The typical problem is the resident manager who has a
key to your apartment, and snoops around while you're away at work,
going through your things, perhaps even taking your property. It's a
great feeling of power for a little person to be able to so grossly
invade someone's privacy, like that, and the practice is alarmingly
common. There are landlords who give a key freely to workmen to come
into your unit, unsupervised, to so what they please, perhaps even
catching you in embarrassing moments. There are landlords who freely
give a key to realtors to walk into your house any time they please,
placing a "lockbox" on your doorknob for any of them to
use to walk right in, or set up an "open house" in your
home, and ask you to get lost for a few days. There are Peeping Tom
landlords, and those who freely come into your back yard to pick
fruit and see what you're up to. It matters not that they own title
to the property. These are all violations of the right to
possession, not of title.
They think, "Who cares about your
privacy? You're only a tenant." Try complaining about it,
and you get either an indignant denial or a threat of eviction, not
an apology. They are wrong, but act like you're way out of line for
wanting privacy. This is because few tenants sue over it. Many
are too intimidated to sue their landlord for walking into his own
building, or believe they have no rights.
| The difference
between the sidewalk and your apartment is that you have the right
to exclusive possession of your apartment against all the world,
even the landlord. When the landlord rents your apartment to you, he
is selling you the right to exclusive possession; that is what
renting is. If the landlord would prefer to have that right, he
doesn't rent it; once he does, he can't come into your apartment
without your permission, or under very narrow legal limits without
your permission. Otherwise, it's trespassing, breach of contract,
invasion of privacy, breach of quiet enjoyment, and disorderly
You can sue the landlord and whoever
else comes in with their permission. Sue the landlord and
whoever for up to $10,000 in small claims court for trespassing, breach of
contract, invasion of privacy, and breach of quiet enjoyment; if you
are two or more tenants, each can separately sue them for up to $10,000, and
a joint action is not required. Entry of the rental unit by
the landlord or his agents may be a criminal trespass, as well.
Penal Code 602.5 and 602.8 [see below] define the trespass as entry
and refusal to leave without the consent of the owner "or the person
in lawful possession" appears to suggest that whoever is in lawful
possession is the one whose consent is required, and where the
landlord has rented the possession, the landlord has the money but
not the right to possession. There is no definitive ruling in
California law, whether tenants can charge their landlord with
criminal, as opposed to civil, trespass. Maybe your case will make
the law books.
Civil Code 1954
Under Civil Code 1954 [see
below], the landlord may enter your unit without your permission ONLY:
(1) in an emergency, like a fire or broken pipe, or
(2) upon reasonable advance notice, and then ONLY:
inspect, repair, or show the apartment,
(B) during normal
business hours [presumably Mon.-Fri. 8AM-6PM]
hours is presumed to be sufficient notice
do not have to be home when they come, but the landlord is
liable for anything stolen or broken.
(D) The notice must
identify a date and reasonable time range [like an hour] within
which the entry will occur
notice MUST be written [not oral or e-mail], except if a WRITTEN
notice that realtors will be showing the property is given, for the
next 120 days only an oral telephonic 24 hour notice is required
[business hour limit still applies]
(G) The right of
entry can't be "abused", so that an open house, lock box,
extended repair, daily entry, or excessive range of entry time are
probably all "abuses" which you have the legal right to
The nature of the reasonableness of the notice
seems to be to give you time to pick up the place, secure pets,
arrange to be there, or otherwise make ready for the visit. The law
is not clear, here, and the above is the best interpretation of what
the law probably is.
These entries can be restricted
by practical means, since there is no legal authority (pro or con)
to do so:
(1) Write a letter to the owner, carbon copy to the local police,
about the manager's burglary.
(2) Change the locks, or add chain lock to the door [example],
so that the manager's entry is restricted. You should plan on
moving, if the owner does not restrict the manager's entry, but at
least your privacy will be protected meanwhile.
(3) Sue the manager and landlord for their trespass and invasion of
privacy, in small claims court [maximum is $10,000]. Maybe they'll
think twice next time. Each time, it's a different lawsuit. Each
person so affected can separately sue.
(4) Circulate a flier to all of your neighbors about what happened.
Not only can they take precautions, but many may move, punishing the
landlord with lots of vacancies. Many may choose to join you and sue
the manager and landlord, too.
