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Landlord's Right To Enter Property

Landlord's Right To Enter Property

At times during a residential tenancy a landlord may need to enter a rental property for any number of legitimate reasons. Examples may include the landlord's need to repair the property or if the property is for sale, the landlord's desire to show the property to prospective realtors or other interested buyers. California Civil Code section 1954 gives the landlord that right. A landlord may enter a rented apartment or home providing that certain conditions are met and that the reasons for entering fall within several categories as outlined below.

California Civil Code section 1954
(a) A landlord may enter the dwelling unit only in the
      following cases:
       (1) In case of emergency.
       (2) To make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations
            or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the
             dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees,
             tenants, workers, or contractors or to make an inspection pursuant to
             Civil Code section 1950.5 (f)
      (3) When the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises.
      (4) Pursuant to court order.
(b) Except in cases of emergency or when the tenant has abandoned
      or surrendered the premises, entry may not be made during other than
       normal business hours unless the tenant consents to an entry during
       other than normal business hours at the time of entry.
(c) The landlord may not abuse the right of access or use it to
      harass the tenant.
(d) (1) Except as provided in subdivision (e), or as provided in
         paragraph (2) or (3), the landlord shall give the tenant reasonable
         notice in writing of his or her intent to enter and enter only during
         normal business hours. The notice shall include the date,
        approximate time, and purpose of the entry. The notice may be
        personally delivered to the tenant, left with someone of a suitable
        age and discretion at the premises, or, left on, near, or under the
        usual entry door of the premises in a manner in which a reasonable
        person would discover the notice. Twenty-four hours shall be presumed
        to be reasonable notice in absence of evidence to the contrary. The
        notice may be mailed to the tenant. Mailing of the notice at least
        six days prior to an intended entry is presumed reasonable notice in
        the absence of evidence to the contrary.
     (2) If the purpose of the entry is to exhibit the dwelling unit to
          prospective or actual purchasers, the notice may be given orally, in
          person or by telephone, if the landlord or his or her agent has
          notified the tenant in writing within 120 days of the oral notice
          that the property is for sale and that the landlord or agent may
          contact the tenant orally for the purpose described above.
          Twenty-four hours is presumed reasonable notice in the absence of
          evidence to the contrary. The notice shall include the date,
          approximate time, and purpose of the entry. At the time of entry, the
          landlord or agent shall leave written evidence of the entry inside the unit.
       (3) The tenant and the landlord may agree orally to an entry to
          make agreed repairs or supply agreed services. The agreement shall
          include the date and approximate time of the entry, which shall be
          within one week of the agreement. In this case, the landlord is not
          required to provide the tenant a written notice.
(e) No notice of entry is required under this section:
          (1) To respond to an emergency.
          (2) If the tenant is present and consents to the entry at the time
                of entry.
          (3) After the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the unit.

As described above, the right of the landlord to enter the property is strictly limited. By law, unless there is an emergency, the landlord must give reasonable advance notice before entering the property.  In California, twenty-four hours is deemed to be reasonable.  The law provides that the landlord may not abuse the right of entry or use it to harass the tenant. The tenant might have a legitimate complaint if the landlord or agent attempts to enter without giving sufficient advance notice.  Additionally, the landlord may enter the premises only during normal business hours or at a time mutually agreed to by the tenant.  Although the landlord has the right to enter the premises for an inspection, that right is limited to the provisions outlined in Civil Code section 1950.5 (f). That section provides that within a reasonable time after notification of either party’s intention to terminate the tenancy, the landlord shall notify the tenant in writing of his or her option to request an initial inspection and of his or her right to be present at the inspection.

What about the rights of the landlord?

A landlord has the right to enter rented premises after giving the tenants reasonable notice.  If a tenant is continually denying the landlord access, the landlord should seek the assistance of an attorney.  A landlord should never enter if the tenant is present and telling the landlord to stay out.  Also, the landlord should never do a forced entry except when there is a true emergency, such as a fire or gas leak.

So what should a tenant do if the landlord is abusing his privileges? As a first step, the tenant should simply meet with the landlord to ask for assurance that this conduct won't be repeated.  This simple remedy should resolve the issue or least provide reasons as to why frequent entries are necessary.  If it continues, and if the landlord's conduct seriously interferes with the tenant's peace of mind, the tenant may have grounds for a lawsuit, asking for damages.

If the landlord is experiencing repeated problems of entry, the first thing the landlord should do is open a dialog with the tenant and discuss the reasons for entry and the tenants continued refusal to allow such entry.  In the absence of any meaningful dialog and any attempts of compromise are fruitless, the landlord can evict the tenant for failure to permit access. 

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© 2015 by Pirrone & Pirrone LLP  All rights reserved.

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© 2014 by Pirrone & Pirrone LLP  All rights reserved.