Your Landlord's Right to Enter Your Rental Unit
Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)
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 he/she intends to enter your rental unit. The notice can be either written or verbal.
- As long as my landlord gives me notice, can he/she enter my rental unit anytime?
No. Your landlord may only enter your rental unit at reasonable times.
In addition, your landlord cannot abuse his/her 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:
- Get a court order directing you to allow him/her access to your rental unit;
- Terminate your rental agreement, if he/she has first given you proper notice; and
- Recover any actual damages caused by your refusal.
If you’re not being unreasonable, and 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 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 www.montanafairhousing.org/disability.html.
- 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:
- Get a court order directing you to allow him/her access to your rental unit; and
- Terminate your rental agreement, if he/she has first given you proper notice.
- 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 his/her 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:
- The Montana Legal Services HelpLine. The HelpLine assists Montanans living in poverty. The HelpLine number is 1-800-666-6899. The HelpLine hours are 7:30am - 6:00 pm Mondays-Fridays. You can also submit an application online at http://www.mtlsa.org/get-legal-help/apply-legal-services/
- State of Montana Law Library. The Law Library provides help finding legal information. Visit the Law Library Web site at http://www.lawlibrary.mt.gov.
- Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) provides free help finding an attorney. Call the LRIS at 1-406-449-6577 or go to http://www.montanabar.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=255.