Ask landlords how often they are allowed to check up on a rental property, and the answer might be, “Whenever I want. After all, it’s my property.”
But ask the same question of tenants, and they’d likely say, “Never!”
The answer lies somewhere in between, but unfortunately, that middle ground is not always obvious.
Landlord visits are such a common bone of contention for tenants that this area of property management is highly-regulated by local tenancy laws.
If tenants raise a fuss over a landlord’s visits, the consequences can be costly: The tenant may be entitled to compensation, to rent abatement, or even allowed to break the lease and move out.
Generally, a landlord can enter the property in these situations:
- When there is an emergency on the property and the occupants or the property is in immediate danger, like a water pipe leak, flooding, or an occupant who needs medical attention. This must be an event where taking time to give notice of the visit would risk greater harm.
- If the landlord has a good reason for the visit and gives notice. The period of notice is usually set by law and frequently is no less than two days. The time of the visit must be during reasonable hours of the day or early evening, depending upon local law. The contents of the notice also may be regulated by local tenancy laws. Typically, the reason for the visit must be included. Routine property inspections are generally handled this way. Inspections may be limited to no more than once per month.
- The landlord has received an order for possession from an appropriate legal authority.
- In some cases, where the landlord is showing the property to prospects or for sale, as long as the tenant is aware of the termination date of the lease and the landlord has made some attempt to provide notice.
- If there is reason to believe the property has been abandoned. For instance, the tenant has failed to pay rent and there are no signs of occupants at the property.
- If the tenant is home and agrees to allow the landlord to come inside.
It’s this last example that causes an alarming number of complaints from tenants. It would be perfectly reasonable to waive the notice period if, for instance, the tenant has requested a non-emergency repair, and the landlord is available sooner. But simply stopping by to check up on the tenant, even if the tenant agrees, is not a good idea.
Many tenants later say they only agreed because they felt intimidated or coerced to consent to let the landlord inside. Although a tenant may have consented — and by law they have — frequent unannounced visits may violate the landlord’s duty to maintain the tenant’s privacy or reasonable enjoyment of the rental property.
Mediators or dispute resolution officers may limit the number of times a landlord may visit if the tenant begins to feel uncomfortable, or there does not appear to be a good reason for the landlord to be there.
To avoid legal problems while keeping up with a rental property, a landlord should:
Whenever possible, provide notice to tenants before visiting the property.
Only visit the property for a valid reason, like routine inspections, repairs and maintenance, or otherwise enforcing the terms of the lease agreement.
Create a record of each visit, including the reason and any other relevant notes.
Let tenants know the routine when they first move in. Explain how often inspections are performed and when regular maintenance will likely occur. When a tenant is expecting the visit, rather than surprised, it greatly minimizes the chances of a complaint.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.