction.

In general, for a reasonable refusal, an entry must have invalid purpose, timing, or manner.

Invalid Purpose

Tenants can refuse any entry taking place for an invalid or undisclosed purpose. Landlords must justify a proposed entry with a permitted purpose.

When a state or local statute defines valid purposes, this is straightforward. When there isn’t, the purpose must be reasonably related to the tenancy, like for repairs.

Invalid Timing

Valid entries must take place at a reasonable time. Sometimes timing is set by statute. In Vermont, for instance, most entries must take place between 9:00AM and 9:00PM. Courts are usually suspicious of entries that take place outside of business hours even when there’s no statute.

Timing can be contextual. Say a landlord wants to inspect a backyard for lease violations, but shows up in the middle of the tenant’s birthday party. The tenant can often reschedule such an entry, even if the landlord has arrived during regular business hours.

Invalid Manner

The landlord must enter in a reasonable manner. This includes (but is not limited to) the following factors:

  • Notice. The landlord must follow statutes and lease terms regarding advance notice. Reasonable advance notice (often 24 hours) is usually still required even without an entry statute or access policy.
  • Identification. Anyone seeking entry must provide their identification and purpose upon request. Tenants can reasonably refuse entry to someone present with an unclear identity or purpose.
  • Demeanor. The landlord must behave with a reasonably professional demeanor. Tenants can refuse an abusive or alarming entry.

When Must a Tenant Allow Landlord Entry?

In most cases, tenants must allow a valid and reasonable entry, or risk eviction. In some situations, the tenant also must allow access even if the entry doesn’t follow the standard rules.

Lease Waiver

Some places, like Georgia, let tenants freely negotiate an access policy with the landlord. This lets the tenant waive consent for certain (or all) types of entry. Courts will usually honor a waiver of consent if the tenant wasn’t unfairly forced into it.


The landlord always has a valid purpose to enter when an emergency risks the safety of people or rental property. This is the one universal exception to the common law rule.

In every state except Indiana and Arkansas, emergencies also suspend the landlord’s duty to get consent before entry.

Constructive consent is when the law presumes consent due to specific conduct. In South Carolina, for example, if the tenant requests repairs, the law presumes the tenant has consented to an entry for repairs. The tenant will not be allowed to refuse entry when the landlord arrives (assuming it’s at a reasonable time, etc.).

Court Order

A court order overrides all legal requirements for notice, purpose, and so on. It’s always lawful for a landlord to follow the exact terms of a court order.