Has COVID-19 made you more concerned about the state of your rental property? If so, you may be considering an inspection. However, before you pay your tenant a visit, it’s important to take their privacy into consideration.
Most state laws allow landlords to enter their tenant’s homes under specific circumstances, but they must meet certain legal requirements beforehand, like providing ample notice. While you have a right to enter the property, your tenant also has the right to privacy. If a tenant denies access to their home for any reason, you may not be able to enter unless there is a serious issue.
Despite this, there are landlords who don’t honor privacy laws. Some will enter the property whenever they like, or will spy on their tenants to make sure they’re following the lease agreement. This can lead to legal issues, including claims of harassment. So, no matter how concerned you are about inspecting your property, it’s vital to be respectful of your tenants and approach any instance of entering their property in a professional and legal manner.
Addressing Long-Term Guests
Most property managers and landlords will likely have to deal with long-term guests at some point. A long-term guest would be considered anyone the tenant houses for an extended period who isn’t on the lease. The issue with long-term guests is that if they cause any damage to the property or break terms on the tenant’s lease, there’s little that can be done about it.
While it may be tempting to just keep close tabs on the situation, this approach puts you at risk of breaching your tenant’s privacy. The best approach is to confront the problem directly. You can schedule an inspection or ask for a meeting to address the issue. Give your tenant a chance to explain why they have a long-term guest and be open about your expectations while they’re staying at the property.
One way to avoid problems with long-term guests is to have a clearly outlined guest stipulation in your lease. Be clear about your expectations regarding consecutive overnight stays, the number of visits a tenant can have in a certain period of time, and your rules about subletting. This will give your tenants a better understanding of their responsibilities if such a situation arises.
Providing Notice before Entering the Property
Some landlords will show up at their tenant’s door unannounced or check up on them without a valid reason. This can feel extremely intrusive to tenants, and it’s often illegal. There are laws that prohibit frequent disruptions to tenant privacy, including things like making unnecessary repairs. One of the few exceptions is if a tenant is engaging in unlawful activities. However, in most circumstances, the law requires that landlords give notice.
The amount of notice a landlord is required to give a tenant varies from state to state, but it’s typically 24 – 48 hours’ notice. Even when you’ve provided notice and the tenant agrees, it’s still recommended that you keep a written record. Document all the repairs and reasons why you’ve needed to visit the property. This provides proof that you haven’t stopped by unannounced or made unnecessary repairs in case the tenant claims otherwise.
Some landlords have begun to adopt smart devices at their properties, such as water sensors, locks, and thermostats. These devices can save on energy bills and they often make the home more convenient and comfortable for tenants. They can also increase the property value, making it easier to rent or resell it at a higher price.
Despite this, property owners should always discuss adding these devices with the tenants before they’re installed. Some tenants may feel wary about this new technology, either because they don’t understand how it works or they don’t trust it. Some smart devices can collect data, which can be delivered to third parties who could potentially misuse the information. Often, this involves selling a tenant’s information to an advertiser. The advertiser can then use the information to target the tenant or their demographic for sales and promotions.
Not only can this be annoying, but it may also create trust issues. So, the best practice, in this case, is to have an open conversation about the technology before it’s installed to make sure the tenant is comfortable with it.
Keep Communication Open From the Beginning
Essentially, the best way to avoid breaching your tenant’s privacy is to keep lines of communication open. Ideally, open communication should begin when you start screening potential applicants. This not only sets you up for finding great tenants, but it can also help you avoid turnover.
As applicants become tenants, and the relationship grows, both parties should work to continue communicating effectively. If all conversations are built on transparency and mutual understanding, your relationship with your tenants will be positive and respectful.