When renting an apartment from a property manager or a landlord, you don’t have any ownership rights, which means that sooner or later, you will have to move out. A rental unit is the investment of a landlord, so it is not surprising that they want to ensure that it stays in good shape and carrying out an inspection here and there is the most effective way of keeping an eye of the condition of the property. Here is what you need to know about landlords carrying out inspections, and how often they should be done.
Can apartment complexes do random inspections? Even though a property manager or landlord has ownership rights over the property you live in, he/she does possess the right to gain access to your property without reason. Landlords can only enter your property in the following instances: to carry out routine inspections that you have to agree to, during an emergency, to make improvements or repairs to the unit, and to show the rental unit to prospective tenants.
In most states, a landlord can enter your rental unit only after giving you a notice ranging from 24 hours to two days in nonemergency situations. While most state laws don’t specify the time of day a landlord can access your unit, landlords may generally enter your apartment at reasonable times, unless there is an emergency that needs immediate attention.
On occasion, a landlord will gain access to your rental unit for one reason or another, but he/she cannot do so on a whim. Here are the basics of inspections in an apartment complex.
The basics of inspections in an apartment complex
1. Rules on when the landlord can gain access to your property for inspection
A majority of states in the U.S.A have rules and regulations in place regarding when and how a property manager or landlord can access a rental unit. However, in some states, there is no privacy statute, which means you will have to seek the help of a lawyer or a tenant’s rights group in your area to determine just how much privacy protection you may be entitled to. In such cases, you can rely on the right to quiet enjoyment to provide some level of protection, especially if the landlord does not willingly back down.
2. Instances when a landlord can enter your property
A landlord has the legal right to access your rental unit, but there has to be a reasonable cause.
- When you agree to inspection – A routine inspection of your apartment will typically be carried out by a property manager or landlord. A routine inspection may be carried out even if you are not at home, as long as you give the go-ahead. Some of the things they may be checking out include:
- If there are holes and dents in the walls
- If there are any signs of pest infestation
- Damaged appliances
- The working condition of smoke and fire detectors in your apartment
Other than inspecting the interior of the rental unit, a landlord can also walk or drive past the property to make sure that the exterior of the apartment is in good condition. During these inspections, they can’t access your property, and they can only look at the unit from outside.
Another instance where a landlord will usually do an inspection is when you move into the apartment. A move-in inspection is done in your presence, allowing you to take note of any undesirable qualities of the unit such as poorly functioning appliances or marks on the walls. A move-out walk-through will also be done when the time comes for you to vacate the rental unit. This is when the landlord/property manager will look for any problems with the unit. As long as you had documented pre-existing issues during the move-in inspection and there is no damage to the unit other than normal wear and tear, you should be able to get back your security deposit.
- During an emergency – A landlord can gain access to your apartment to carry out inspections in case of an emergency without giving you notice or after a short notice. For example, if there is a fire in your apartment or if your pipes burst, the landlord can enter your apartment even if you are not at home.
- To make required improvements or repairs – The responsibility of maintenance of a unit is usually the responsibility of the landlord, so he/she can gain access to your unit to carry out inspections with intent to perform maintenance and repair tasks. If there are any contracted maintenance workers, they will also have access to your unit. In this case, your landlord still has to give you appropriate notice beforehand.
- When the landlord has reason to believe you have moved out without notice – A landlord who has reason to believe you have moved out of the apartment without providing any notice or giving back the key may enter the apartment to conduct an inspection so as to confirm his/her suspicions. In some states, landlords are granted permission to enter the rental unit if you have been gone for a prolonged period of time, so as to perform the required maintenance.
- To show the apartment to prospective tenants – If your lease term is about to come to an end and you opt not to renew it or you have given notice that you are moving out, a landlord can show the apartment to prospective tenants, but only after you have received reasonable notice. Appointments to see the rental unit should only be made during reasonable business hours, so these showings cannot be scheduled late at night or early in the morning. Furthermore, they should not be too frequent, but if you are willing to put up with frequent showings, you can work out some sort of compensation with your landlord.
3. Giving you notice before entry
In most states, access laws require your landlord to give you a minimum of 24 hours’ notice before entering the apartment unless there is an emergency. Anywhere from 24 to 48 hours is considered to be acceptable, with some landlords going as far as giving you notice weeks before a planned inspection. Consider checking your lease to confirm if there are any specifics regarding how much notice your landlord has to give.
4. Frequency of inspections
The frequency of inspections varies from one apartment to another depending on the landlord, but they may want to conduct inspections anywhere from 1-3 times in a year, excluding any cases of emergency. If your landlord carries out inspections several times in a month, this may be a bit too much, and you will want to set boundaries as a tenant.
5. Time of day when a landlord may conduct inspections
Most state laws do not provide specifics on the time of day the landlord can enter your apartment, with a majority of them simply allowing entry at reasonable hours. On weekdays, reasonable times can be anywhere between 9a-6pm, and maybe Saturdays between 10am-1pm.
6. What to do if you don’t receive reasonable notice
If your landlord randomly enters your apartment in the name of an inspection without giving you notice, the first approach is to raise the issue with him/her in a calm manner. This could be enough to put an end to the violations of privacy.
If the entries persist, consider sending your landlord a formal letter through certified mail to request an end to the random inspections. If this fails to work, you may then bring a claim for harassment or trespass in small claims court. Ensure that you keep a log of all the times the landlord shows up for an inspection without giving reasonable notice. This can serve as the evidence you need in case you opt to sue your landlord. You can collect physical evidence as well, such as video recordings or photographs, if possible.
In court, a judge can order your landlord to compensate you for damages if these random entries caused damages. Alternatively, the judge could also order your landlord to refrain from coming to your rental unit if there is no good reason and without giving fair notice.
7. Co-operating with your landlord
If the reasons for inspecting your apartment are valid and you have received reasonable notice, you are required to grant your landlord’s requests for entry. Failure to do so may result in the following:
- An eviction – As long as the landlord is within the state laws regarding access to your rental unit, refusing to allow access to your apartment can lead to an eviction lawsuit.
- Non-renewal of your lease – Your landlord may also opt not to renew your lease at the end of its term so as to get rid of you.
- An apprehensive working relationship – As a result of denying your landlord’s request for a required inspection, the landlord-relationship will inevitably deteriorate.
The rental unit that you live in is your landlord’s investments, so inspections to ensure that it is in good conditions are expected. However, a landlord should not use random inspections as an excuse to harass tenants. In order for a landlord to conduct an inspection, he or she should give you reasonable notice, and they shouldn’t be conducted too often. On your part, as long as the reason for the inspection is valid, you should co-operate with your landlord to avoid any trouble.