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When Can I Legally Enter My Investment Property?

December 30, 2020 / by Hignell Property Management Team

man welcoming people at front doorNow that you own an investment property, and have leased your unit out, you've come to the realization that you don't know when you might be able to enter it for purposes of checking on any maintenance issues or otherwise protecting your investment. In checking your lease, you confirm that you have the right to enter the premises at reasonable times with reasonable notice, but that doesn't tell you much. Your new residents have the right to privacy in the property, and you just can't show up there this week and say see you next week at the same time. That can turn into harassment. So, when can you legally enter your California investment property? 

California Law Tells You When

The general rule in California is that a resident has the right of quiet and exclusive possession of the leasehold premises. Owners of rental properties or their managers need to be aware of the fact that California doesn't permit them to enter a property on a whim whenever they wish. At Hignell Property Management, we understand the laws in connection with a property owner accessing investment property, and we can help you with them too.

The California Statute on the Right to Enter

Section 1954 of the California Civil Code tells property owners when they might have the right to enter a property that has been rented. Pursuant to this section, a property owner may only enter a resident's dwelling unit under the following circumstances:

  • Emergencies: Any occurrence that causes damage to the property and is likely to continue to cause damage to it if it isn't repaired immediately constitutes an emergency. Those might include a burst water pipe, a gas pipe leak or sudden damage from adverse weather conditions.
  • Repairs: To make necessary agreed upon repairs, alterations or supply necessary agreed services or to show the unit to others mentioned in this subsection during normal business hours. Appropriate conforming notice is required.
  • Vacating: Upon the abandonment of the premises by the resident. If the premises has been vacated, no notice of entry is required. 
  • By Agreement: Upon the resident's consent during a mutually agreed upon date and time. Although not required, it's recommended that any such agreement be in writing.
  • By Order: A property owner or manager may enter a premises pursuant to a valid court order.

Property Owner Harassment

A property owner, or property manager is prohibited from abusing their right of access for purposes of harassing their resident. Threatening, intimidating or otherwise interfering with the civil liberties of the resident might constitute harassment.

Can a Resident Refuse Entry After Statutory Notice Has Been Given?

The simple answer to this question is no, the resident cannot refuse entry of the property owner or manager after statutory notice has been given. Only if a true emergency exists should a property owner force entry though. If repeated valid notices have been given, and the resident persists in refusing entry, the owner can enter without the use of force during reasonable hours. If the resident is present, and the owner is told to stay away, the owner must do so. Ultimately, the owner might be required to evict the resident so long as suitable right of entry language exists in the lease.

How Much Notice in Advance Must Be Given By a Property Owner?

Property owners need only give reasonable notice of their intent to enter a premises. Courts would generally find a 24-hour written notice reasonable. As per section 1954(d), any notice should give the resident the date and time and purpose for entering the unit.

How Should the Notice Be Delivered?

The general rule is that email notice of the property owner's intent to enter a premises is not permitted. Section 1954(d) does allow the following forms of notice though:

  • Personal delivery of the notice to the resident.
  • By leaving the notice with somebody at the unit of suitable age and discretion.
  • By mail postmarked at least six days before an intended entry.
  • By leaving a copy of the notice at the usual entryway of the premises in a manner by which a reasonable person would discover it.
  • No notice of a property owner's intent to enter a premises to make repairs is needed if the resident orally agrees to it.

When you own investment property, unexpected events might occur. Penalties of up to $2,000 can be imposed for wrongful entry. With more than 60 years of property management experience, Hignell Property Management can help you to avoid entry and other possible legal issues with your rental property. If you don't have the time or the knowledge to stay on top of your investment property, contact us about our property management services. We'll protect your investment property as if it's our own.

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Topics: Residential Property Management, Investment Property