Your Landlord's Right to Enter Your Rental Unit
Your Landlord's Right to Enter Your Rental Unit
- Does my landlord have the right to enter my rental unit?
Yes. Your landlord has the right to enter your rental unit in order to
- Inspect the unit;
- Make necessary or agreed upon repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements;
- Supply necessary or agreed upon services;
- Show the unit to potential or actual buyers, lenders, tenants, workers, or contractors.
In addition, your landlord may enter your rental unit if:
- You have abandoned your rental unit;
- You have been absent for more than seven days, and the entry is reasonably necessary;
- Your landlord has a court order allowing him/her to enter; or
- There is an emergency requiring entry.
- Does my landlord have to give me notice before entering my rental unit?
Yes. Unless there is an emergency, your landlord must notify you 24 hours before they intend to enter your rental unit. The notice can be either written or verbal.
- As long as my landlord gives me notice, can they enter my rental unit anytime?
No. Your landlord may only enter your rental unit at reasonable times.
In addition, your landlord cannot abuse the right to enter your rental unit in a way that harasses you.
- What if there is an emergency?
In an emergency your landlord can enter your rental unit without giving you 24 hours notice.
- Can my landlord bring other people into my rental unit?
The law (Section 70-24-312, MCA) allows the landlord or the landlord’s agent to enter your unit. They can also bring with them persons who have a legitimate interest in entering your unit. This might include prospective buyers, tenants, or lenders, and also persons who will be doing work in your unit, such as repair workers, maintenance workers, or contractors.
The landlord or the landlord’s agent should not be bringing into your unit a person who has no legitimate reason for being there, such as a curious neighbor.
- Can I refuse my landlord's request to enter my rental unit?
Not if your refusal is unreasonable. You cannot unreasonably refuse to allow your landlord to enter your rental unit. If you do, your landlord may:
- Give you a 24-hour notice to allow the landlord's entry, and if you don't let the landlord in within 24 hours, the landlord can give you a 3-day notice to move out and you could be evicted; or
- File a lawsuit against you in court, asking the judge to immediately allow the landlord to enter.
Under either option, the landlord may recover "actual damages" caused by your unreasonable refusal to allow entry. "Actual damages" basically means any damage caused to the rental or any out-of-pocket costs the landlord experienced because of your unreasonable refusal to allow the landlord to enter.
If you’re not being unreasonable, and instead you have a good reason for refusing your landlord entry, then contact your landlord to explain. For example, it may be reasonable if you’re not objecting to the landlord coming into your unit, you’re only objecting to the particular day or time chosen for entry. Explain why that day or time won’t work for you, and try to agree with your landlord on a different day or time for the landlord’s entry.
- My landlord gave me a notice of entry, but it just says the landlord will enter some time during a one- or two-week period. It does not specify the date or time the landlord will be here. Is that legal?
The law is not perfectly clear on this issue. The law (Section 70-24-312, MCA) requires a landlord to give you 24 hours notice for a non-emergency entry “unless it is impracticable to do so.” So, the question is whether it’s practical for your landlord to give you a more specific notice. If your landlord manages lots of units and plans to enter each of them in the same time period (maybe for something routine like checking all the smoke detectors) then it may not be possible for the landlord to specify an exact date and time that someone will be in your exact unit. On the other hand, it should be possible for a landlord to at least give you the exact day of the entry (even if not the exact time). Remember, the law says the landlord cannot abuse his/her right of access to your unit.
If you’re not being unreasonable, and you have a good reason for asking your landlord to specify the date and time of his/her entry, then contact your landlord to explain. For example, explain that you don’t want the landlord there without you being home, or that you need to restrain your indoor pet before the landlord’s entry. Try to agree with your landlord on a specific day or time for the landlord’s entry. If you have a disability and your disability is negatively impacted by the landlord’s vague, non-specific notice of entry, you may want to submit a request for accommodation to your landlord, asking the landlord to always specify the date and time of his/her entry. You can find a form for requesting an accommodation at http://www.montanafairhousing.org/forms/Request_for_Accommodation.pdf
- Can I change or add a lock without my landlord's permission?
No. You cannot change or add a lock to your rental unit without written permission from your landlord. If you change a lock or add a lock to your unit, you must give the landlord a key, to make sure that the landlord always has the right of access to your unit.
If you do change or add a lock without your landlord's permission, your landlord may:
- Give you a 24-hour notice to remove your lock or give the landlord a key, and if you don't comply within that 24 hours, the landlord can give you a 3-day notice to move out and you could be evicted; or
- File a lawsuit against you in court, asking the judge to immediately order you to remove your lock or give the landlord a key.
- What can I do if my landlord enters unlawfully, makes unreasonable requests, or harasses me with repeated requests for lawful entry?
Your landlord cannot enter your rental unit unlawfully, make unreasonable requests to enter, or use the landlord's right to enter in a way that harasses you.
If your landlord does any of these things, you may:
- File a lawsuit and ask for a court order restraining your landlord from such activity;
- Move out of the rental unit, after you have given proper notice to your landlord; and
- Recover any actual damages caused by your landlord's actions.
- For more information, you can contact one of the following organizations:
- Montana Legal Services Association provides free legal assistance to Montanans who cannot afford to hire an attorney, living in poverty. Apply online anytime at mtlsa.org/apply-for-services/. Or call 1-800-666-6899 Tuesday-Thursday from 9 a.m - 1 p.m.
- State of Montana Law Library. The Law Library provides help finding legal information. Visit the Law Library website at lawlibrary.mt.gov.
- The State Bar Lawyer Referral Service may give you contact information for attorneys who provide, for a fee, the type of assistance you are seeing. You can contact the State Bar Lawyer Referral Service at licensedlawyer.org/mt or (406) 449-6577.