As a tenant, have you ever felt like you have to let your landlord into your home whenever he or she feels like it? Many tenants struggle with this situation because they feel obligated to grant entry to the landlord as the actual property owner.
However, for a landlord to enter a tenant’s property legally, they must provide tenants with a written notice of entry prior to entering the unit. Most states require landlords to give a minimum of 24 hours’ notice, but this can differ depending on your state and sometimes the circumstances for entry.
For instance, in the state of Washington landlords most give 48 hours’ notice to enter a tenant’s unit but only 24 hours’ notice if they are showing the unit to a prospective tenant or buyer.
In this post, we’ll discuss what an entry notice is and four common scenarios when landlords can enter their tenants’ living space with notice. We’ll also touch on what landlords can do to enter a tenant’s unit in cases of emergency.
What is a Notice of Entry?
A notice of entry (sometimes known as a landlord’s Notice to Enter) is a written notice a landlord uses to inform a tenant that they will be entering the unit in the near future.
A notice of entry typically includes:
- The landlord’s contact information
- The date and time the landlord wishes to enter
- The address of the home or unit in question
- The reason the landlord is entering the property
- An estimation for how long they expect to remain in the unit
Tenants have an expectation (and a right) to not have their landlord barge in unannounced. Landlords should always provide tenants with an entry notice, so they don’t violate the tenant’s rights to privacy and quiet enjoyment.
1. For an Inspection
When new tenants move in and old tenants move out, landlords need to access the unit to document the condition of the property and complete a formal Rental Inspection Report.
For a move-in inspection, the landlord will often schedule the date and time when the tenant signs the lease. The purpose of this inspection is to document the condition of the property when a new tenant takes possession. Often, the inspection occurs before the tenant has moved all of their belongings in, but sometimes it occurs shortly after that. Landlords tend to avoid doing move-in inspections after the new tenant has moved in because there’s no way of knowing if damage has occurred during the move.
For a move-out inspection, the landlord will usually schedule the inspection after the tenant has moved their belongings out of the unit (in case any damage occurs during the move-out process). The results of the inspection will determine what damage (if any) might have been caused by the tenant over the course of their lease and therefore determine how much of the security deposit the tenant receives back.
2. To Make Repairs or Upgrades to the Property
When something needs repair in a rental property (such as a malfunctioning appliance or a broken window), tenants will typically send a repair notice to their landlord to inform them.
It’s up to the landlord to sort out how the repairs are dealt with, such as calling in a repairperson and scheduling consultations or repair times. A landlord should then serve the tenant a Notice to Enter to inspect the damages or issues in the unit reported by the tenant, and if the landlord is entering with a contractor (such as a plumber or electrician), they should also include that information in the notice.
It should be noted that if the landlord is entering the property more than once on separate occasions (such as once to inspect damages and later with a repairperson), they’ll either serve the tenant two separate entry notices or they will mention the two separate entry times on one notice.
3. Pest Control Services
Similar to the repair situation mentioned above, if a tenant requires pest control services, they should inform their landlord. Many property management companies have a reporting system in place for maintenance issues like this, but in cases of emergency (like when a unit is infested with bed bugs), an email or phone call will often suffice for landlords and property managers.
Once the landlord is notified, they will arrange for a pest control professional to come in and fumigate (or to catch critters or whatever the case may be). When the appointment is scheduled, the landlord will submit a Notice to Enter including the date and time to the tenant.
Adequate notice is especially important in cases of pest control because oftentimes tenants will have to make arrangements to be out of their unit for an extended period of time it’s being cleared of pests. They might also need to prepare their unit, such as in the case of fumigation for bed bugs or cockroaches when tenants are usually asked to bag up their food and other belongings to avoid contamination from the fumigation chemicals.
4. To Show the Property to Potential Tenants
When a tenant chooses not to renew their lease, the landlord has to start the process of finding a new renter. This process includes showing the unit to potential tenants, and sometimes the viewings will occur before the current tenant has moved out.
In this case, the landlord will schedule viewings and inform the current tenant of the dates and times with an official notice. Ideally, the landlord will schedule the viewings at a time that’s convenient for the current tenant and preferably when they won’t be in the unit (for example, when they’re at work).
In Case of Emergency
One of the only instances when a landlord doesn’t need to give official notice to enter a rental unit is in the case of an emergency. For instance, if a pipe burst in an apartment and water is rushing out from under the door, the landlord has reasonable cause to enter the unit.
It’s also worth pointing out that if you invite your landlord into your unit for any reason, they don’t need to provide you with an entry notice because you’ve given them consent to enter.
Know Your Rights as a Tenant
Even if you’re just leasing your domicile, you still have rights as a tenant. Landlords can’t just come and go as they see fit because that would infringe on your rights to privacy and quiet enjoyment.
Protect yourself by knowing when your landlord can and can’t enter your unit so you don’t end up in an awkward situation with them and they don’t take advantage of you.