UPDATED: September 23, 2021

You are in the middle of a quiet dinner with your loved ones after a long hard day at work. While enjoying your meal, someone opens the front door and marches into your room. You sit shocked with your family as the uninvited guest pulls up a chair and engages you in small talk. You then realize it’s your landlord sitting right with you at dinner. You feel violated and intruded upon by this intrusion. And in your head you scream, this shouldn’t be happening. I am in my own home and it’s illegal entry, right?

Yes, you are right. This is abuse on the part of your landlord. You have your rights as a tenant, and you have options to protect yourself from such intrusion. Can a tenant refuse entry to the landlord? Yes, you can, especially if the landlord doesn’t have a valid reason to enter your property or haven’t provided appropriate notice.

Do You Have a Right to Privacy and Control of Property?

As a tenant, you have a right to privacy and control of the property. Although the owner still owns the property despite the lease, he/she cannot just enter the leased property at any given time. The right to exclusive possession of the property is effectively transferred from the owner to the tenant.

Thus, to be allowed entry into the owned property, a landlord notice to enter and the tenant’s permission to enter are required. Entry is allowed only but property cannot be removed or altered in any way.

Most states in the United States have statutes and regulations when it comes to landlords entering the premises of tenants. Only 13 states don’t have statutes limiting entry and these are Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

What Are the Legal Reasons Landlords Can Enter an Apartment?

Tenants have a legal right to privacy, but there are certain reasons that will allow landlords to enter an apartment. Generally speaking, landlords need to provide advance notice to the tenant before getting access to the rental property. Some specific examples of landlord right to enter, legally, are as follow:

  • To inspect the unit before the tenant moves out of the apartment
  • To perform necessary repairs to keep the apartment in a habitable condition
  • To make aesthetic improvements to the apartment
  • To deliver large packages that won’t fit in the tenant’s mailbox
  • To provide necessary services as requested or agreed upon with the tenant
  • To show the apartment to prospective tenants
  • To follow a court order granting the landlord access to the apartment
  • To get rid of the possessions if the tenant has abandoned the apartment
  • To fix problems that arise after the tenant has violated health or safety codes
  • To issue ejection or eviction notice (landlord must be accompanied by a law enforcement officer)

What Kind of Notice Should the Landlord Give to the Tenant?

How much notice should your landlord give? Whatever the reason, your landlord must give you at least a 24-hour proper notice before entering your unit. It doesn’t have to be a written notice. 

This requirement may only be bypassed in special cases such as emergencies, extermination, health and safety violations, court orders, or abandonment of the rental unit. Although advance written notice isn’t required during these instances, the landlord still has to announce his/her entry and the reason why they need to access the unit.

What Are the Hours Your Landlord Can Enter Your Apartment?

A landlord is also required to enter your unit only during reasonable hours, which is generally between 9 a.m to 6 p.m. during weekdays. And between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Some state laws specify that landlords may only enter during “normal business hours,” so you need to check with your state if weekends are included in the regular business hours.

When Can a Landlord Enter Without Permission?

A landlord can enter a property without permission or prior notice if there’s an emergency, such as a gas leak, fire, flooding, or a natural disaster. In this case, owners can enter their tenant’s unit at any time.

Can the Landlord Enter Your Apartment When You’re Not There?

If the landlord comes to your home without notice while you’re out, they need to leave a note in a place where you can see it. Of course, they must have a valid reason for entering your apartments, such as during an emergency or business reason, and they have given you reasonable notice ahead of time.

What If Your Rental Property Landlord Violates Your Right to Privacy?

In some instances, owners abuse their right to enter the premises. “What can I do if my landlord enters without permission,” you ask? What then is the recourse of the tenant for this abusive behavior? The following are but some of the options available to the tenant to counter these activities of the owner:

1. Review the provisions of the lease agreement

It is important that the tenant has a copy of the lease agreement handy at all times. Thus, it is important that the provisions of the contract that relate to the landlord entry into the property be fully understood by the tenant. The first step in the prevention of any abuse of rights is through the protection against it.

2. It is best to be fully aware of how the provisions operate and are made effective 

This is done by seeking the advice of a lawyer, specifically a real estate lawyer on the effect and import of the provisions. Also, the lawyer would be able to enlighten the tenant as to the remedies available to the tenant under the lease agreement.

3. Document all the actions are done by the owner in violation of the contract

This is important so that all the actions taken would be identified to build the case against the owner in violation of the lease agreement.

It’s always best to remind the landlord of the lease agreement and try and settle the matter amicably, in order to retain the goodwill between the parties. 

However, if the landlord persists with such unfriendly behavior or if you already consider it as landlord harassment, you should carefully document the activities of the owner on those “unwarranted” visits. From there, a complaint can be filed in the proper avenue, depending upon the location of the property. 

If you follow the terms and conditions set out in the lease agreement, the owner would be properly admonished and illegal actions or visits should then abate, otherwise, the owner would face penalties according to the law.

What Will Happen If You Object to a Legal Entry?

You should cooperate with your landlord if they have a valid reason to enter your apartment. You may suffer the consequences if you object to their legal entry without any valid reason. 

You may be evicted if you refuse to allow your landlord access to your rental unit even if they have a permitted reason to do so and they’ve given you enough notice about it.

If the landlord finds that you’re the type of tenant who is too difficult to work with despite having valid reasons to enter your premises, your landlord may decide to terminate your lease at the end of the month or decide not to renew your lease. 

Lastly, your landlord may become less understanding and helpful when you make requests regarding your apartment if you object to their legal entry.

Final Thoughts

Tenants have a right to privacy even if they’re only leasing their apartment or home. It means that landlords can’t just enter your unit without notice or a valid reason. They can only be granted access if they have a legal reason to do so or if they’ve informed you ahead of time that they need to enter your apartment and you’ve given them permission. 

You can file a complaint and seek legal assistance if they violate your rights to privacy. However, if you object to a valid entry even if the landlord has followed the protocols, they may decide to evict you, or terminate or not renew your lease.

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