Managing a rental property means allowing other people, your tenants, to occupy your property in exchange for paying an agreed-upon monthly rental fee. This arrangement can be mutually beneficial, providing affordable housing to someone who needs it while simultaneously giving you an opportunity to generate profit.
But this arrangement also presents some interesting complications. For example, all of us expect and are entitled to a reasonable amount of privacy in our daily lives. But we also expect to be able to enter and manage a property we own at will.
This can, in some cases, present a conflict; if a tenant wants to remain as private as possible, but a landlord wants to enter the building, how should the situation proceed?
Why Tenant Privacy Is Important
First, let’s address why tenant privacy is so important.
The most important thing to note here is that tenants are legally entitled to at least some privacy rights. These rights vary from state to state, but generally include some protections that allow tenants to live a reasonably private life. We’ll talk about tenant privacy rights in more detail in the next section.
Tenant privacy is also important because of its subjective value. If you consistently violate tenant privacy, even if you do it in ways that are legally permissible, it’s going to create tension and put a burden on your landlord tenant relationship.
As a result, this can cause your tenant to be more combative and less cooperative in resolving mutual problems. And as an end result, it may force your tenant to leave your property prematurely, resulting in a vacancy that causes you severe income loss.
Conversely, if you make a conscientious commitment to maintaining tenant privacy and you do your best to enable your tenant to live a safe, secure life at your property, they’re going to be motivated to stay at your property for as long as possible.
Since many tenant privacy strategies require minimal effort on your part, there’s no reason not to pursue them.
Tenant Privacy Rights
Landlords have a right to enter the property. The exact nature of this right varies by location, but generally, a landlord is able to enter the property anytime he or she needs to do so. The caveat is, the need needs to be reasonable and advanced notice needs to be given whenever possible.
If there’s an emergency situation, in which the landlord reasonably suspects that there’s a risk of injury or property damage, the landlord can enter the property without advanced notice or permission from the tenant. For example, if the property is on fire, if there’s been a flood, or if there are indications that a crime has taken place, the landlord can immediately enter without risk of consequences, so long as they acknowledge the entry retrospectively.
If the landlord needs to enter the property to make repairs or improvements, they generally need to give advanced notice, though the legal obligations are going to vary depending on where the rental property is. Depending on location, you may be required to give 24 hours or 48 hours of advanced notice.
Landlords also have the ability to allow inspectors or law enforcement officers to enter the property even without tenant consent. Landlords do not have the authority to allow anyone other than these officials to enter the property without tenant consent.
Ultimately, tenant privacy rights can be boiled down into two broad categories:
- Physical privacy. Tenants have a right to live a physically private life. They’re protected from unreasonable or sudden entry by landlords, except in emergency situations.
- Information privacy. Tenants also have a right to information privacy. You’re responsible for using and managing their personal information in a private and secure way.
How to Make Tenants Feel Safer and More Secure
If you want to make your tenants feel safer and more secure in your property, these are some of the best strategies to help you do it:
- Create a clear, straightforward rental agreement. The legal rights of a tenant remain in place, regardless of whatever rental agreement you draft. However, you can make your tenant feel more secure and provide them with more information if you create a clear, straightforward rental agreement that includes terms on tenant privacy.
- Disclose and emphasize legal rights. Proactively inform your tenant about the legal rights they have – and emphasize them. Make it clear that you understand what these rights are and that you’re committed to honoring them.
- Pledge to provide advanced notice (and follow up). Let your tenant know that you’re going to give them advanced notice before ever entering their property. If you want to go the extra mile, give them more notice than they’re legally entitled to – and work with them to schedule convenient entry times.
- Install secure locks. You can also foster a better sense of privacy in your tenants by installing secure locks and other security features.
- Be cautious when installing smart home technology. Smart home technology can help you upgrade a property and make it more attractive to certain types of tenants, but some tenants are concerned about the privacy risks of smart home tech. Exercise caution when choosing and installing these devices.
- Maintain open communication. Good tenant-landlord relationships are built on trust. Maintain an open line of communication and be as transparent as possible to help tenants feel more secure.
- Respond to complaints and concerns positively. Finally, if your tenant has a complaint or concern related to privacy, respond promptly and positively. Work together with them to find a solution that’s mutually acceptable.
Good landlords proactively make their tenants feel private, safe, and secure. And even if you don’t have a personal interest in practicing this strategy, you have a legal obligation to respect tenant privacy. If you’re confused about your legal responsibilities and rights as a landlord, or if you just need some extra help with your property management strategy, Green Residential can help. Contact us for a free consultation today!