No Texas statute addresses landlord’s entry, but Texas courts have held that a landlord may not enter the rental property unless entry is authorized by the lessee. Once a residential property is leased, the landlord’s ability to enter the rental unit is diminished. Since no Texas laws state when a landlord can enter a rental property, the rules default to the lease agreement. Some lease agreements give a list of reasons when the landlord can enter and other leases do not mention landlord’s entry at all.
The TAA lease, which is widely used in Texas, states the landlord can enter for reasons ranging from removing unauthorized pets to showing the unit to prospective buyers to stopping excessive noise.
If the lease agreement — either written or verbal — does not include reasons for when the landlord is able to enter the unit, then there are only very specific times when a landlord may enter. These times include:
- To make repairs requested by the tenant;
- If there is an emergency inside the unit; or
- If the landlord is going to post a notice either under the landlord’s lien law or when demanding possession in an eviction. (See ATC’s brochures, Landlord’s Lien and The Eviction Process for more information regarding these laws.)
This means the landlord cannot, among other things, enter to show the unit to a prospective tenant or to inspect the dwelling unless specifically agreed to in the lease.
Does a Tenant Have to Give the Landlord Access?
Regardless of what is written in the lease agreement, the landlord can never force his way in or enter without first seeing if someone is at home. If the tenant is at home, but does not want the landlord or anyone else to enter, the tenant should have a keyless bolting device on all exterior doors which can be engaged. Locking the keyless bolting device (e.g. keyless deadbolt) prevents anyone from entering the rental unit because it cannot be seen or used from the outside. See ATC’s brochure, What About Locks? for more information regarding state-required locks.
Sometimes, the tenant may be the only one with a key to the rental unit. This often occurs when the property is sold and the previous owner does not give the new owner a key. If the landlord is allowed to enter the rental unit, but does not have a key, it can be requested from the tenant. Once requested, the tenant is obligated to give the landlord a copy of the key only if required under the lease agreement. If this is the case, the copy should be made at the landlord’s expense and precautions should be taken so the tenant is not without access to the unit while the key is being duplicated.
Some rental units may have an alarm system. As mentioned above, the only time the tenant is obligated to give the alarm code to the landlord is if it is required under the lease agreement.
Even if the lease allows the landlord to enter the unit, the tenant has the right to deny the landlord access. The reasons may include if the tenant is sick, if the tenant is on his way out, or if … The tenant needs to be careful not to deny access too many times. The tenant may be considered to be in breach of the lease agreement if access is continually denied to the landlord.
If the tenant is willing to allow the landlord entry but under certain conditions, the tenant may submit a written request to the landlord detailing the conditions.
Does the Landlord Have to Give Advance Notice?
Many tenants believe the landlord is required to give 24 hours notice before entering the rental unit but this is not true. As with many questions previously addressed in this brochure, the landlord is only obligated to give advance notice if required under the lease. If the lease does not require advance notice and it appears the landlord is taking advantage of this, the tenant may request in writing that the landlord only enter after giving advance notice, for example, 24 hours. The tenant may also request that the tenant be present when the landlord enters the unit. The TAA lease does not require advance notice, but it does require the landlord to leave a written notice of the entry afterwards only if no one is in the unit at the time of entry.
What if the Landlord Violates the Tenant’s Rights?
If the landlord enters the dwelling for reasons other than those stated in the lease agreement or does not give notice when required, the tenant should address it in a written demand to the landlord. The lease violation should be pointed out and a deadline should be given for the landlord to correct the problem.
If there is a more serious violation, the tenant may file suit in court and either sue for damages or ask to be released from the lease.
The information in this brochure is a summary of the subject and other pertinent matters. It should not be considered conclusive or a substitute for legal advice. Unique facts can render broad statements inapplicable. Anyone needing legal assistance should contact an attorney.