Our lease contains a standard clause that gives the landlord the right to enter the rental unit for permissible purposes according to our state law. We provide maintenance services to our tenants including routine inspection of the HVAC system and replacement of filters. We have followed state law and our standard practices in the notice requirements to one of our tenants requesting entry for HVAC maintenance services. The tenant is refusing our request for entry. Can a tenant refuse to allow a landlord to enter the rental unit?

The implied warranty of habitability requires a landlord to offer and maintain leased premises in a safe and sanitary condition fit for human habitation for the duration of the lease. The tenant’s covenant of quiet enjoyment ensures the tenant that during his tenancy, his use and enjoyment of the dwelling unit will not be disturbed by others including the landlord. For compliance with habitability responsibilities, a landlord can request access to the rental unit as needed for inspections and repairs in order to make sure the property is safe and well maintained.

While ownership of the property and possession of the property are separate matters, at times such matters can create landlord-tenant tension when the landlord requires access to the rental unit and the tenant views the landlord’s entry as a violation of privacy. The landlord can remind the tenant that the lease agreement sets forth the landlord’s legal right to enter the premises for permissible purposes during reasonable hours. Furthermore the issue should always be adequately covered in the lease agreement and discussed during the tenant orientation meeting. Generally with open communication and discussion with the tenant regarding the business necessity for entry, the landlord is granted access to a tenant-occupied property. The tenant should be reassured that the landlord, or the landlord’s agent, will remain in the tenant’s rental unit only for the amount of time required to complete the inspection and maintenance work. If the tenant wishes to be present during the entry time or be represented by a representative, a landlord should try to accommodate the tenant.

Certainly it can depend upon the circumstances of the landlord request and the nature of the tenant’s refusal, but in general the landlord has the legal right to peacefully enter the rental premises to conduct his business during reasonable hours. If agreement is reached regarding entry to the premises, it may be good practice to have a witness accompany the landlord or the landlord’s agent to observe the work being done and to counter any claims by the tenant of unlawful conduct by the landlord or his agent.

Statutes of some states may allow the tenant to refuse a written request for entry, but could require the tenant to prove justification for his decision. If the tenant repeatedly refuses landlord access to the rental unit, the tenant could be held in breach of his lease for failing to cooperate, thus providing a cause of action for the landlord to proceed with an eviction lawsuit.

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