Entering Your Rental Property – Landlord’s Rights

After a rental property owner has signed a rental agreement with a tenant and provided them with the keys, the tenant is entitled to privacy within their rented space. To protect tenants’ privacy, there are legal restrictions on how frequently and under what circumstances owners and property managers may enter a tenant’s occupied rental unit.

When can the landlord enter rental property?

The landlord, owner, contractor or any employee of the landlord may enter the rental property for the following reasons:

  • In case of emergency
  • To make agreed upon repairs, alterations or improvements to the rental unit.
  • To show the property to prospective tenants, purchasers, workers or contractors.
  • To inspect the rental unit
  • To inspect, repair and or provide maintenance to smoke detectors.
  • To inspect balconies or decks to comply with health & safety codes.
  • To install, inspect or maintain carbon monoxide detectors.
  • To repair areas where mold may be present.
  • To inspect waterbeds to ensure they meet installation codes.
  • To install, inspect or maintain water plumbing fixtures.

Unless there is an emergency or the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the rental property, the owner is only permitted to enter the unit during regular business hours. If the owner needs to enter the unit outside of normal business hours, they must obtain the tenant’s consent. However, for the sole purpose of open houses, Sunday is recognized as a business day.

Can the landlord inspect their rental property?

Under California law, landlords are not permitted to enter rental premises solely for the purpose of conducting inspections, even if such inspections are mandated by the landlord’s liability insurance policy. The Civil Code Section 1954 specifies the reasons for which a landlord may enter the rental unit, and “general inspections” is not one of them. Moreover, Civil Code Section 1953 prohibits any lease agreement in which a tenant waives or modifies their rights or remedies under Section 1954. Thus, if a landlord wishes to conduct an inspection, they must either negotiate it with the tenant or justify it based on one of the authorized reasons for entry listed in the law.

Deliberately violating the entry provisions mentioned above can be regarded as disrupting a tenant’s right to peaceful enjoyment of the rented property. If a tenant succeeds in a civil lawsuit, which includes a case filed in small claims court, to uphold their rights under this law, they may be awarded a civil penalty of up to $2,000 for each instance of violation.

What is a notice to enter a dwelling?

To enter a tenant’s rental unit, the owner must provide a written notice to the resident that includes the entry date, approximate time, and reason for the visit. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, a 24-hour written notice from the owner to the resident(s) is considered reasonable, subject to specific exceptions. 

The owner may provide the written notice by either 

  • personally delivering it to the tenant
  • leaving it with someone of suitable age at the property, or 
  • placing it on, near, or under the usual entry door. 

Alternatively, if the notice is mailed to the resident, it must be sent at least six days prior to the intended entry.

In compliance with subdivision (f) of Section 1950.5 of the California Civil Code, the owner is required to give a written notice of 48 hours to the tenant before conducting an initial inspection of the unit, provided it is done before the tenant vacates the premises. Nevertheless, the notice requirement can be waived by the owner and the resident, but the waiver must be documented in writing.

In order to exhibit a rental unit to potential or current buyers, an owner or agent may give a resident a verbal notice of entry. However, this notice is only permissible if the resident has received a written notice from the owner or agent within 120 days before the verbal notice. If there is no evidence to the contrary, a 24-hour notice is considered reasonable. The written notice must inform the resident that the property is on the market and that the owner or agent may contact them to show the unit. When entering the unit, the owner or agent must leave written documentation of the entry.

The landlord isn’t required to provide a written notice in the following circumstances:

  • In case of an emergency.
  • If the tenant is home at the time and allows the landlord to enter.
  • If the property has been abandoned.
  • If there is an oral agreement for the landlord or personnel to enter.

In the event that a resident declines entry to the owner, even if adequate notice has been given, the owner should not enter. If faced with this situation, the owner may issue a Three-day Notice to Perform Conditions or Quit as the next appropriate course of action. The just cause requirements to terminate a tenancy are discussed below.

Oral agreements

The owner and resident can come to a verbal agreement allowing the owner to enter the unit to carry out repairs or provide services. The agreement should specify the date and approximate time of entry, which must be within a week of the verbal agreement. If the entry is planned beyond this timeframe, the owner must issue a written notice to the resident before entry or contact them again to obtain another verbal agreement before proceeding with entry.

Oral agreements recommendations for landlords

If a resident makes a verbal request for an owner or manager to enter the unit to carry out repairs, it is advisable to take the following steps:

Request that the resident submit their maintenance request in writing. Although not mandated by law, it is strongly recommended for the owner or manager’s protection. The owner may supply service request forms to residents at the start of their tenancy or have them readily available at the rental office.

To keep an accurate record of a resident’s verbal maintenance requests, the owner should fill out a maintenance request form. This form should contain essential information such as the date and time of the request, the resident’s name and address, and the details of the issue. The name of the employee who received the verbal request must also be included in the documentation. If feasible, the owner or employee should furnish a copy of the request to the resident. Additionally, the owner should confirm with the resident whether they authorize the owner or maintenance personnel to enter the unit if no one is available. This information must also be indicated on the form.

Maintenance workers must knock before entering to ascertain if the resident is present. If the resident declines to permit entry when maintenance personnel arrive, the personnel must not enter. The owner must arrange for a new date and time and provide the resident with appropriate notice to enter.

While inside the unit, especially if the resident is not present, maintenance personnel should display a “doorknob hanger” or other notice indicating their presence. The same form can be utilized when the maintenance request is finished – leave it inside the unit to inform the resident that maintenance work was conducted.

After the repair has been executed, the owner or manager must verify with the resident that the repair has been completed. If the repair was not finished, the owner should explain the reason to the resident and arrange another appointment to finish the repair. A notice to enter for future maintenance requests should be provided.

Landlord’s Right to entry under Just Cause

Numerous local just cause ordinances state that denying the owner access to the rental unit is sufficient cause to terminate the tenancy. Owners who want to terminate a tenancy on these grounds must collaborate with a local landlord-tenant attorney to ensure that they comply with the specific notice requirements of the local ordinance.

Starting January 1, 2020, AB 1482 will introduce rent caps and just cause eviction requirements for numerous residential rental properties in California. The term “just cause” in AB 1482 comprises both “at-fault just cause” and “no-fault just cause.” AB 1482 describes “at-fault just cause” to incorporate a tenant’s denial of an owner’s authorized entry into the residential property under certain law provisions that give a right of entry. If a resident is protected by AB 1482’s just cause clause and denies entry despite proper notice under these provisions, the landlord may want to consider serving Three-Day Notice to Perform Conditions and/or Covenants or Quit Failure to Provide Access. However, we suggest that landlords seek advice from an attorney before pursuing termination under AB 1482 while courts adjust to this new legislation.