With concern about covid-19 and cleanliness of rental property, tenants’ privacy may become an issue for some landlords.
By Holly Welles
Most state laws grant landlords the right to enter their tenants’ homes under specific circumstances. However, they must still meet certain legal requirements, such as giving enough notice beforehand.
Moreover, renters have a right to privacy. Thus, if a tenant denies access or expresses discomfort, property managers may not be able to enter the home if the issue isn’t serious enough.
Still, many landlords don’t honor these privacy laws and enter their properties whenever they please. Some even resort to spying on occupants to make sure they’re following the rules and stipulations in the lease agreement.
This can, of course, lead to legal issues, accusations of harassment, and even loss of property in some instances.
So it’s incredibly important that property managers respect tenant privacy, approaching everything professionally and legally. Here are a few simple ways to keep your contact respectful.
Address Long-Term Guests Properly
At some point, property managers will deal with long-term guests. In this case, a tenant houses someone who isn’t on the lease for an extended period. If this person causes any damage or breaks property rules, there’s very little a manager can do about it. Some nervous landlords might try to keep close tabs on suspect tenants. Of course, this is not a smart approach, as it breaches privacy boundaries – and tenants may notice.
Instead, landlords should confront the problem directly. This might include sending an email or scheduling an inspection or meeting to address the potential issue. Let them explain their guest situation — for instance, maybe they’re in a serious relationship or have a family member stay frequently — and openly communicate your expectations.
Moreover, landlords can avoid similar situations in the future by outlining guest stipulations in the lease. It’s important to be clear about overnight expectations regarding consecutive stays, the number of visits in a period of time, and subletting. That way, the tenant can see the basis for this discussion and better understand his or her responsibilities.
Give Notice Before Entering
Some landlords also have the bad habit of showing up unannounced at the tenants’ doors. Too often, they check up on occupants without having a specific reason to do so. This behavior is incredibly intrusive and, in many cases, illegal. Certain laws prohibit unnecessary repairs or frequent interruptions that interfere with tenants’ business. Of course, if someone is engaging in unlawful activities, landlords have the right to enter without notice. However, in most cases, the law requires they do so.
In many states, this means property managers must provide 24 to 48 hours’ notice before they come knocking on tenants’ doors. Even then, they should still keep a written record of all repairs and the reasons for intrusions to prove they were necessary. This way, renters can’t claim their landlord is making unnecessary repairs or stopping by unannounced.
Discuss Smart Devices with Tenants
As the general public increasingly adopts and accepts technology into the home, landlords are beginning to do the same. Some are installing internet-connected locks, water sensors, thermostats and wireless controls. These smart devices can help save energy and create a more comfortable and convenient home for renters. Plus, they increase property value, allowing landlords to rent or resell at higher prices.
However, landowners should discuss these additions with current tenants before installing them. Many tenants either don’t understand how these systems operate or simply don’t trust them. Smart-home gadgets can collect data and deliver it to third parties, who can misuse the information. Often, this entails selling tenant data to advertisers who target them or their demographic as a whole.
Aside from this being annoying, it also can cause trust issues. Managers can create a more trusting relationship by having conversations about this technology before installing it.
Keep Communication Open
The recurrent theme here is communication. To avoid crossing the line with tenants’ privacy, landlords must keep all lines of communication with occupants open. This should happen from the very beginning, when landlords are screening potential tenants. With the right conversations, they can choose the best renters and avoid turnover.
Furthermore, as the relationship between the property owner and tenant grows, both parties should continue to communicate effectively. The above instances are ways in which they might accomplish this. If everyone maintains transparency and a certain level of mutual understanding, they will respect one another and the relationship will be a positive one.