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When you’re renting a home, you might not be thinking about your privacy rights and landlord access to your rental. Maybe the issue doesn’t come up until you’re seeing too much of your landlord, leasing agent or maintenance workers. Know the rights on both sides, and lease terms to look for before you sign and move in.
Your Privacy Rights
When you rent a home, there’s a legal relationship created – landlord and tenant – along with rights and duties. One of the most important rights you have is the right to quiet enjoyment of your rental. Essentially, you pay rent and have the right to possess and use the property without interference from others, including your landlord. You have a right to privacy.
You aim to rent a home fitting your needs, and you probably don’t expect your landlord to be a literal fixture in your rental.
On the other hand, there are limits to your rights, and your landlord has a practical need to access your rental from time to time. Two sources where you should find these rights, rules and boundaries set out are:
- Your lease agreement, which should state in plain and clear words when and how your landlord can enter your rental
- Your state’s landlord-tenant law, which may list situations when landlords can access rental properties
If you have no lease agreement and state or local law is silent about landlord entries, then the usual rule is your landlord can only enter the leased premises when it’s fair and reasonable to do so. Some examples:
- Emergencies such as broken pipes, flooding or fire
- When you give permission for access
- Inspecting the premises and making repairs or alterations
- Acting on the reasonable belief you moved out
- Showing the property to prospective tenants or buyers
Notice, Knocking and Courtesy
You should expect your landlord to ask your permission or give advance notice before someone enters your rental unless there’s an emergency. If your landlord doesn’t ask or give notice, you may have a couple of legal solutions open to you. First, you may have grounds for a trespass lawsuit. You may also be able to get a restraining order against the landlord and those who work with the landlord. Here are some examples of situations that may support a restraining order:
- Your landlord enters without advance notice and/or your permission
- Your landlord’s demands for access are unreasonable, such as late night or early morning repairs
- Your landlord continually harasses you or behaves unreasonably towards you, your family and guests
- Your landlord makes continuous demands to enter
- Your landlord tries to retaliate if you complain or protest
It’s All in Your Lease
Enjoying your rental apartment or house starts with your lease. Lease terms usually reflect state and local laws, and your landlord’s specific requirements. State laws can vary a lot in protecting renters’ privacy rights. Some states allow landlords to add a number of exceptions to your privacy rights, other states won’t enforce changes, and there are a few states without laws protecting privacy.
Read your lease carefully before signing. A real estate lawyer can help you review the lease and negotiate changes. You’re the one paying rent, and you can ask for changes to the landlord’s preprinted or standard lease form.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Does my landlord have to tell me when someone’s been in my apartment for repairs or other needs?
- My apartment building’s property manager doesn’t follow lease terms for entering my unit. How can I enforce these lease terms?
- Is my landlord responsible for people it sends into my apartment, such as repairmen? Does it matter if they are the landlord’s employees or outside services?