How Can a Landlord Check Up on Tenants?

by Benny Kass, Inman NewsDEAR BENNY: When does a landlord have the right to enter one of his rental properties? For example, the smoke detector was going off and the renters were away for the weekend. Or the lease says that three adults can live on the property, yet the landlord knows that four adults are now living on the premises. Can a landlord enter the property (without the consent of the renters) at any time? –Barbara

DEAR BARBARA: While I do not know the laws in every state, I suspect they are the same. You — as a landlord — own the property and clearly have the right to enter the property.

However, most leases I have reviewed contain the following language: “The landlord shall have the right to enter onto the property for any reason on reasonable advance notice to the tenant; however, in the event of an emergency, the landlord may enter at any time.”

Some leases spell out what a “reasonable time is” — such as 24- or 48-hour advance notice. So, review your lease. It may contain such language, and if it does not, your future leases should have it. And if your lease is silent, I suggest you follow the guidelines of the language of those common leases.

But let’s look at your two examples. If the smoke detector is ringing and the tenants are not at home, I consider this an emergency, which would give you the right to enter without notice. But to check on the number of tenants living at the property, in my opinion, is not an emergency.

I suspect you will respond and say, “Well, if I have to give them advance notice, when I show up they will hide the fact that there is another tenant in the property.” Yes, that’s a possibility, but even though you are the landlord, your tenants deserve a modicum of privacy.

Benny L. Kass is a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. No legal relationship is created by this column. Questions for this column can be submitted to [email protected].
Copyright 2010 Benny L. Kass

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