When Can a Landlord Enter a Tenant’s Rental Unit?

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Under California state law, a landlord may enter a tenant’s rental unit only in the following limited circumstances:

  • In case of emergency;
  • To make necessary or agreed upon repairs, decorations, alterations or other improvements;
  • To show the rental unit to prospective or actual purchasers, tenants, contractors or repair persons;
  • When the tenant has moved out or has abandoned the rental unit; or,
  • If a court order permits the landlord to enter.

Tenants must be provided with at least 24-hours written notice before the landlord enters the unit. If the written notice is mailed, it must be mailed at least six days prior to the entry. There are three exceptions to the written notice requirement: First, in an emergency; second, if the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises; and third, if the reason for the entry is to show the unit to prospective or actual purchasers, as long as the owner has notified the tenant in writing within 120 days of the verbal notice that the property is for sale and that the tenant may be contacted. Normally, for the purpose of showing a unit, a 24-hour oral notice, either in person or by telephone, is presumed to be reasonable notice. At the time of entry, the landlord or agent must leave written evidence of entry.

The tenant may waive the notice requirement if she or he is present and consents to the entry. Even if a tenant is not present, a tenant can allow entry without a prior written notice if he or she agrees to such entry. The landlord can enter the rental unit only during normal business hours, unless the tenant agrees to another time.

The landlord cannot abuse the right of access or use it to harass the tenant. If a tenant unreasonably refuses to give the landlord access to the unit, that could be the basis for a “just cause” eviction. Tenants and landlords should consult an attorney about their rights in specific cases.

Source: San Francisco Rent Board