Under what circumstances can a landlord enter your apartment when you are not home, and in what manner can they enter?

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Under what circumstances can a landlord enter your apartment when you are not home, and in what manner can they enter?

I came home from an appointment yesterday approximately 11:30 AM to find a new stove in my apartment (my old 1 had been removed 1 1/2 week prior because it broke down). I found a note from the manager stating that she forgot to tell me that it was being delivered that morning. Later I found out that she allowed someone (herself or delivery person) to break through the screen and open the glass window in order to open the door from inside because she didn’t want to leave the stove out on my front deck. I’m a single female and live in a 4-plex upstairs unit. I was never given notice and I feel violated.

Asked on January 28, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

What the landlord did was improper. A landlord may enter with reasonable notice--usually taken to mean at least 24  hours--during reasonable hours (usually taken to mean typical "working" hours) to inspect an apartment, perform maintenance, or show it to prosprective renters (or buyers of the building). The only time a landlord may enter without notice is for an emergency--to shut off water that overflowing or leaking, deal with an electrical or gas problem that poses a hazard, etc. Not wanting to leave a stove in front when the landlord failed to coordinate matters is not an emergency.

However, while what the landlord did is wrong, if it's an isolated incident and there's no repurcussions--nothing taken, door fixed, no injury to you, etc.--there's little you can do. The absence of a loss or damages means there's nothing to sue for--there is no recovery in court for "feeling violated" in this context. You *might* be able to use this as grounds to terminate the lease early, but you should consult with a landlord-tenant attorney before doing, since doing this incorrectly could result in legal liability (i.e. you'd still be responsible under the lease).


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