Is Your Landlord Trespassing? Learn Your Rights as a Renter

Written by | Updated October 2, 2014

When you sign a lease to rent a home or apartment, you’re agreeing to a number of conditions. Most of the terms found in a lease are designed to protect the landlord, but what about your rights as a renter?

Luckily, there are laws in each state that protect your privacy as a renter, even if the terms aren’t specified in a written lease.

Landlords and Trespassing

The landlord may own the property, but that doesn’t give him or her carte blanche to come and go in your place at will. All but 16 states have specific statutes and regulations regarding when a landlord can enter the premises, for what purpose, and how much notice he or she must give you.

In all states, a landlord can enter the property without notice or permission if there is an emergency. For example, if a burst pipe in your apartment is leaking into the unit downstairs, your landlord may enter or send someone from the maintenance crew to enter your home if you’re not there.

Even if your landlord gives you notice, he or she must have a good reason to enter the property. In most cases, your landlord can only enter your home:

  • In an emergency
  • To make repairs
  • To show the property to prospective tenants if you’re ending your lease
  • To inspect for safety issues or to ensure the property meets building safety codes

Your Lease and Privacy

Most leases will have an entry provision that details when the landlord can enter the property. However, just because something is stated in the lease doesn’t mean it’s legally binding. Even though a lease is a legal document, the conditions stated in it still have to follow the law. For example, a lease for a home in Arizona may say the landlord can enter the property at any time without notice. Because Arizona law requires the landlord give two days’ notice, this portion of the lease would not be legal or enforceable.

If your lease doesn’t have an entry provision or mention anything about when the landlord can enter, your state’s privacy laws still apply. If you think your rights have been violated, a court will refer to your implied right to quiet enjoyment. Even if it is not in your lease or rental agreement, a court will still recognize this right, which includes the right to peace and quiet, basic services, and reasonable privacy.

Part of this covenant protects your privacy as outlined in your state’s laws. For example, in California, the law states that a landlord must provide written notice before entering your property. If he doesn’t, he is in violation of your lease, oral or written.

What if You Don’t Have a Lease?

If you don’t have a written lease, that doesn’t mean your rights go out the window. In many cases, paying a security deposit and paying rent on a timely basis each month is enough to prove that you have an oral agreement.  This type of agreement holds as much weight in a courtroom as a written agreement.

It’s always smart to make sure you get a signed contract when entering into any rental agreement. The contract should spell out the exact terms of the lease, including landlord’s right to entry. Before signing any lease, make sure the entry provisions are in accordance with state laws.

If you’ve already signed a lease and it doesn’t mention privacy laws, look up the laws in your state and request a revised lease agreement from your landlord. This will help protect your rights to privacy and clarify any issues that may arise.

Written by Hillary Johnston

A proud mother of four, Hillary is passionate about safety education. She holds a degree in Public Health and Disaster Management. Learn more

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  • Concerned Tax Payer

    Most Law Enforcement Officers are ignorant when it comes to Landlord/Tenant Laws. Instead of actually researching the law, its easier for them to just dismiss it as a civil matter. We have a Landlord who has trespassed on people’s leased lots (with no emergency situations and no prior notice given to the tenant) and when the tenant yells at him to get off their lot, he refuses to leave until after the police are called. The police arrive and do nothing, claiming that he has the right to be on HIS own property, which he does not. He gave up that right when the tenant leased property. We’ve had an on going issue in our manufactured housing park whereas the Landlord has been intentionally plowing ALL the snow in the roadway into the driveways of me and my neighbor just to harass us. Employees travel at a high rate of speed, in the opposite lane, down a hill and blind curve while plowing. We are very concerned he is going to hurt someone, but when it was reported to the local police, they claim its private property and there is nothing they can do. It is not a gated community, anyone can drive/walk in to the Park. I have to wonder why the police refuse to warn him about this behavior. Can you imagine if your loved one gets struck by a snowplow that is in the opposite side of the road and is seriously injured, and you discovered that a complaint about this was made to the police and they failed to get involved because its “private property” and this could have been avoided?? Hopefully, we will not have to find out! How hard is it to notify the Landlord that they received a complaint about this behavior and tell him to stop, especially when there is a community safety concern?

    • Short & Sweet

      Video tape it all.