It’s one of the most common complaints from tenants: landlords making unannounced visits. And that makes the rules regarding entry into an occupied unit one of the biggest property management issues facing landlords.
Landlords need access to make repairs, or to inspect the rental. After all, it is their property. But, tenants value their privacy. So, who wins?
Once a landlord has signed a lease agreement, they’ve signed away the right to freely access the rental property. The general rule is that landlords can enter the occupied rental only in the case of an emergency, if the tenant consents, or after providing the appropriate notice, which may be anywhere from 24 to 72 hours, depending on local law.
Violating the laws regarding entry breaches implied covenants in the lease agreement. That can lead to costly lawsuits, or provide an excuse for a tenant to break the lease, withhold rent, or fail to renew.
An unannounced landlord visit also may lead to claims of theft or destruction of personal property.
Unless the situation is an emergency — anything that can lead to immediate property damage or risks to tenants — landlords should provide notice. Follow that rule even when the tenant has requested a repair. Communication is an important tool for avoiding disputes. Keep tenants informed of the repair schedule. That gives them the heads-up they need to either be present at the property at the time, or to take other steps to protect their privacy.
When using contract workers, escort them to the property rather than providing keys, and if possible, supervise them while in the tenant’s unit.
Keep copies of notices and document all communications with the tenant regarding access to the property. A tenant may later claim they gave verbal consent under duress.
While it may not be spelled out in the local law, it’s best to enter the property during regular business hours if possible.
American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services for all your property management needs. Find out more at www.joinaaoa.org.