When Can My Landlord Enter My Apartment?
High property values and a hot rental market have combined to create an army of deficient landlords across Southern California. Many entrepreneurs have rushed into the rental game without proper knowledge and training, leading to a myriad of issues for both landlords and tenants alike. Therefore, it is important that California renters understand and enforce their rights as tenants.
When can a California landlord enter my rental unit?
- There is an emergency.
- When the tenant has moved out or abandoned the premises.
- To make necessary or agreed repairs or improvements.
- To show the unit to prospective tenants, purchasers, or lenders, allow contractor access to perform work, or to conduct a move-out inspection.
- A court order permits the landlord to enter.
- To inspect the installation of any waterbeds to ensure compliance with local regulations.
Doesn’t my landlord need to provide notice before entering my rental unit?
In California, a landlord (or the landlord’s agent) must give the tenant reasonable advanced written notice before entering the unit. The written notice should give the date, estimated time, and purpose for the entry. Entry should be made only during normal business hours, between 8a.m. and 5p.m. on weekdays.
However, under the following circumstances, advanced notice is NOT required:
- To respond to an emergency.
- When the tenant has moved out or abandoned the rental unit.
- When the tenant is present and consents to the entry, at that time.
- When the landlord and tenant have agreed, orally or in writing, that the landlord may enter to make repairs or supply services.
How can my landlord provide notice for entry?
California law gives landlords several options for providing tenants with written notice of the pending entry. The landlord (or the landlord’s agent) may:
- Deliver the notice to the tenant personally.
- Leave the notice with a person of suitable age and ability at the rental unit.
- Leave the notice on, near, or under the unit’s entry door, so that it is likely to be found.
- Mail the notice to the tenant.
California law generally provides that 24 hours advanced notice is reasonable under most circumstances. For notices mailed to a tenant, mailing at least six (6) days before the entry is considered reasonable. Tenants can, however, always consent to a shorter notice period or to entry outside of normal business hours.
What if I feel my landlord is harassing me?
Some landlords do understand California rental laws, and find ways to abuse the system in order to influence whether tenants stick around. Under California law, a landlord cannot abuse the legal right of access, or use the right of access to harass tenants. Repeated entry which disturbs tenants may be considered harassment, depending on the circumstances. In addition, landlords are prohibited from intentionally violating the right of access to influence tenants to vacate or abandon a unit. The law provides special damages for tenants affected by such actions, discussed below.
What if my landlord is not following California law?
If you believe that your landlord is violating California landlord-tenant law, it is important to voice your concerns as soon as possible. Many landlords simply do not understand their obligations and will correct their actions immediately. Other landlords, however, will either feign obliviousness or simply do not care.
When communicating with your landlord, avoid oral communication, which can be difficult to prove in court. Instead, opt for written communication so that you can offer a judge proof of your attempts to rectify the situation in good faith. Save copies of any correspondence to use as evidence in the future, if needed. If your landlord continues to ignore your requests, the next step is to seek help from the courts.
Is it really worth taking my landlord to court?
Tenants can recover damages against their landlord if the tenant has evidence of the landlord’s violation and subsequent refusal to correct it. If the landlord’s violation was aimed at influencing the tenant to leave the unit, the tenant can be awarded up to $2,000 in damages, per violation. Whether a tenant chooses to pursue an action in Small Claims Court or Civil Court will depend on the landlord’s violations and the amount at stake. However, any California judge can award special damages for wrongfully influencing a tenant to vacate.
For small controversies with little money at stake, Small Claims offers a convenient option to settle the dispute quickly, with minimal need for an attorney. For larger, more complex issues, it is important to consult with a qualified landlord-tenant attorney to discuss your rights and legal options. Each case will depend on its specific facts and an experienced attorney can help to clarify your specific situation. Civil cases in California can take years to conclude so it is important to understand your options from the start. Contact our office or a local attorney today for more information about your options or to discuss your legal rights.
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