Jim Porter: When may landlords enter your residence? (opinion)
One of the common areas of friction between residential landlords and tenants is when the landlord may enter the house. Some tenants are comfortable with landlord visits, others not so much. At times, it is necessary to look at the law. Now there’s a novel idea.
The Civil Code allows the landlord to enter the tenant’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 solely for the purpose of inspection. Nor does the law allow entry “for a friendly visit.” Tenants may say, “No.”
However, month to month tenants should think twice about doing so. Landlords should fashion any desired entry to meet one of the six code-authorized reasons.
Except in the case of an emergency, a landlord must give a tenant “reasonable” notice in writing before entering. 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. Twenty-Four hours is presumed to be reasonable.
The notice may be mailed to the tenant, but in that case, at least six days prior to the intended entry to be presumed reasonable notice.
Property for Sale
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 — like a business card — inside the unit.
Landlord and tenant may verbally agree to an entry to make repairs. No notice is required to be given to respond to an emergency.
Normal Business Hours
Except in an emergency or when the tenant has consented, or when the tenant has abandoned the property, the landlord may enter the premises only during “normal business hours,” which is not defined by law but is generally understood to be between 8 AM and 5 or 6 PM, Monday through Friday. It is a good practice to define “normal business hours” in a lease.
Weekend Showings Allowed
Under the recent case of Dromy v Lukovsky, the Court of Appeal determined that in Santa Monica where properties for sale are frequently shown on weekends, “normal business hours” includes weekend viewings.
In our resort area, the tenant should allow time on weekends for the landlord’s agent to show the property to prospective buyers.
If 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 3-day notice and subsequent eviction if access is not granted.
With a month-to-month tenancy it may be easier for the landlord to give a 30-day or 60-day notice. Cause is not required. It is to everyone’s advantage to spell out the rules of entry in a lease, but the Civil Code applies in the absence of a writing.
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Kelley R. Carroll, a certified specialist, handles estate planning and will contests in our office with the help of our firm’s litigation department. I do not handle any, be forewarned.