Even Dracula Had to Have an Invite Before He Could Enter
In vampire lore it is said that a vampire had to have an invitation before it could enter one’s dwelling. What about landlords? How many times have you heard your landlord say, “This is my property and I can come in whenever I want?” Jeez, if you’re going to suck my blood, at least be charming about it.
In California, the landlord does not have to have an invitation, but he does have to give a 24-hour written notice to enter. The notice has to specify the date, the time (normal business hours only) and reason he wants to enter. The legal reasons are narrow in scope.
Under old common-law doctrines, when the parties enter into a rental agreement, the landlord grants a right of “exclusive possession” to the tenant against everyone, including the property owner. The landlord additionally promises the tenant “quiet enjoyment”; the term guarantees that the landlord will not permit or do anything that interferes with the tenant’s peace and quiet in the rental unit.California
Civil Code 1954 states that a landlord can only enter your unit:
(1) In case of emergency.
(2) To make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workers, or contractors or to make a tenant requested move-out inspection.
(3) When the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises.
(4) Pursuant to court order.
Except in the case of an emergency or abandonment, the landlord must give you a 24-hour written notice that includes the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry. As you can see, the example notice you provided is defective because it does not in include the purpose of the entry. Routine inspections violate California law.
I am constantly amazed at how many tenants tell me that the landlord showed up at the door, without notice, to demand entry for one or another cockamamie reason. The rationale can range from checking to see that the unit is clean; to demanding to talk to roommates; or to inspecting, for the umpteenth time, something you asked them to fix three years ago. But usually it is an unspecified demand for inspection.
The most egregious examples of illegal inspections come from the tenants who lived in buildings owned or managed by Citiapartments in San Francisco. There are stories of the owner’s agent pounding on the door late at night, dressed up like Rambo in battle fatigues and carrying a gun. Many of the illegal inspections by Citiapartments were videotaped. In one case the video revealed that the tenant owned a bong. The landlords threatened her with eviction for illegal drug use. What? A bong? In San Francisco?
I am also shocked at how many tenants report that, while they were home, they heard the key turn in the lock and the landlord or his agent walked into the unit. I have dealt with two different cases where a landlord and a real estate agent, respectively, broke in to use the bathroom. One left pee on the toilet seat! In another case the landlord showed up because her daughter was in town and the landlord wanted to show her my client’s unit. In a more sinister incident the landlord tried to unlock the door and couldn’t get in. Then he attempted to coax the tenant’s young children out of unit when they wouldn’t respond to his knock.
It’s astonishing to me that tenants allow illegal entry to their homes. I know that tenants are anxious about escalating tensions with the landlord, but that doesn’t mean that the tenant always has to mollify the landlord. Believe me, if the landlord starts illegally entering your unit, chances are he’s looking for a way to get you out anyway. He’s not bringing you cookies.
Because your relationship with your landlord is unique, you should develop your own strategy to deal with illegal entries or too many entries. Learn your rights. I believe that it is always best to try to get a dialogue going with the landlord before you begin to react aggressively. Here are a few thoughts if you do have to react.
Don’t allow the landlord to photograph your unit unless there is a very, very good reason to do so.
If your landlord comes to your door and wants in, inform him politely that you need a 24-hour written notice with justification to enter. If he insists upon entering, tell him YOU WILL CALL THE POLICE. If he still insists CALL THE POLICE.
If you find your landlord in your unit without notice or permission, tell him if he doesn’t leave immediately YOU WILL CALL THE POLICE. If he doesn’t leave immediately CALL THE POLICE.
Don’t call 911 unless you truly believe you will be harmed. Usually the landlord will leave.
A couple of years ago, I spoke to a tenant who, upon returning home, found his landlord in the unit. The landlord’s purported excuse for being there was that he had come inside to do the tenant a favor by expressing his new puppy’s anal glands.
You really can’t make this stuff up.