When Can Landlords Enter Their Rental Property?

Under California law, when an owner rents real property to the resident, the resident is entitled to exclusive possession of the premises, even to the exclusion of the owner or property manager of the premises. There are, however, exceptions to this general rule, as codified by Civil Code section 1954.  Here is a summary of its relevant provisions regarding the circumstances when a landlord may enter a rented dwelling. 


Civil Code section 1954(a) (1) authorizes a landlord’s entry into rental property in case of an emergency.  If there’s an emergency, the landlord can enter at any time during the day or night and does not have to provide advance notification to the tenant.  For example, if the landlord sees a fire at the rental property he may enter for purposes of taking care of the problem.  It also does not matter whether the tenant is present in the rental property.


A landlord is also permitted to enter a dwelling unit “to make necessary or agreed upon repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements” to the property. (Civil Code section 1954(a)(2).) If the tenant has notified the landlord about some repair work that needs to be done at the rental property and the landlord wishes to come over to perform the repairs then in that case, the tenant would have to let him in. Further, if the landlord sends a repair worker to take care of an issue, the tenant must allow him to enter the rental property.

Landlords must provide a 24 hour notice to enter dwelling and list the proper reason as to why the landlord or a repairman is entering the rental unit. Repairs must be done within normal business hours unless a mutual agreement exists allowing the landlord to enter outside of business hours.

Maintenance Check

If the landlord is visiting the rental property for a routine maintenance check, he has the right to enter the premises. However, it is important that the landlord inform the tenant in advance that he will be coming over to take a look at the rental’s maintenance. Moreover, it is also necessary that the landlord chooses a suitable time to perform the maintenance check in the presence of the tenant. It is common practice for a landlord to schedule routine maintenance checks after every 3 to 6 months.

Showing the Property

A California landlord may also enter his rental property to “exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workers, or contractors.”  (Civil Code section 1954(a)(2).) In other words, a landlord is allowed to show the rental property to a prospective tenant or buyer. The landlord must inform the tenant about his visit beforehand and schedule a fixed time during business hours when he will be visiting.

Abandonment/Surrender of the Premises

Civil Code section 1954 also authorizes a landlord to enter a rental dwelling “[W]hen the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises.” (Civil Code section 1954)(a)(3).) One caveat here is to ensure you have proof that the tenant has actually abandoned/surrendered the premises by, for example, the tenant’s return of the keys or written confirmation that he has left.  In cases of uncertainty, serve the tenant with a Notice of Belief of Abandonment.  This would require you to wait 18 days before entering the premises, but would well be worth the extra time given the possible adverse consequences of premature, unauthorized entry. 

Court Order

An owner may also enter the dwelling unit “pursuant to a court order”.  Unfortunately, a requirement for a court order to enforce entry forces the filing of a lawsuit and pursuit of the suit until the order can be obtained.   One way to commence litigation is to use the Three Day Notice to Perform Conditions and Covenants or Quit. For example, if the owner wanted to show the property to prospective tenants or allow workmen in to make necessary repairs, but the resident refuses, the Notice to Perform Conditions and Covenants or Quit would instruct the resident to give reasonable dates and times for entry into the unit. If the resident fails to comply with the notice, an action for unlawful detainer could be filed. 

Please contact Lynx Legal Service with any questions regarding the above, and for all of your eviction needs.  We can be reached at 888-441-2355, or  Our experienced professionals are standing by to start your case or answer any questions you may have.

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