“Conditions for a Landlord to Enter Unit”

1954. A landlord may enter the dwelling unit only in the following cases:

(a) In case of emergency.

(b) To make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the dwelling unit toprospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workmen or contractors.

(c) When the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises.

(d) Pursuant to court order.

The law further protects the tenant from landlord abuse of privacy by stating that the landlord must give reasonable advance notice of intent to enter for one of the above reasons (except (a) and (c), where no advance notice is required). Twenty-four hours is considered to be reasonable notice. Also, unless it is an emergency or impractical, your landlord can not enter outside of “normal business hours” (i.e. 9am-5pm, M-F) unless you choose to consent at the time of entry.

California Civil Code 1953 states that any clause in a lease or rental agreement is void if it gives the landlord more means of access to your home than specifically allowed under C.C. 1954. Many leases used today contain these types entry clauses, so check before you sign and try to get them crossed out. Even if the landlord will not remove them and you do sign the agreement, you can not be held to those clauses. They are void by law.

Clauses void by law:

1. A clause that states the landlord may enter at any time;
2. A clause that states that the landlord may enter for inspection.

Even if you do sign a lease containing such a clause and the landlord enters your home without your permission in a non-emergency situation, s/he is trespassing – many landlords are not aware of this fact. If your landlord seriously violates your privacy, you may have the basis for a lawsuit. You also might want to contact the police when the violation occurs. Although the police will often not take direct action, your report to them can help to document your complaint if you take the case to court.

What you can do

As you can see, it is one thing to have a right, and another to really benefit from it. In general, the best way to deal with privacy problems is to let the landlord know you understand your rights and theirs. It may be necessary to write the landlord a formal letter that outlines their violation of the law and that you know your rights under California Civil Code Section 1954. It is a good idea to give the landlord the impression that you are a responsible and reliable tenant, and that you will respect their rights as you expect them to respect yours.

Suggested Steps:

1. Write the landlord a formal letter citing Civil Code 1954. It is a good idea to get the letter certified and then mail it to your landlord, so you can make sure that your landlord receives the letter.

2. If your landlord continues to violate your privacy you may call the police and report the trespassing.

3. If the violations continue, you are allowed to change the locks without providing the landlord with a copy of the key.

Additional Documents: