Protecting Your Privacy: When Can Landlords Enter Your Home in California?

When a tenant rents a home for their use, they expect it to be just that: theirs. However, from the lease they might have to sign, to written notices from the landlord to the landlord simply showing up at the front door, there can be many ways that right to sole and exclusive possession can be challenged. The topic of today’s post is therefore when and how can the landlord come onto the property, and what can a tenant do if they overstep their bounds? 

Previous posts have discussed the covenant of quiet enjoyment. This is the promise made by all landlords as part of the rental agreement, as far as the state of California is concerned, that they will not interfere with the tenant’s use of the property for its intended purpose. This should in theory mean that the tenant can expect to spend their entire tenancy free from uninvited visits by the landlord. There are always exceptions however, most of which are governed by California Civil Code § 1954. 

According to Subdivision (a) of Civil Code § 1954, a landlord may only enter a tenant’s dwelling for specifically defined reasons: the tenant has abandoned the property, an emergency, a court order, an inspection required by certain state laws, or “(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 an inspection pursuant to subdivision (f) of Section 1950.5.” Section 1950.5 is discussed in a previous post about security deposits. The other statutory inspections are to read water meters or inspect for leaks when a water meter shows an excessive consumption of water, or to check for the weatherproofing of load-bearing surfaces. The most common and likely disputed reason for the landlord entering though would be for repairs the landlord claims are necessary, or exhibiting the unit as described in Paragraph (2) above. Except when the tenant has abandoned the property or in an emergency, the landlord can only enter during normal business hours unless the tenant gives permission. And, without permission, the landlord must provide notice prior to entering. 

The requirement that the landlord provide their tenants with notice before entering their homes depends on the purpose of the visit. If the landlord has informed the tenant in writing that the home is going to be sold, then for the next 120 days they may provide oral notice that they intend to enter to show the property to prospective buyers. If they do show the property, they are supposed to leave written notice that they were inside. For all other entries, the landlord must provide written notice: if the notice is delivered by mail, six days is presumed to be a reasonable time prior to the visit. If notice is delivered by posting on the door, leaving it under the door or handing it to a person qualified to receive it, reasonable time is presumed to be twenty-four hours: the notice should also provide an approximate time for the visit and the reason it is necessary. Regardless of the notice requirements, a tenant and landlord may always agree to the landlord entering the home. 

Obviously, the landlord is not supposed to use their right to enter the tenant’s home to harass them.  Doing so would violate Civil Code § 1940.2 of the Civil Code and could expose them to civil damages of up to $2,000.00 payable to the tenant for every violation. 

The line between a landlord fulfilling their responsibilities and abusing their right to enter can be highly dependent on the facts. Tenants who are concerned that their landlord is not respecting their right to quiet enjoyment or has abused the right to enter should speak to an experienced tenant rights lawyer to find out how to protect their rights.