Your home is your castle, but if you’re a renter, it’s not really your castle. You’re paying each month to live on someone else’s property.
So, when the time comes to move out, your landlord will be eager to find the next renter to take your place. She might need to show your place to potential renters, but what happens if these showings don’t line up with your schedule?
“There’s a delicate balance between maintaining tenants’ rights to privacy and the landlord’s rights to maintain the property and keep the business running,” says Laurence Jankelow, co-founder and chief operating officer of Avail.
Your landlord is expected to respect your privacy, but what happens if she wants to show your apartment to potential renters or buyers when you’re not home?
Can the landlord show your property when you’re not home?
The answer to this question is probably contained in your lease and/or city ordinances.
“It should be considered standard practice and courtesy to coordinate with the tenant directly and ask for permission,” Jankelow says. In fact, he adds, it’s preferable to have permission because this makes it more likely that the tenant will organize or clean the place beforehand.
“However, the real world isn’t always as agreeable, and in those situations, most cities have ordinances clearly defining the rights the landlords and tenants have,” he says.
Your lease should also provide guidance in this area, outlining when a landlord can or cannot enter your apartment.
“Every scenario is different, but the landlord will mention that he or she would like to show your property at certain times,” Mertens says.
If a tenant has been given a 24-hour notice, he says it doesn’t matter if the tenant agrees or not.
“Most of the time everyone is willing to work together to show the space, but sometimes tenants can be difficult about visitors when they are not home,” Mertens says. In such cases, the rules outlined in the lease would dictate the appropriate course of action for the landlord.
What are the rules for entering a tenant’s space?
To understand the rules of entering your space to show it to others, we need to back up and look at the rules for entering in general.
According to Ruth Shin, founder and CEO of PropertyNest, tenants have a lot of rights. For example, in New York City these include privacy laws.
“The landlord is only allowed to enter without permission if there is an emergency such as a fire or flooded apartment,” Shin says.
Otherwise, if they’re doing repair work, servicing the apartment, or showing it to prospective tenants, she says the landlord should get your permission.
“The standard ordinance allows a landlord to enter the property for any reason as long as the landlord provides sufficient notice in advance,” says Jankelow.
He says it’s recommended that the landlord seek permission from the tenant, but most laws don’t require this—and they don’t require the tenant to be home during a showing.
“In fact, it’s favorable for the landlord that the tenant not be home,” Jankelow says. “There’s some psychology at play here, but it’s easier for a prospective new tenant to feel like this potential new home is safe and familiar when there isn’t someone else there.”
How to prepare for a showing
So, now we know that it’s possible a landlord will be showing your property when you’re not home. But does it help to know that any prospective tenant won’t be left alone in your home?
“We always have someone from the office at the unit because you never allow someone to enter the unit without representation from the management company,” says Aaron Marshall, co-founder of Keyrenter Property Management.
However, we’ve all seen those “House Hunters” episodes where people open the cabinets, bounce on the bed, and sit down in the bathtub. Potential tenants will want to get a feel for the space, so they may poke around. Prepare your home by tucking away valuables or anything you don’t want a stranger to see.
“The best practice is to schedule specific times to show your property with the landlord so you don’t feel like your space is being invaded,” says Mertens.
However, if you feel your landlord isn’t being reasonable, you do have rights.
“Tenants are entitled to ‘quiet enjoyment of the property,’ so if they feel a landlord is taking advantage of the situation and entering the property every 48 hours, they can take legal action against the landlord,” Jankelow says.
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