As a landlord or property manager, you likely find yourself inside your tenant’s home at least a few times a year. There are annual inspections and the occasional maintenance call. Maybe you’ve promised to make an upgrade, like installing a new stove, or you want to check the smoke detectors. Such visits are part of the job of management, but they also represent a limited set of circumstances: times when you can legally – and reasonably – enter your tenant’s apartment.
Texas places few restrictions on a landlord’s right to enter a unit, or on the rights of a surrogate, such as a property manager, to do so. There is, for example, no minimum period of advance notice required for a landlord to enter a property under non-emergency circumstances. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any rules, or at least expectations, though. Guided by the tenant’s right to “quiet enjoyment,” landlord-tenant relationships thrive when you limit your visits to these 6 core circumstances.
- Annual Inspection
Of all the reasons a landlord might enter a property, this is one of the most common. Standard leases stipulate there will be an annual inspection, allowing landlords to check for damage, safety hazards, and other concerns. Annual inspections don’t come unannounced, though. You should generally provide at least a few days’ notice of upcoming inspections, allowing tenants to restrain or crate pets, especially if they won’t be home, put away personal or sensitive items, and generally prepare for the visit.
If possible, give tenants the option to reschedule inspections; tenants who work the night shift, for example, may want you to come by in the evening so that they can rest. You have the right to perform an annual inspection, but you should consider this an opportunity to build relationships, as well.
- In Case Of Emergency
Emergencies are one of the only times when landlords and property managers are empowered to enter a tenant’s property without notice. Emergencies are typically narrowly defined – maybe there’s a fire or a pipe has burst. Typically, there needs to be some kind of outward indicator that something is amiss, whether that’s smoke or a leak in a neighboring apartment. Certainly, if you have reason to believe that there’s an ongoing crisis that could injure tenants or seriously damage the property, you have reason and the right to enter.
- Property Showings
The only way to keep your rental property profitable is to keep your units well-maintained and continuously occupied, and the only way to meet those goals is by occasionally having others in the property: potential tenants, appraisers, contractors, even real estate agents and buyers if you’re thinking about selling. You have the right to enter a tenant’s apartment for showings – with reasonable notice – but that’s in your best-interest, too. Most people don’t want strangers seeing their mess, so most tenants will clean up a bit if they know you’re showing the unit to potential renters.
- Maintenance And Services
Much like annual inspections, landlords and property managers have the right to enter a property to provide maintenance and other services to tenants. That includes repairing appliances, painting, replacing fixtures, and other similar services. This right also extends to any maintenance professionals you might employ for these tasks. You’ve got things to do, and most tenants would rather you keep things running smoothly than personally repair their boiler. If you have any concerns, though, it’s always helpful to escort maintenance professionals or other service providers to the door and introduce them to your tenants.
- Special Cases
Despite Texas’s generally lax laws regarding entry into tenants’ apartments, the right to quiet enjoyment overrides your ability to drop in without warning any time you feel like it. You can, however, write specific terms into the lease. Some landlords choose to add enforcement clauses, allowing them to remove unauthorized pets or intervene when there are noise complaints.
These lease clauses are useful exceptions – people may hide or take a pet offsite when they know annual inspections are coming up, for example. If you’re getting reports of a barking dog and you aren’t getting any traction communicating with the tenant directly, formal right of entry is a powerful last resort.
- With A Court Order
By the time you have a court order, communication has broken down and relationships have gone out the window. If you’re not entering the property to evict the tenant, you probably will be soon. Landlords can go to the courts when tenants repeatedly and unreasonably refuse entry to the property, and at that point it’s time to move swiftly. Tenants rarely refuse entry for no reason. Use such orders as necessary, but with great consideration.
- Make It Social
Annual inspections may not be social visits in the conventional sense, but that doesn’t mean they need to be cold, clinical processes. Any time you enter a tenant’s apartment, use that time as a tool to build your relationship. Take time to chat, make observations, and ask questions. You might even bring a snack or offer coffee and donuts in the main office during inspections. Sharing a little bit about yourself and making connections with your tenants can help build loyalty and give you insights that will make you a better landlord.
Professional Support And Guidance
In a state like Texas that doesn’t set minimums for reasonable notice or provide much guidance for when landlords can enter a tenant’s property, having some professional support can be a relief. That’s why you need the support of a professional property management team.
At Green Residential, we have over thirty years of Houston-area property management experience that informs everything we do. That means that we don’t just understand the legal norms surrounding landlord-tenant boundaries, but how to tend those relationships to everyone’s benefit.