San Francisco, CA asked in Consumer Law, Contracts and Landlord - Tenant for California

Q: My landlord entered my apartment without notice. He has the key. I was home and got very scared. What can I do about it?

My landlord said he rang the door bell and knocked the doors I didn’t hear at all. So he said he thought nobody was home and them entered as he has the key. I thought it insulting.

He said it was an emergency as the fire alarm battery was dead and needed replacement.

I argued that this is not a justifiable reason to enter without notice. He could’ve called my cellphone, called in the Callbox or even sent an email and wait for my authorization to enter.

Even if I wasn’t home I wouldn’t feel comfortable knowing that he entered without telling me. In my mind, the only justifiable reason to enter like that would be fire or floading. Changing battery is not an emergency to just enter someone’s apartment.

I was home and got very scared when I saw a guy inside my apartment on a Sunday night. Very disrespectful!

I sent him a email to document the disruption and even in his response he continues saying that it was an emergency and he had the right to enter. How to proceed with this?

3 Lawyer Answers
Leon Bayer
Leon Bayer
  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Long Beach, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Fire protection is a justifiable reason for him to enter. I'll assume he had the necessary battery and installed it during the incident.

You are being unreasonable.

I agree that it could have been handled better, but that does not mean it was handled in a way that is unacceptable or legally actionable.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, landlords are required to provide reasonable notice before entering a tenant's unit, except in cases of emergency. The specifics of notice requirements may vary depending on the reason for entry and the terms of your lease agreement. Generally, 24 hours' notice is considered reasonable for non-emergency situations.

Here are some steps you can take:

1. Review your lease agreement to see if it specifies the notice required for the landlord to enter your apartment.

2. Send a written letter or email to your landlord, reiterating the incident and expressing your concerns about the unauthorized entry. Mention that you do not consider a dead fire alarm battery an emergency justifying entry without proper notice.

3. In your letter, request that your landlord provide proper notice in the future before entering your apartment, as required by California law and your lease agreement.

4. If your landlord continues to enter your apartment without proper notice or reason, you may file a complaint with the California Department of Consumer Affairs or a local tenant rights organization for further guidance.

5. In extreme cases of repeated unauthorized entries, you might consider legal action. However, this should be a last resort after attempts to resolve the issue directly with your landlord have failed.

Remember to keep copies of all correspondence with your landlord for your records. While a one-time incident may not warrant legal action, it is essential to communicate your concerns and ensure that your landlord respects your right to privacy and follows proper entry procedures in the future.

Delaram Keshvarian
Delaram Keshvarian
  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Orange, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Thank you for your question!

Changing the battery of a fire alarm does not seem to be an emergency, that poses immediate harm to people or property.

For repair, landlords are allowed to enter into the property by providing written notice in advance. If such a notice was not provided, and if he repeats entering your property without notice, you may have some remedies:

1. Inform him that a written notice is required for future entrances for repair. (Document it).

2. If you "reasonably" believe your landlord is harassing you, you can get a protective order against him. One incident is not enough. (It could be a mistake).

3. If he keeps doing similar things on different occasions, you can bring a damages lawsuit against your landlord for invasion of your privacy, trespass, emotional distress, harassment, discrimination (probably based on gender), retaliation, or any other causes of action applicable.

This is merely a discussion of general laws and not legal advice. For legal advice, more specific facts and investigations are needed. I recommend you consult with an attorney in more detail.

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.