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Can Lexington Property Owners Be Charged with Trespassing on Their Own Rental Property?

Woman Inviting Her Landlord Inside the HouseAmong the many tasks that are needed for a landlord, part of it is responsible for maintenance on your property. Although, as soon as you have renters, you need to make sure that you give your renters advance notice before you or anybody else try and enter the property. This is because your property is understood to become the renter’s home once you turn over the keys. In simpler terms, just because you are the owner of a rental property in Lexington does not give you the power to meddle in the lives of your residents without proper notification.  It doesn’t matter if you only plan on changing a furnace filter, any unannounced entry could result in your resident levying charges of criminal trespassing.

Definitions of “reasonable notice” vary with state law, so read up more on the legality of your entry as a landlord. Outline the terms for notice to be given before entry in the lease so you don’t violate your renter’s privacy. For example, twenty-four hours is the commonly followed typical notice requirement for someone who isn’t the tenant or their guests to enter the property, regardless of the resident is home or not. Other locations even restrict entry to times of the day and days of the week, so make sure you understand and follow the laws in your area in this regard. It may seem like insignificant compliance, yet bearing in mind the alternative, it’s well worth the wait.

Exclusions to this may consist of emergency repairs or safety issues, just like faulty wiring that poses a fire hazard, burst pipes leaking into another unit or broken windows and doors that could affect the levels of comfort with the temperature or attract criminal activity. As a landlord, it is your responsibility to keep the residence “habitable,” so your legal obligation may trump the obligation to notify residents of entry. In fact, failure to conduct emergency repairs within the time frame specified by your state law could constitute neglect.

You and your tenants must also keep your property up to the local building or housing codes. If a lack of maintenance or a renter’s extended absence is affecting heat or ventilation, or broken fixtures are preventing the adequate provision of water or electricity, then as the landlord, you could face penalties for violating standards of living. If your tenants are not upholding the sanitation and structure of your property, seek legal counsel as to whether you have a reasonable right to enter the premises to conduct repairs.

Another exception to criminal trespassing is implied permission. This would include whether your renter requested repairs or maintenance, which would only mean that they know already and consented to your entry of the premises. Unless it is explicitly stated in the lease that notice should be provided for all repairs, you may be covered from a liability standpoint. Keep documentation of all maintenance requests to avoid the risk of a lawsuit.

Ultimately, you must respect your renter’s possessory rights. It may be your house, but it’s their home. Your property ownership does not give you the authorization to drop by without notice. You must submit proper notification of future entry. Illegal entry can result in fines up to several hundred dollars, or even jail time, depending on your state.

Real Property Management Commonwealth not only provides for proper notice and communication with the tenants for routine maintenance, repairs, and property evaluations, we also keep you in the know regarding all facets of your rental property. For more information on how we can make your life easier, contact us or call us at 617-299-2342.

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.