Landlord’s right to enter another’s space

A landlord’s or property manager’s right to enter a residential or commercial unit during the period of the tenant’s occupancy is severely limited. The possessory rights to exclusively occupy the property have been conveyed to the tenant and are no longer held by the landlord, until a reversion of possession occurs on termination of the tenancy.

A residential landlord may enter the tenant’s dwelling under limited circumstances during the term of the rental or lease agreement, but only:

  • in an emergency;
  • to make repairs, alterations, improvements or supply services that are either necessary or previously approved by the tenant;
  • to complete a pre-expiration inspection for deficiencies which may result in a deduction from the tenant’s security deposit;
  • to show the unit to prospective buyers, prospective tenants, lenders, repairmen or contractors;
  • when the tenant has vacated the premises and their right to occupy has been terminated by surrender or abandonment; or
  • under a court order allowing entry. [Calif. Civil Code §1954]

A landlord or property manager’s entry into a tenant’s unit out of concern for the safety of the property or other tenants constitutes an emergency. The property manager may properly enter the unit without prior notice and without the tenant’s knowledge and permission for the limited purpose of dealing with the emergency. [People v. Plane (1969) 274 CA2d 1]

Notice of entry for repairs

Before a residential landlord or property manager may proceed with any maintenance or services which require entry into a tenant’s unit, the tenant is given a written notice of the landlord’s intent to enter. Maintenance includes all routine or non-emergency repairs, decorations, alterations, improvements, replacements or services, whether or not agreed to by the tenant. [CC §1954; see RPI Form 567]

A property manager or landlord uses the Notice of Intent to Enter Dwelling published by Realty Publications, Inc. (RPI) when maintenance services need to be performed on an occupied unit. [See RPI Form 567]

The written notice gives the tenant a reasonable time period to prepare for entry. A 24-hour notice is considered reasonable, unless extenuating circumstances known to the landlord or their property managers, such as the tenant’s vacation or business trip, indicate the tenant needs more time to receive the notice and prepare for the entry. [CC §1954(d)(1)]

Service of a 24-hour notice of entry in advance of the entry is accomplished by any one of the following methods:

  • personally handing a written notice to the tenant;
  • handing the notice to an occupant of the unit who is of suitable age and discretion to relay the notice to the tenant; or
  • posting the notice on, near or under the primary entry door so it will be discovered by the tenant. [CC §1954(d)(1); see RPI Form 567]

Mailed notice of entry

If not delivered in person, the notice of entry may be mailed. However, at least six calendar days need to pass after mailing before the landlord or property manager may schedule the intended entry to occur. [CC §1954(d)(1)]

A notice is sufficient to request entry during normal business hours, emergencies excepted. However, to request entry after business hours, the tenant’s consent needs to be obtained “at the time of entry.”

The notice of entry procedures may not be used to harass a tenant in a retaliatory or abusive manner. [CC §1954(c)]

Notice of temporary displacement

A tenant in a community apartment project or a homeowner in a common interest development (CID) is to receive at least 15 days but no more than 30 days written notice when the management or homeowners’ association (HOA) needs the occupant to vacate the project to treat the premises for termites. Condominium projects and planned unit developments are examples of CIDs. [CC §4785(b)]

However, when a landlord needs to temporarily displace a tenant who is occupying a unit not in a CID, discretion is needed to avoid violation of the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment. [CC §1940.2(a)]

Mutually agreed-to terms need to be set out in writing by the landlord and tenant when the landlord needs to repair or fumigate a property requiring temporary displacement. Unless otherwise agreed to, the landlord is responsible for the tenant’s costs of temporarily relocating, including:

  • hotel costs;
  • pet boarding;
  • meals when a kitchen at the replacement accommodation is not provided; and
  • any other cost and expense incurred due to the displacement.

A property manager or landlord uses the Notice of Temporary Displacement published by RPI when invasive repairs or fumigation work require the temporary move-out of a tenant. It allows the property manager or landlord to notify the tenant of the conditions for the temporary displacement. [See RPI Form 588]

This notice sets forth:

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This article was originally published April 2016 and has been updated.