The Common Law

Landlord tenant issues privacy of the tenant

My landlord has entered my apartment several times in the last few months. I've asked her to stop coming to the apartment so much and to tell me when she does plan to come. Can my landlord just come into the apartment whenever she wants?

It depends on your lease, in part because Texas (unlike the majority of other states) does not have a specific statute that protects tenants from inappropriate invasions of privacy.

As a general rule, a landlord that leases residential property gives all of the possession rights to the tenant unless specific exceptions have been established in the lease. Accordingly, your landlord would not maintain the general right to enter the apartment if your lease has no specific provision addressing this issue. However, even in this situation, a landlord could still enter the apartment if you have requested repairs or there are emergency circumstances.

Keep in mind that most well-written leases specifically address the circumstances that allow a landlord to enter the leased property. For example, the standard Texas Apartment Association lease, which is used by many landlords throughout the state, includes numerous situations that allow the landlord to enter the property whether you are there or not. Most of these situations deal with making improvements to the property (things like general repairs and preventative maintenance, pest control, installing appliances or security devices) or preventing undesirable circumstances (like stopping excessive noise or removing health or safety hazards). Take a look at the TAA Web site (www.taa.org) for more information on all the situations in a TAA lease that allow the landlord to enter the leased premises.

Assuming your lease gives the landlord the right to enter your apartment, you should also check to see if she is required to give you notice before entering. In addition, many leases, like the TAA lease discussed above, require the landlord to leave a notice of entry inside your apartment explaining that the landlord entered the apartment and the reason for doing so.

It is always good to have a positive relationship with your landlord, so read the lease and use it as a guideline in working with the landlord in the future.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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