(5) For the realtors showing your house, call the broker who has
listed the house and tell them that no one is to enter without
reasonable advance written notice, like 24 hours, and that they should
immediately remove the lock box, or you will do it when you change
the doorknobs. Tell them that any realtor or prospective buyer will
be sued, and the police will be called to charge them with criminal
trespass [see above], should they dare violate this. You can also tell each
prospective buyer about all of the problems with the house, and the
neighborhood, so that the brokers will not want to show the
property, at all. In the alternative, you can work out a cooperative
arrangement with the broker to ensure that your privacy is
respected. They'll get the point.
The law now requires a landlord
to provide dead bolt locks on the doors and adequate locks on the
windows of a residential rental unit. Civil Code Section 1941.3.
Failure to do so violates the "warranty of habitability",
permitting the tenant to move out, repair and deduct, or withhold
rent as remedies. You can use that law to put them on, deduct the
cost from your rent [See Repairs], and have the additional barrier
to their illegal entry.
CIV §1954. (a) A landlord may enter the dwelling unit only in the
(1) In case of emergency.
(2) To make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations or
improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the
dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants,
workers, or contractors or to make an inspection pursuant to subdivision
(f) of Section 1950.5.
(3) When the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises.
(4) Pursuant to court order.
(b) Except in cases of emergency or when the tenant has abandoned or
surrendered the premises, entry may not be made during other than normal
business hours unless the tenant consents to an entry during other than
normal business hours at the time of entry.
(c) The landlord may not abuse the right of access or use it to harass
(d) (1) Except as provided in subdivision (e), or as provided in
paragraph (2) or (3), the landlord shall give the tenant reasonable
notice in writing of his or her intent to enter and enter only during
normal business hours. The notice shall include the date, approximate
time, and purpose of the entry. The notice may be personally delivered
to the tenant, left with someone of a suitable age and discretion at the
premises, or, left on, near, or under the usual entry door of the
premises in a manner in which a reasonable person would discover the
notice. Twenty-four hours shall be presumed to be reasonable notice in
absence of evidence to the contrary. The notice may be mailed to the
tenant. Mailing of the notice at least six days prior to an intended
entry is presumed reasonable notice in the absence of evidence to the
(2) If the purpose of the entry is to exhibit the dwelling unit to
prospective or actual purchasers, the notice may be given orally, in
person or by telephone, if the landlord or his or her agent has notified
the tenant in writing within 120 days of the oral notice that the
property is for sale and that the landlord or agent may contact the
tenant orally for the purpose described above. Twenty-four hours is
presumed reasonable notice in the absence of evidence to the contrary.
The notice shall include the date, approximate time, and purpose of the
entry. At the time of entry, the landlord or agent shall leave written
evidence of the entry inside the unit.
(3) The tenant and the landlord may agree orally to an entry to make
agreed repairs or supply agreed services. The agreement shall include
the date and approximate time of the entry, which shall be within one
week of the agreement. In this case, the landlord is not required to
provide the tenant a written notice.
(e) No notice of entry is required under this section:
(1) To respond to an emergency.
(2) If the tenant is present and consents to the entry at the time of
(3) After the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the unit. [Amended by
Stats. 2003, Ch. 787, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 2004]
PEN §602.5. (a) Every person other than a public officer or employee
acting within the course and scope of his or her employment in
performance of a duty imposed by law, who enters or remains in any
noncommercial dwelling house, apartment, or other residential place
without consent of the owner, his or her agent, or the person
in lawful possession thereof, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(b) Every person other than a public officer or an employee acting
within the course and scope of his employment in performance of a duty
imposed by law, who, without the consent of the owner, his or her agent,
or the person in lawful possession thereof, enters or remains in any
noncommercial dwelling house, apartment, or other residential place
while a resident, or another person authorized to be in the dwelling, is
present at any time during the course of the incident is guilty of
aggravated trespass punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not
more than one year or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars
($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment....
PEN §602.8. (a)
Any person who without the written permission of the landowner,
the owner’s agent, or the person in lawful possession of the land,
willfully enters any lands under cultivation or enclosed by fence,
belonging to, or occupied by, another, or who willfully enters upon
uncultivated or unenclosed lands where signs forbidding trespass are
displayed at intervals not less than three to the mile along all
exterior boundaries and at all roads and trails entering the lands, is
guilty of a public offense.