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When can a landlord enter your unit?

Understanding the nuances behind your right to your own space

The main issue when concerning your landlord entering your home is whether or not they have given you notice, and whether consent has been established, except for in emergency situations.

Tenants are given many rights over the units they rent, and any kind of property manager or landlord cannot simply enter the premises at any time. This piece will help clarify and help you be aware of when and where landlords may enter your unit.

Most codes uphold the same basic tenets: that in cases outside of emergency and when it isn’t agreed upon for issues like repairs, the landlord must give some kind of written notice that makes their purpose clear. Outside emergency or consent (CCC § 1954), the landlord can only enter with a court order or if the tenant has already surrendered the unit on their own. Cal. Civ. Code § 1954 governs most of the rules and processes involved in this situation and here we’ll go into more of the details it involves.

Some cases that may come up where the landlord does have rights but for which they must still give “reasonable” (24 hours or more) notice. These kinds of cases are usually for repairs, to show the unit to other possible tenants/mortgagees or to contractors/workers, or for pre-move out evaluation of damage. The protocol on these notices is that it has to include the date, time and purpose for entry.

How landlord must initiate

The law states that the notice should be delivered to the tenant, left with someone of a suitable age and discretion at the unit, or left at an easily identifiable place at the entryway of the unit. If mailed, it must be postmarked at least 6 days before entry. Email is only allowed for when the landlord wants to enter to show it for sale or new tenancy.

Date & Time Guidelines

Regarding the time rules the landlord must obey, they can only come during normal business hours, meaning Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. These hours include the weekend as well for showings to new prospects. There is some vagueness, but the law essentially wants renters and landlords to both accommodate each other’s needs within reasonable means, and if something unusual is required up for it to be agreed upon with the tenant (Cal. App. 4th 278, 286 2013). The court essentially extends and understands the reasonable ability the landlord should have to sell the unit, while also allowing for the tenants’ rights to “quiet enjoyment”.

Purpose For Entry Defined

When it comes to landlords entering for repairs there is also some leniency for the tenant to decide, because in non necessary repairs (such as those for safety or maintaining codes) the tenant can make some judgment on its need. They however must write a letter to the landlord stating the specific repairs that they wish not be done.

In instances of inspection, the landlord cannot simply enter for any reason under the banner of inspection, this would be illegal. The only way the landlord can come for inspections is when they tell the tenant specifically what they are inspecting and give that in a written notice. Additionally, the inspection being conducted must be legally sound and legitimate, or else the tenant has the right to refuse.

The landlord is expected to maintain habitability standards so things that would be 'necessary’ would include things like: plumbing, electrical wiring, and smoke detectors. Any written notice, as stated above, must still maintain the 24-hour notice standard. Cal. Civ. Code § 1950.5(f)(1) on this topic additionally states that inspections are allowed for the landlord upon move in and move out.

Like stated above, the landlord does have significant leeway for entering to re-sell. Once that initial written notice is given to the tenant, for the next 120 days all subsequent notices to enter the unit may take place on phone or in person. The twenty-four hours notice prior to the entry date and time still applies for in-person notice. When the landlord/prospective buyers do come in they must legally also give notice to the tenant that they were there. Lock boxes aren’t legally allowed for the landlord to request because this would upend the protections of privacy as stated above that the tenant should enjoy. You should also contact an attorney if you feel your landlord has scheduled an unreasonable number of people to come visit to see your unit.

The Only Real Exception: Emergency

The only time a landlord can really enter without the 24 notice is in a state of emergency where the health or safety of people in the unit or neighboring ones are at risk Cal. Civ. Code § 1954(e)(1). Sometimes landlords might use emergency as an excuse to break the code, but the courts will decide upon and know which something is actually an emergency (for example, flooding versus aesthetic damage).

The Other: Abandonment

According to Cal. Civ. Code § 1954(e)(3) the landlord may enter your unit when it is abandoned or surrendered. Occasionally, a tenant will not give notice to the landlord prior to moving out. If you haven’t paid rent for 14 days the landlord can serve you a Notice of Belief of Abandonment, that must be delivered through first class mail. The notice should include that the lease has been terminated and must receive a response from the tenant before entering the unit. The notice technically isn’t required by law but is a good practice and ensures the landlord is covered if there was a mistake.

If the landlord does notify you reasonably, and you do not comply, they do have the right to get a court order to enter your unit. Usually in these cases the landlord will deliver you a Three-Day Notice to Cure or Quit. If you still don’t comply the landlord can file an unlawful detainer. Once this lawsuit is filed, the owner may then apply for a court order allowing entry into the unit.

Can a tenant refuse a landlord entry?

The tenant cannot continually deny the landlord access if it is a reasonable and legal entry, with the notice. However, the landlord cannot abuse that right to harass you, as guaranteed by Cal. Civ. Code § 1954(c). The court will judge the merits of when it was harassment or not, again provided by the tenant’s right to “quiet enjoyment”, protected by Cal. Civ. Code § 1927. Another guarantee tenants have, is that it is illegal for landlords to harass their tenants, and Cal. Civ. Code § 1940.2 offers that right.

Any violation of these laws would be trespassing and you have the right to file a claim regarding specifically which laws the landlord breached. You should contact an attorney if you feel you have a case on these matters, and our firm provides the resources that might help you.

Aziz Yellin LLP

(408) 600-0726

This article is merely informational and is not intended to be used as legal advice. Use of any information from this article is for general information only and does not represent personal legal or tax advice, either express or implied. Readers are encouraged to consult Aziz Legal, or another attorney, for any specific legal matters.


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