Many landlords think that they can let themselves into your apartment any time they want. This is not true.
Your landlord must have your permission to enter. If you do not give your landlord permission to enter:
- the landlord can enter if there are terms of your lease or written tenancy agreement which are legal and give the landlord permission to enter, or
- your landlord has a court order.
If you have a lease
Under the law, a lease may only allow the landlord to enter your apartment so that the landlord can:
- Inspect the apartment,
- Make repairs, or18
- Show the apartment to prospective tenants, purchasers or mortgagees.19
If you have a lease and it states other reasons that your landlord can enter your apartment, that part of your lease is illegal.20
If you do not have a lease or a written tenancy agreement
Arguably the landlord cannot enter your apartment unless
- they must make repairs or
- have a court order.21
Sanitary Code violations
With or without a lease, you are required to allow your landlord reasonable access (by appointment if possible) for the purpose of making repairs to Sanitary Code violations.22
Housing courts generally require landlords to give tenants at least 24 hours' notice before entering the tenant's apartment unless:
- There is an emergency, such as a water leak into another apartment
However there are times when 24 hours is not enough notice. If you work or have other scheduling problems, ask the landlord to give you at least 2 days' notice so that you can make arrangements to be in the apartment.
However, given that you will want the repairs made as soon as possible, it is always best to be cooperative in allowing access for making repairs.
The law also does not require you to give a landlord a key to your apartment.23
18 . A tenant must give the landlord reasonable access, upon reasonable notice and if possible by appointment, to make repairs required by the state sanitary code. 105 CMR 410.810. See the Mass. Department of Public Health's website for its written interpretation of "reasonable access" in this context at: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/environmental/sanitation/hsg-reasonable-access.pdf.
19 . G.L. c. 186, §15B(1). A landlord may also enter your apartment if your apartment appears to have been abandoned or to inspect it during the last 30 days of your tenancy to determine if there are damages that would lead to a reduction in the return of your security deposit. 940 C.M.R. §3.17(6)(e).
21 . See Strycharski v. Spillane, 320 Mass. 382, 385 (1946) (in the absence of an agreement that the landlord might enter to inspect, the landlord has no such right); Young v. Garwacki, 380 Mass. 162, 170 (1980). See also Milton Hospital and Convalescent Home v. Board of Assessors of Milton, 360 Mass. 63, 68 (1971).
22 . See endnote 18.
23 . No statute or regulation gives the landlord a right to a key. Under case law, the tenant has exclusive right to possession. Strycharski v. Spillane, 320 Mass. 382, 385 (1946); Young v. Garwacki, 380 Mass. 162, 170 (1980). See also Milton Hospital and Convalescent Home v. Board of Assessors of Milton, 360 Mass. 63, 68 (1971). See also Milton Hospital and Convalescent Home v. Board of Assessors of Milton, 360 Mass. 63, 68 (1971).