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Do Not Enter – Respect Your Tenant’s Home

It can be difficult to find good tenants.  It takes time to show your property, take applications and screen out the bad guys.  Then there is the lease signing and move in processes.  After going through all of that, you want to keep the good tenants for a while right?  Of course you do. So don’t do things that will drive them away such as not respecting their privacy.

Once you find a good tenant, sign a lease and let them move in to your property you have given certain legal rights of possession to your tenant.  You have provided them with a home and as they say “a person’s home is their castle.”  You as the landlord have to respect that, even though you own the building you cannot just go into to a tenant’s apartment any time you fell like it.  If you do, not only are you a sloppy landlord (and kind of a jerk) you could be charged with a crime.

Check out this recent news story headline.

Tenants claim landlord broke into apartment overnight, heat still not on

The story continues:

Sievert rents an apartment for her daughter at a complex in Muskego near Woods Road and Racine Avenue.  She says Wednesday morning the landlord came by unannounced…

“He broke into my apartment.”

Sievert locked the doors to her apartment Tuesday night when she left.  When she came by to get her car this morning, she saw locks were broken.

“We noticed that doorknobs and locks were removed. The screw that we had screwed the door shut with was broken in half. The chains ripped off. The door was broken.

Muskego Police are involved and might give the landlord a municpal citation for criminal trespassing. But they want his side of the story.

“He’s sneaking around. He’s hiding his car in the garage.”

Certainly there is a lot going on in this story such as non working heat, code violations and a hiding landlord.  Plus why did he not have keys to his own property?  Who knows? But the story demonstrates my point.  A landlord can get themselves in trouble by “just going in” a tenant’s apartment.

But, what if there is an emergency such as busted pipes?  If there truly is an emergency, then yes, you are going to be permitted to go in unannounced to protect your property and fix the problem.

Otherwise, your local laws are likely going to dictate when you can and cannot enter a tenant’s home.  Here in Tennessee, the Uniform Landlord Tenant Act does just that.  Section 66-28-403 specifically addresses access by the landlord.  It states in part:

 (e) The landlord has no right of access to the premises except:

   (1) By court order;

   (2) As permitted by this section, § 66-28-506 and § 66-28-507(b);

   (3) If the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises;

   (4) If the tenant is deceased, incapacitated or incarcerated; or

   (5) Within the final thirty (30) days of the termination of the rental agreement for the purpose of showing the premises to prospective tenants; provided, that such right of access is set forth in the rental agreement and notice is given to the tenant at least twenty-four (24) hours prior to entry.

Your local rules may be completely different.  Local differences such as these are one reason it is so important to find a local REIA and understand your local laws.

Sure, there are other times when a landlord can have access to the property, such as to do a quarterly inspection, for a property appraisal, for insurance purposes, or if the tenant has requested maintenance.  But a good rule of thumb is to provide at least 24 hours notice and spell out when, where and why you may come into the property in your lease.

So be a smarter landlord and respect your tenant’s privacy.  After all, would you want someone barging into your home unannounced?

2 Responses to “Do Not Enter – Respect Your Tenant’s Home”
  1. Alex Craig says:

    Well Kevin, this blog is exactly what I am going through. I have a pissed tenant for entering without notice and accusing me of breaking in—which is funny, hard to break in when I have a key. Funny story is the detective called our office today and told our office assistant that it does appear a break in has happened because the house is in disarray. We had to tell him that she is just a slob and we have past pictures to prove it…..he laughed.

    I 100% agree, give your tenant privacy. Random checks seem to be a little childish. Good rule of thumb, if the tenant pays on time and the outside grounds are kept well, more often then not the inside is kept well too. Not always, but most of the time. What I do is tell the tenants that 2x a year, we swap our the filter and clean the HVAC. We let the tenants know when we are coming. If the place is trashed, our HVAC guy lets us know. On another topic, we find through this program that tenants rarely swap filters out. So this program is good in that it serves 2 purposes; Spy and extending the life of the HVAC system.

    • Kevin says:


      Thanks for sharing your story. I hope the situation works out for the best.

      Good ideas with your HVAC checkup. No matter how nice it looks, you need to drop by (not unexpected) every once in a while just to make sure everything is OK. Some tenants, for whatever reason, will not tell you when things break.

      Thanks for reading and commenting,


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