Right to Enter
What are the laws regarding entering the unit?
Denial of Entry
If resident denies rental owner entry into the unit when owner has valid reason, owner may have “just cause” to terminate residency. Owner should issue notices to cure violation before pursuing an unlawful detainer and consult with an attorney. If resident refuses entry, a rental owner should not enter the unit and should work with the resident to determine a better time of entry.
Entering Rental Units
CA Civil Code 1954 California law states that a rental owner can enter a rental unit without the resident’s permission for the following reasons: In an emergency or when the resident has moved out or has abandoned the rental unit. To make necessary or agreed-upon repairs, decorations, alterations, or other improvements, to show the rental unit to prospective residents, purchasers, or lenders To provide entry to contractors or workers who are to perform work on the unit, to conduct an initial inspection before the end of the residency. Giving Notice: Owner or agent must give resident advance notice in writing before entering unit (typically not required in emergency, abandonment or if resident consents to entry) 24 hours' notice considered reasonable. Entry is typically allowed during normal business hours (generally, 8 am to 5 pm on weekdays) Notice to enter can be personally delivered to resident, left with a person of suitable age (such as a roommate), posted at the unit’s entry door, or mailed to the resident. If notice is mailed to resident, mailing at least six days before entry is presumed to be reasonable. Resident and owner can make oral agreement to enter if date and time is specified, and if entry date is within one week of oral agreement or Owner can use EBRHA form Notice of Intent to Enter Rental Premises to notify the resident of intent to enter.
Question: Can Owners Conduct Inspections?
Answer: California law does not allow owners to enter rental units for "random inspections," however, if the inspection is related to an improvement, repair, or any other service agreed to by the resident, the owner may be enter the unit.
Residents Changing Locks without Permission
Question: We have a resident who changed the locks and has failed to give us a copy of the key. Is there a law on the books that allows us to have a copy?
Answer: The short answer is no, there is no law that explicitly prohibits a resident from re-keying a rental unit or requiring a resident to provide the property owner with a key after re-keying a unit. The property owner’s best protection against a resident taking such action are lease covenants which prohibit alterations and/or re-keying locks without approval. Most boilerplate leases, such as those provided by EBRHA, already contain such provisions. Violations of the lease or rental agreement is a ground for eviction under CCP § 1161 and under most eviction control ordinances.
If your resident is on an oral month-to-month lease, then covenants against alterations and re-keying can be imposed by serving a 30-Day Notice of Change or Terms of Tenancy. Suggested language for these covenants should be obtained through a reputable rental housing organization or through a knowledgeable attorney. If your resident is on a term lease that does not contain these covenants, a Notice of Change of Terms of Tenancy can be served 30 days or more before the end of the term, to take effect upon the expiration of the lease.
Note, however, that even absent a lease, the property owner still has a right to enter the unit under certain circumstances. California Civil Code §1954 provides that the property owner may enter a resident’s dwelling unit in an emergency situation, to make necessary or agreed upon repairs or improvements, or to exhibit the unit to workers or prospective residents and purchasers. Entry into a dwelling unit by the property owner under this statute requires at least 24 hours notice and the entry must occur during normal business hours, except in the case of an emergency situation, which does not require notice. It is never advisable to enter a rented unit, however, if the resident strongly objects to the entry. If a resident changes the locks and then strenuously objects to the owner entering the premises for a reason that is justified under Civil Code §1954, the owner can consider serving a Notice to Perform Covenants or Quit and filing an eviction based on the resident’s refusal to allow entry into the unit for a necessary and lawful purpose.
Contributor: Daniel Riley, Attorney