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A Right To Privacy: When Can You Enter A Tenant’s Apartment?

As a landlord or property manager, you likely find yourself inside your tenant’s home at least a few times a year. There are annual inspections and the occasional maintenance call. Maybe you’ve promised to make an upgrade, like installing a new stove, or you want to check the smoke detectors. Such visits are part of the job of management, but they also represent a limited set of circumstances: times when you can legally – and reasonably – enter your tenant’s apartment..,

Most states require landlords to give a minimum of 24 hours’ notice. However, this can differ depending on your state and circumstances.

For instance, in the state of Washington landlords must give 48 hours’ notice to enter a tenant’s unit. But if they are showing the unit to a prospective tenant or buyer, they only have to provide 24 hours’ notice

In this post, we’ll discuss what an entry notice is and four common scenarios when landlords can enter their tenants’ living space. We’ll also touch on what landlords can do to enter a tenant’s unit in cases of emergency.

What is a Notice of Entry?

A notice of entry is a written notice a landlord uses to inform a tenant that they will be entering the unit in the near future. Sometimes a notice of entry is also known as a landlord’s Notice to Enter.

A notice of entry typically includes:

The landlord’s contact information

The date and time the landlord wishes to enter

The address of the home or unit in question

The reason the landlord is entering the property

An estimation for how long they expect to remain in the unit

Tenants have an expectation (and a right) to not have their landlord barge in unannounced. Landlords should always provide tenants with an entry notice. Doing so ensures that they don’t violate the tenant’s rights to privacy and quiet enjoyment.

Scenario #1: For an Inspection

When new tenants move in and old tenants move out, landlords need to access the unit to document the condition of the property. Documenting a property’s condition typically involves completing a formal Rental Inspection Report.

For a move-in inspection, the landlord will often schedule the date and time when the tenant signs the lease. The purpose of this inspection is to document the condition of the property when a new tenant takes possession. Often, the inspection occurs before the tenant has moved all of their belongings in, but sometimes it occurs shortly afterwards. Landlords tend to avoid doing move-in inspections after the new tenant has moved in. Once the tenant has moved in, there’s no way of knowing if damage has occurred during the move.

For a move-out inspection, the landlord will usually schedule the inspection after the tenant has moved their belongings out of the unit. This way, the tenant can take responsibility for any damage that occurs during the move-out process. The results of the inspection will determine if the tenant has caused any damage over the course of their lease. The inspection can then determine how much of the security deposit the tenant receives back.

Scenario #2: To Make Repairs or Upgrades to the Property

When something needs repair in a rental property (such as a malfunctioning appliance or a broken window), tenants will typically send a repair notice to their landlord to inform them.

It’s up to the landlord to sort out how the repairs are dealt with, such as calling in a repair person and scheduling consultations or repair times. A landlord should then serve the tenant a Notice to Enter to inspect the damages or issues in the unit. If the landlord is entering with a contractor (such as a plumber or electrician), they should also include that information in the notice.

Sometimes a landlord might have to enter the property more than once on separate occasions. For example, they may enter once to inspect damages and a second time with a repair person. in this circumstance, they’ll either serve the tenant two separate entry notices or mention the two separate entry times on one notice.

Scenario #3: Pest Control Services

Similar to the repair situation mentioned above, if a tenant requires pest control services, they should inform their landlord. Many property management companies have a reporting system in place for maintenance issues like this. In cases of emergency (like when a unit is infested with bed bugs), an email or phone call will often suffice for landlords and property managers.

Once the landlord is notified, they will arrange for a pest control professional to come in and fumigate. When the appointment is scheduled, the landlord will submit a Notice to Enter including the date and time to the tenant.

Adequate notice is especially important in cases of pest control. Often, tenants will have to make arrangements to be out of their unit for an extended period of time. In the case of fumigation, they might also need to prepare their unit. Tenants are usually asked to bag up their food and other belongings to avoid contamination from the fumigation chemicals.

Scenario #4: To Show the Property to Potential Tenants

When a tenant chooses not to renew their lease, the landlord has to start the process of finding a new renter. This process includes showing the unit to potential tenants. Sometimes the viewings will occur before the current tenant has moved out.

In this case, the landlord will schedule viewings and inform the current tenant of the dates and times with an official notice. Ideally, the landlord will schedule the viewings at a time that’s convenient for the current tenant. Preferably, landlords should schedule viewings when tenants aren’t home.

In Case of Emergency

One of the only instances when a landlord doesn’t need to give official notice to enter a rental unit is in the case of an emergency. For instance, if a pipe burst in an apartment, the landlord has reasonable cause to enter the unit.

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