Can a landlord search a tenant’s room?

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Can a landlord search a tenant’s room?

I am a guardian for a 19 year old male adult with disabilities. I currently have him renting a room from one of my neighbors for $380 rent utilities. He went out of town a week ago and is expected back in one week. I found out today that the neighbor he rents from has gone through his personal belongings. Is that legal?

Asked on January 16, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The landlord does not have the right to search the tenant's personal belongings.  The landlord could be sued for invasion of privacy.  Invasion of privacy is a serious and unreasonable interference with one's right to be left alone.  Invasion of privacy is an unprivileged and unconsented invasion of one's physical seclusion.  Damages (the amount of compensation one is seeking in a lawsuit) for invasion of privacy could include mental distress, physical illness, etc.  Punitive damages which are an amount in addition to compensatory damages  are recoverable if a wrongful motive is established for the invasion of privacy.  Punitive damages are a substantial amount to punish a wrongdoer for intentional and malicious acts.

As a landlord, your neighbor has to give notice before entering the tenant's room unless it is an emergency.  The notice requirement for a landlord to enter the tenant's rental unit varies from state to state.  For example, in CA, a landlord has to give 24 hours written notice before entering the tenant's rental unit and entry has to be during normal business hours.  In CA, if there is an emergency, no notice is required by the landlord to enter the tenant's rental unit.

Your neighbor, as a landlord, has also violated the applicable notice statute in your state by entering the tenant's room without notice.


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