Featured News 2013 A Tenant’s Right to Privacy

A Tenant’s Right to Privacy

Under many different types of lease or rental agreements, landlords and property managers are only allowed to come onto a tenant's property under certain circumstances, such as in an emergency or with your permission. Some landlords do not understand these rights, however, as there are some who like to keep a regular eye on the property, and there are even some who utilize their own key to come to the residence without warning. A landlord or property manager cannot violate your privacy like this, however, and there are certain steps you can take to safeguard your rights.

First of all, find out if your state has laws that cover your right to privacy, or that specify when a landlord is allowed to come to the property and with how much advance warning. If such a law is already in place, then be sure to assert it. If there are no specific state laws on this matter, you can ask for an access clause to be included on your lease or rental agreement. If a landlord tries to get you to sign a waiver to your right to privacy on the lease agreement, be sure to not sign it. Chances are, this waiver will mean nothing to a court, but it can mean a great deal of hassle to you if your landlord thinks that they have the legal right to enter your residence whenever they want.

You may be able to prevent working with such a difficult landlord in the first place if you ask questions of the neighbors when you are checking out a new place. You can ask about the landlord, including whether or not they are intrusive. If the neighbors say yes, then this is likely a red flag warning you away from this property.

If you need to complain to your landlord that he or she is violating your privacy, do not do so until you have this complaint in writing, such as through a letter. If matters escalate and you have to go to court to deal with the problem, then this letter is something that you may need to produce. Should the property manager be the party violating your rights, then you need to bring this to your landlord's attention. He or she may be able to deal with it.

If you need to be away for a certain amount of time, then you need to alert your landlord to this. In certain states, landlords are allowed to go into your house if they find out that you have left. If you are asked to turn off the water, lock the windows, etc. before you leave, then do so, leaving the landlord with as little reason to enter the property as possible.

As tempting as it may be, do not change the locks if you do not have the landlord's permission. This is against the law in many states. You also cannot keep back your rent in retaliation. You have the legal choice to make file a lawsuit or to move away. If you break the law, you could be evicted from the property.

Looking into a lawsuit could be a viable option if the landlord is guilty of trespassing or of purposefully harassing you. If complaint letters do not get the job done, then you may be able to sue your landlord in small claims court for illegal entry. There may also come a point where you just need to leave the property. Find out if there is a law where you live that allows you to break the lease early because of a landlord who has often breached contract or violated your right to privacy.

If you have any questions about your rights and how you can protect them, contact a real estate attorney today!

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