Is Your Landlord Trespassing? Learn Your Rights as a Renter

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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.

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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 13 states have specific statutes and regulations regarding when a landlord can enter the premises, for what purpose, and how much notice they must give you (usually between 24 and 48 hours).1

The following states do not have statutes limiting entry:2

  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

In all states, a landlord can enter the property in an emergency without notice or permission.3 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 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.1 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. But because Arizona law requires the landlord give two days’ notice, this portion of the lease would not be legal or enforceable.2

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.

Right to quiet enjoyment

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If you think your rights have been violated, a court will refer to your implied right to quiet enjoyment—a concept of common law that "refers to the right of an occupant of real property, particularly of a residence, to enjoy and use premises in peace and without interference," according to USLegal.

Even if it is not in your lease or rental agreement, a court will still recognize this right.

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 they don't, they are in violation of your lease, oral or written.5

Before you buy a security camera to document possible trespassing and violation of your right to quiet enjoyment, be sure to read these FAQs:

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. For leases that last less than a year, oral leases are considered acceptable.6 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.

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.

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Sources

  1. Ann O. Connell, NOLO, "State Laws on Landlord's Access to Rental Property," January 2022. Accessed February 28, 2023.
  2. American Apartment Owners Association, "Landlord Tenant Laws." Accessed February 28, 2023.
  3. Jeffrey Johnson, Free Advice Legal, "Landlord and Tenant Rights and Obligations" July 2021. Accessed February 28, 2023.
  4. USLegal, "Quiet Enjoyment Law and Legal Definition." Accessed February 28, 2023.
  5. California Legislative Information, "Civil Code CIV," 2018. November 16, 2021.
  6. FindLaw Team, FindLaw, "What Contracts are Required to Be in Writing?" January 2018. Accessed February 28, 2023.
Cathy Habas
Written by
Cathy Habas
With over eight years of experience as a content writer, Cathy has a knack for untangling complex information. Her natural curiosity and ability to empathize help Cathy offer insightful, friendly advice. She believes in empowering readers who may not feel confident about a purchase, project, or topic. Cathy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Indiana University Southeast and began her professional writing career immediately after graduation. She is a certified Safe Sleep Ambassador and has contributed to sites like Safety.com, Reviews.com, Hunker, and Thumbtack. Cathy’s pride and joy is her Appaloosa “Chacos.” She also likes to crochet while watching stand-up comedy specials on Netflix.

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