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Do I Have to Let My Landlord Into My Apartment, Even During Quarantine?

Regardless of what your lease says, state laws call the shots here

Now would be a really good time for everyone to be homesteaders who live miles apart from each other and rely solely on their own resources. Unfortunately, around 80 percent of Americans live in suburban or urban areas. And try as we might to self-isolate due to coronavirus, the majority of us are still dependent upon a large network of people and resources to survive. 

For the 36 percent of the population that rents, housing is one of those said (and vital) resources dependent upon another person. Your apartment is, unfortunately, technically their property. Does that mean your landlord can enter your home whenever they want, even during social distancing

Whether they can waltz into your space on a whim without your permission depends on where you live, and what’s stated on your lease agreement. So first, check your lease. Whatever is specified about your landlord entering your apartment applies, so long it abides by state law. If there’s nothing about this on your lease, state law applies here, too, even if you don’t have a lease at all. The exact laws vary: Twelve states have no specific laws on the matter, meaning your lease agreement might be your only guidance. 

Most of the states that have laws or code written on the topic dictate that a landlord must give at least 24 hours notice before entering an apartment. In Florida, only 12 hours are required, and in many other states, “reasonable notice” is all that’s specified. Again, the definition of “reasonable notice” varies from state to state, but is usually around 24 hours. 

Even with these time specifications, a landlord may only enter a premise under certain conditions. These conditions are usually similar to those written in California Civil Code 1954, which states that a landlord may only enter a leased property in the event of an emergency; to make repairs; to show the property to prospective tenants; when the property is thought to be abandoned; or pursuant of a court order (emergencies and court orders don’t require any notice). 

In many cities, our current conditions will change how these rules are played out. For the most part, tenants have more protections than usual — many states have temporary laws prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants for breaching their lease agreement or failure to pay rent. “No-fault” evictions, where a landlord may be intending to sell the building or rent the apartment to family members, have also been put on hold. Beyond that, though, a landlord is still technically allowed in the apartment if other conditions are met. And if you’re voluntarily moving out, a landlord is allowed to show the apartment to prospective tenants. Hopefully, though, you’re not doing that. 

As for fixes your landlord might need to make, it’s complicated. The best move would be for both tenant and landlord to wait. Unfortunately, that might not be possible, and could hinder the tenants’ ability to live comfortably in quarantine. Landlords are currently recommended to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in closing shared amenities an apartment building might have, like a pool or gym. However, tenants are still allowed to demand that their apartment be kept in livable condition.

In just about every landlord/tenant issue, these problems are solved on a local level. If your landlord is attempting to evict you or refuses to repair essential amenities in your apartment, contact the branch of your local government that manages code enforcement

But, more simply, everyone should just follow two simple rules right now: Stay home, and don’t be a dick.