Jim Porter: Landlord’s right to enter a house
TRUCKEE/TAHOE andamp;#8212; One question that frequently arises in landlord/tenant situations is, when can the landlord enter the house? Some tenants believe the answer is andamp;#8220;never.andamp;#8221; A few landlords think andamp;#8220;whenever.andamp;#8221;The Civil Code allows the landlord to enter the tenantandamp;#8217;s rental only for certain specified reasons, during specified times and only after providing the tenant with advance notice.A landlord may enter a residence only: (1) in an emergency; (2) to make necessary or agreed upon repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements; (3) to supply necessary or agreed-upon services; (4) to exhibit the house for prospective or actual purchasers, lenders, tenants, workman or contractors; (5) when the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the property; or (6) under a court order.Note there is no specific authorization for landlords to enter rental premises purely for the purpose of inspecting them. Landlords should fashion any inspection to meet one of the six code-authorized reasons.NoticeA landlord must give a tenant andamp;#8220;reasonableandamp;#8221; notice in writing before entering. The writing requirement became effective in 2003. The notice must include the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry. The notice must be personally delivered to the tenant, left with someone of suitable age and discretion at the property (I love that phraseology), or left on, near, or under the usual entry door in a manner in which the tenant will discover the notice (under the door?); 24 hours is presumed to be reasonable. The notice may be mailed to the tenant, but at least six days prior to the intended entry to be presumed reasonable notice. If the purpose of the entry is to show the unit to prospective or actual purchasers, the notice may be given orally, in person or by telephone, if either the landlord or his or her agent has notified the tenant in writing within 120 days of the verbal notice that the property is for sale and that the landlord or agent may contact the tenant verbally for showing the property. Again, 24 hours is presumed reasonable. The landlord or agent must leave written evidence of entry andamp;#8212; like a business card andamp;#8212; inside the unit. The landlord and tenant may verbally agree to an entry to make agreed repairs or supply agreed services. That agreement must include the date and the approximate time of proposed entry, which must be within one week of the agreement. In that case the landlord is not required to provide the tenant written notice.No notice is required to respond to an emergency or if the tenant is present and consents to the entry, and no notice is required after the tenant has abandoned the premises. An emergency would include inspecting the smell of propane, justified concern over snow load or evidence of water leaking. It should be a true emergency.The law recites that the landlord may not abuse the right of access to harass the tenant.Whether a residence has been abandoned may depend upon whether the power is on, whether the tenant has given notice or returned the keys, whether there are belongings in the house and whether the rent is paid.Normal business hoursExcept in an emergency or when the tenant has consented to entry other than normal business hours, or when the tenant has abandoned the property, the landlord may enter the premises only during andamp;#8220;normal business hours,andamp;#8221; which is not defined by law but is generally understood to be between 8 a.m. or 5 or 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Weekends are probably appropriate depending on the circumstances, especially for showing property. It is good practice to define andamp;#8220;normal business hoursandamp;#8221; in the lease.RemedyIf the tenant absolutely refuses entry, the landlord may not enter by force or threat of force. If the lease includes a sentence that the tenant must comply with all laws, the refusal of entry by the tenant amounts to a violation of the lease and law, justifying a three-day notice and subsequent eviction. With a month-to-month tenancy the landlord may simply give a 30-day notice. It is to everyoneandamp;#8217;s advantage to spell out the rules of entry in a lease, but the Civil Code applies even without a writing. Most of the time tenants have no objection to an entry as long as they are given some advance notice.Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno. He is a mediator and was the Governorandamp;#8217;s appointee to the Fair Political Practices Commission and McPherson Commission, both involving election law and the Political Reform Act. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the firmandamp;#8217;s website, http://www.portersimon.com.
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