Know the laws and set good policies
Landlord entry into rentals can cause friction with tenants, making it critical to know local laws and recommended practice before entering, whether for a periodic inspection, needed repairs or other business.
Tenants sometimes complain that landlords or their agents come in too frequently, want to show the home for hours at a time and fail to give advanced notice or leave a note afterward. And landlords can struggle with tenants who deny entry, even for repairs or other legitimate reasons.
Virginia is one of many states that have laws governing how landlords should handle the issue. Tenants cannot unreasonably keep a landlord from entering for inspections, repairs, decorating or showing the unit to potential tenants, buyers or contractors, and landlords must give 24 hours notice for routine business, according to the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act. No notice is required if the tenant requests maintenance, and landlords may enter without consent in an emergency.
The Virginia law also warns that landlords cannot abuse the right of access or use it to harass the tenant.
D.C. does not have statutes, but localities and legal experts typically recommend following similar guidelines to ensure respect for the tenant’s home and privacy. Entering a property at any time for any reason can violate a tenant’s privacy and may be considered trespassing.
Unless it is an emergency, landlords should give 24-hours notice or more, if possible, before entering, said Emilie Fairbanks, a landlord-tenant attorney practicing in D.C. Landlords may drop written notice under the tenant’s door or, if there’s a good relationship, inform tenants by text or e-mail, she said.
If tenants request a repair, it is important for a landlord to assess the situation quickly, and typically the tenant wants them to come take care of it. But landlords should still notify tenants when they plan to come, including informing them if a contractor has given a window of time to do the work, Fairbanks said.
Fairbanks and other experts suggest listing in the lease the policies for entering the rental, including reasons for entry, how the landlord should give notice and reasonable hours when entry can occur. Having the rules spelled out leaves less room for arguments later, Fairbanks said.
Landlords also should remind tenants of entry policies when they move in, keep written records of all their requests to enter, and try to arrange repairs at mutually agreeable times, according to Every Landlord’s Legal Guide, by Marcia Stewart, Ralph Warner and Janet Portman.
This article is not legal advice.
– By Jill S. Gross