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Housing Hacks: Keep the Landlord Out

When you rent an apartment, you get certain rights along with a number of responsibilities. One of the most basic of these rights is the right to “quiet enjoyment.” That basically means that in exchange for paying rent and living up to the other conditions of the rental agreement or lease, you are the master of the property -- you can decide who can come onto your property and when that is allowed.

Some landlords have some trouble understanding that they cannot simply enter property that they own but have rented out. Stories abound about tenants coming out of the shower to discover their landlord in the living room. Extreme examples aside, a landlord must respect the tenant’s privacy.

In many states, this means that the landlord must provide one or sometimes two days notice prior to entering the apartment. Additionally, that entry must be for a legitimate reason such as conducting repairs, periodic inspections, or to show the unit to a potential renter or buyer.

Naturally, there is also an exception for certain emergencies. This right of access cannot be used to harass the renter.

On the flip-side, the renter must allow reasonable entry upon a proper request. This means that a tenant who unreasonably denies permission may be evicted. Courts take a very common-sense approach to this.

If you have an intrusive landlord or a tenant who is unreasonable, there are options available to you.

First, honestly ask yourself if you are being reasonable or if the landlord is really being intrusive. This can be particularly problematic when the landlord lives in the same building. Balancing being a respectful landlord and being a friendly neighbor can be confusing.

Don’t hesitate to call the JAG at Legal Assistance for advice or even just a dispassionate perspective. If, however, there is no doubt that the access is unreasonable, either because of the amount of access demanded or the short notice, your fist step should be to send a letter to the landlord explaining your concerns and informing them of the law. If the behavior continues, contact a JAG officer immediately.

Captain Matthew "Matt" Reid, is an Army Judge Advocate currently the full time Attorney Advisor for the Rhode Island. Prior to direct commissioning into the JAG Corps, he served as an enlisted intelligence analyst for 10 years.

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