A rental property is a big investment, and good landlords will take active steps to maintain and protect their investment.
This means regular inspections to identify any maintenance or safety concerns. However, you have rights as a renter and are entitled to privacy in your home. Where do we draw the line between a diligent landlord and one who is overstepping boundaries?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a defined number of times your landlord is allowed to inspect your property each year. Some landlords inspect monthly, some quarterly and some might have a more irregular inspection schedule. It’s worth reviewing your lease (or better yet, asking your landlord before you sign the lease) to see if guidelines surrounding inspections are laid out from the get-go.
Types of inspections
It’s likely you’ll experience at least one of the following inspections when renting:
- A move-in inspection is when you and your landlord will walk through the property together to document the condition of the property at the start of your lease
- Routine inspections are to ensure lease compliance, assess the property for any needed repairs and perform any seasonal maintenance tasks
- A move-out inspection evaluates the overall condition of the property upon move out and determines security deposit return
There are other types of inspections that certain landlords may perform, and some landlords will perform random drive-by inspections to check in on the property from the outside. Your landlord is certainly allowed to do this, but too many drive-bys can start to disrupt your right to privacy and quiet enjoyment.
For an inspection in which your landlord will be entering your home, they’re required to give you a notification and can’t show up unannounced. Some states have no statute on the amount of notification, and others require as much as 48 hours. The average amount of notice required for landlords to enter a property for non-emergency reasons is 24 hours.
The dos and don’ts of inspections
Renters do need to understand that although your house is your home, you don’t actually own the property and the owner has a right to access it as needed. Your landlord can:
- Conduct drive-by inspections (by foot, car or bike) as often as they’d like, as long as they’re not disobeying regulations related to harassment and privacy
- Schedule multiple inspections each year
- Enter the property unannounced in the case of an emergency (burst pipe, fire, etc.)
Your landlord cannot:
- Conduct “random” property inspections without giving you proper notice
- Conduct excessive property inspections outside of the provisions of the law
As a tenant, you have certain rights, as well. Renters can:
- Refuse entry to a landlord that has not given the appropriate notification
- Speak to the housing authority and/or legal counsel to confirm the terms of your lease agreement and verify state and local regulations regarding property inspections and landlord entry
- Refuse entry to a landlord who has given the appropriate notification
- Change the locks without getting permission from the landlord
Inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic
With social distancing guidelines and other safety measures currently in place, many landlords have been putting new practices in place to complete the inspection process. Your health and safety are of the utmost importance, and they should be to your landlord, as well. Don’t hesitate to express any concerns or ask any questions about how practices are changing during these unprecedented times.
Many landlords are using virtual inspection tools performed either by the landlord or by the tenants. Your landlord may ask you to help complete a virtual inspection using communication tools like FaceTime, Skype or Zoom, or may provide you with a checklist to complete the inspection on your own time and upload photos and/or videos for their review.
Communication is key
Routine inspections can prevent expensive damage, allow your landlord to identify any maintenance issues and give your landlord an opportunity to make sure you’re upholding your end of the bargain when it comes to lease terms and required tenant maintenance. However, there’s a covenant between a tenant and landlord that the tenant will be allowed privacy and an implied warranty of quiet enjoyment.
Some tenants may feel that multiple inspections are excessive, but “excessive” is in the eye of the beholder. Try to communicate with your landlord openly and be sensitive to different situations that may arise. If you’re moving out in the near future and your landlord is trying to show your home to prospective tenants, daily showings might be a bit much, but a few times a week is probably reasonable. If your landlord is asking to inspect the property weekly, you might have some ground to stand on by asking for less disturbance to your regular schedule.
It’s best practice to outline inspection expectations in the lease agreement so everyone is on the same page. Always remember, you can consult your state and local laws if you feel like your right to privacy is being violated.