As a landlord, you may need to enter an occupied rental to check a water leakage, show a prospective tenant around, or a variety of other reasons that might come up over the course of a lease. Things may go south if you fail to approach this task professionally and respectfully. In fact, illegal entry to an occupied rental can set you backwards by up to $10,000 in fines.
Read on to understand valid reasons for entry, how much notice is needed, and what to do if the tenant refuses to allow you to enter.
Valid Reasons for Entering an Occupied Rental as a Landlord
You may need to enter their occupied property due to a variety of valid reasons. Here are a few to keep in mind.
Necessary maintenance or repairs
The rental may need repair work to ensure the tenant’s comfort and safety. This may come in the form of a work order request, complaint from a surrounding unit, or simply routine maintenance (such as changing out the A/C filter).
Inspections and evaluations
Planned periodic inspections help evaluate the rental’s condition, identify possible issues, and ensure compliance with lease agreements. How often these occur should be noted in the lease.
Is the property on the market for a new tenant? You’ll need to showcase it to a prospective future occupants. Work with your tenant to find the best availability for them. The less you put them out, the more likely they are to tidy up and allow you to put your best foot forward to the potential applicant.
Emergencies such as water leaks and electrical issues often strike without warning, prompting immediate inspection to handle the situation before it escalates. Make sure to handle these promptly to avoid further property damage.
The state or rental agreement may permit you to enter the property if the tenant has abandoned it for a specified period. Make sure to keep open communication with your tenant. That way you’re more likely to know if they’ve gone on a lengthy vacation that they’ll return from or if they’ve abandoned the property.
How Much Notice Should Be Given?
The amount of notice boils down to a particular purpose and jurisdiction.
For non-emergencies such as repair or maintenance, most states require you to give a written notice at least 24 hours in advance. Entering the occupied property is only limited to “reasonable hours” or “normal business hours” as specified by the specific state, such as between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.
If you plan to sell the property or bring in a new tenant, you must give your current tenant a written notice in advance to notify them about the intent to sell. But the time limits differ by state. For example, it’s 120 days in California.
What if you’re dealing with an emergency that’s threatening to cause further property damage if not contained quickly? This reason doesn’t require a written notice. You can enter the property any time of the week, whether the renter is present or absent.
Do You Need Written Approval?
The law doesn’t require landlords to obtain written approval from tenants for entries to the occupied property, but it’s a good business practice. This approval can serve as documentation of the tenant’s consent in case a dispute is filed.
What if the Tenant Denies Entry?
The first step is communicating with the tenant. Explain why entry is necessary and remind them of their legal obligations to permit you entry under the circumstances specified in the lease agreement or state law.
Try to understand their concerns, fears, or reservations if they have any. You can offer as much flexibility as possible. For example, you can agree on an alternative date that might be more convenient for them. Mediation may also work wonders.
If the tenant remains adamant without any valid reason, your next step is to initiate eviction proceedings against the tenant for not following the lease agreement’s terms. Before taking this step, remember to do your homework and learn what to expect in an eviction. Consult widely to ensure you’ve followed all local tenancy laws and the lease agreement terms. Don’t forget to document all communications, including the entry’s reasons and planned date.
Unless there’s an immediate emergency, err on the side of caution when entering an occupied rental. Make sure that you cover yourself in the lease, get everything in writing if possible, and abide by your local laws.
A good way to help track maintenance issues and permissions is to use a property management software. Check out LandlordStation‘s today to streamline your maintenance requests.