One of the primary reasons landlords seek to enter a unit is to make repairs or alterations to the unit. A landlord may enter for this purpose. The law expressly authorizes a landlord to enter a unit to "make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or to exhibit the dwelling unit to . . . workmen or contractors. . ."
Notice to Enter Must be Given
Even if a landlord intends to enter for this purpose, the landlord cannot simply enter the unit to make the repairs. The landlord must typically give the tenant prior written notice to enter. A proper written notice includes the following information: the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry.
The notice to enter must also be properly delivered to the tenant. Proper delivery includes personally delivering it to the tenant, leaving it with a person of suitable age at the premises, or posting it on, or slipping it under, the entry door. The notice must be delivered at least 24 hours before the intended entry. Alternatively, proper delivery includes mailing it to the tenant at least six days before the intended entry.
Can Notice be Given by Email?
With today's technology, many landlords and tenants communicate by E-mail or other electronic means. It would be logical conclude that notice given by such means would be sufficient. Unfortunately, the law does not yet contemplate such communications as proper methods of service. Accordingly, to be safe the landlord should stick to the delivery methods discussed above.
Tenant Agreement to Enter
Notwithstanding the written notice requirements, the law does authorize a tenant and a landlord to agree orally to an entry "to make agreed repairs or supply agreed services." Nevertheless, a landlord is still encouraged to confirm such an oral agreement in writing to the tenant to prevent the tenant from later denying the agreement and claiming improper notice.
Normal Business Hours
The entry may only be made during normal business hours unless the tenant gives consent to enter during non-normal business hours. The law does not define "normal business hours." Landlord and tenant advocates may differ on this definition. For instance, Tenants' advocates may argue that normal business hours are limited to typical work hours, i.e. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. On the other hand, Landlord advocates may argue that normal business hours are much broader, and even include Saturday and Sunday, because it is common for contractors and workers to work during these times.
To address this issue, the landlord should include a definition of normal business hours in the written rental agreement. If no such definition exists, then the landlord should be cognizant of the differing opinions and use his/her best judgment when giving notice to enter.
To Exhibit the Unit to Prospective Purchasers/Tenants
When a landlord intends to sell the property, entry to a unit is often needed to show it to prospective purchasers. Similarly, when a landlord seeks to rent a unit to replace a departing tenant, entry is often needed to show it to prospective tenants. A landlord may enter for this purpose. The law expressly authorizes a landlord to enter a unit to "exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, [and] tenants . . ."
To enter for this purpose, the landlord must typically follow the same notice procedures as discussed above. However, when the purpose of the entry is to "exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers," oral notice to enter may be given under the following circumstances: the oral notice is given at least 24 hours prior to the entry and within 120 days of a written notice stating that the property is for sale and that the landlord or landlord's agent may orally contact the tenant for this purpose.
In Case of Emergency
A landlord may enter a unit without any advance notice in case of an emergency. Examples of emergencies may include: fire, burst pipes, injury to occupant requiring medical attention, etc.
To Conduct a Pre-Moveout Inspection
After notification of either party's intent to terminate the tenancy, the tenant has the right to request a pre-moveout inspection of the unit. If an inspection is requested, then the landlord must enter to inspect the unit. In such case, the landlord must give at least 48 hours advance written notice of the date and time of the inspection. The tenant and landlord can forgo the 48-hour prior written notice by both signing a written waiver.
When the Tenant has Surrendered or Abandoned the Unit
Of course, when a tenant vacates and surrenders possession of the unit, the landlord may enter the unit. Similarly, when a tenant abandons a unit, the landlord may enter and reclaim the unit. It is important to note that the landlord must comply with strict statutory notice procedures regarding abandonment before a unit is legally abandoned.
Pursuant to Court Order
A Court may issue an order allowing entry to a unit. Such an order may be necessary in connection with a lawsuit involving the property or a lawsuit between the landlord and tenant. If such an order is issued, then the tenant must comply or face possible sanctions.
No notice is required if the tenant is present and consents to the entry at the time of entry. There is nothing to prevent a landlord from entering when invited by the tenant.
A landlord has many rights to enter a dwelling unit. The landlord may not abuse these rights or use them to harass the tenant. So long as the landlord properly exercises these rights, the tenant typically cannot legally prevent entry.
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