California has strict laws regarding a landlord’s rights to enter a tenant’s property. These rules apply to the entire rented area, including the backyard, garages, gardens, etc.
According to Civil Code 1954, a landlord can enter your backyard in California without permission only if there’s an emergency, like fire or flooding, due to a plumbing mishap.
Otherwise, they must provide a notice 24 hours before entry.
Upon issuing advance notice, the landlord has the right to enter your backyard and conduct repairs and inspections or show the home to prospective tenants.
Such visits can only occur during business hours (from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays).
Table of Contents
What Does The Notice Entail?
Your landlord must provide a written notice 24 hours before entry.
The law doesn’t recognize emails, telephone calls, and verbal messages unless realtors have a written notice permitting them to show the property to interested parties.
In Such Cases – Oral messages, emails, and calls are permissible but must adhere to the rules (24 hours before entry and business hours).
Additionally, the notice must specify the date and expected time of entry. This gives you enough time to prepare for the visit.
You don’t have to be home during the visit. Your landlord is liable if anything gets lost or damaged.
The right of entry has limits that your landlord can’t breach. You have the legal right to prevent extensive repairs, daily entry, open house inspection, etc.
It’s worth noting that the law doesn’t specify what you can prevent. It all depends on how you (or your real estate attorney) interprets it.
Your Lease and Privacy
Most tenants sign a lease that specifies when the landlord can enter the rented property.
However, not everything stated in the lease is legally binding. The lease might be a legal document, but its contents must still adhere to the law.
For Instance – Your lease can state that your landlord can enter your property without advance notice.
However, this wouldn’t be enforceable in California since the state requires landlords to provide notice a day before entry unless it’s an emergency.
The same applies to leases that don’t mention anything about landlords’ entry. In such cases, the State laws apply.
The Right to Quiet Enjoyment
The right to quiet enjoyment states that a tenant is free to occupy and use a property’s amenities in peace and without disruption.
If you feel violated, a court can refer your implied right to this law.
The court will still recognize your right to enjoyment, even if it isn’t included in your lease.
For Example: A landlord in California who enters your property without permission abuses this right, and you have the right to take legal action.
What If You Don’t Have a Lease?
You don’t need a written lease to enjoy your rights as a tenant.
If you’re renting a property for 12 months or less, oral agreements are acceptable.
However, you must clear your security deposit and pay rent in time.
Nonetheless, it’s advisable to sign a contract before renting a house. The contract must specify all lease terms, including the landlord’s and tenant’s rights.
Also, ensure that the terms of your agreement comply with State laws.
Contact your landlord and request a revision if you notice that your lease doesn’t mention privacy after signing.
This keeps you prepared for any eventuality.
For instance, your compound might have trees or flowers planted by the landlord.
When you rent the home, you can allow the owner the right to enter your property and tend to the plants.
However, such entries are at your discretion – the law doesn’t obligate you to honor them.
What If a Landlord Trespasses?
Most tenants have the privilege of respectful landlords, but some aren’t so lucky.
Some owners think that they can enter a property whenever they like. Others do it out of spite.
Sometimes, your landlord can trespass on your property. The right action to take when that happens is to ask.
If their justification is inadequate or they answer you rudely, you have the right to take further action.
Many tenants don’t sue their landlords because of fear of eviction and unawareness of their rights.
This inaction is why some owners enter rented property without permission.
As a Tenant – You have exclusive rights to your rented property. You can afford or deny these rights to anyone, including your landlord.
If the owner enters the property without issuing notice, they’re breaking several laws, including the:
- invasion of privacy
- disorderly conduct
- breach of contract
- and abusing the right to quiet enjoyment
You can sue any trespasser for up to $10,000 for breaking the laws mentioned above.
If you cohabitate with other tenants, you can file separate suits for up to $10,000 – there’s no need for class action.
Unauthorized entry into a property can also be a criminal offense.
According to sections 602.5 and 602.8 of the Penal Code, trespass is entering a property and refusing to leave without the owner’s consent.
The sections describe the owner as ‘the person in lawful possession,’ meaning that renters can enforce the law.
The penalty for this offense is imprisonment in a county jail for 12 months or less, a fine that doesn’t exceed $1,000, or both.
In California – You can file a criminal case or a civil suit against a trespassing landlord – it’s your choice.
What are the Alternatives to Litigation?
You mustn’t go to court to prevent trespassing landlords.
Here are some practical solutions that don’t involve lawyers.
Threaten to Sue
If your landlord is a first-time trespasser, threaten to sue.
Write them a letter and send a copy to the local police explaining your case.
However, this trick might not work for some owners.
Change the Locks
Changing locks is a temporary solution to unauthorized entry, especially if the landlord is insistent and you don’t want them to visit.
You can use the time you buy to look for a new house.
Inform Your Neighbors
You can tell your neighbors about a trespassing landlord.
They’ll take precautions, and some may move to new houses. Either way, the landlord will lose.
What are the Tenant Responsibilities in California?
Here’s what’s required of California tenants.
If you comply with these rules, your landlord shouldn’t enter your property without advance notice.
However, contradicting these regulations gives the owner the right to issue a 3-day eviction notice.
Understanding the laws governing renting residential properties can be difficult for new tenants.
The complexity of the property law makes this harder in California.
Regardless, it’s clear that a landlord doesn’t have the right to enter your property without permission unless it’s an emergency.
Even so, they must provide a notice a day earlier and conduct the visit during business hours.
You can file a case for up to $10,000 if the owner enters your rental unit without your consent.
If you feel that your landlord is abusing your rights, seek help from a real estate attorney. They’ll help you interpret the law.