As a tenant, you are entitled to exclusive possession to your rental unit, which means that you have the right to privacy. However, Oregon law also says that landlords have a strict duty to rent only units that are “habitable” — or in a safe, sanitary and functioning condition. Landlords must make repairs when a rental unit becomes uninhabitable or otherwise needs repairs. To make these repairs, your landlord may enter your home with the appropriate contractor or repairperson. Landlords also have the right to inspect your home from time to time to ensure that the apartment is in sound condition. Finally, landlords also have the right to sell the rental property or rent the property to others. To that end, under certain conditions landlords may allow potential tenants or buyers to inspect the property.
To help balance a tenant’s right of privacy with a landlord’s duties and rights, there are rules about when and how landlords can enter your unit. First, landlords always have the right to come onto the rented property — but not into the dwelling unit itself — to give notices permitted by law or the rental agreement.
Another general rule is that your landlord must give 24 hours’ advance notice before entering your home. There are some exceptions to the 24-hour rule. In an emergency — such as a fire or burst water pipe or other problems that may cause serious damage if not dealt with immediately — a landlord may enter the unit without permission. If your landlord makes an emergency entry when you aren’t home, he or she must tell you within 24 hours what the emergency was, when it happened and the names of the people who entered.
Another exception to the 24-hour rule occurs when you ask in writing for specific repairs. Unless your notice lists specific times when your landlord and the workers can enter, the landlord generally has a seven-day period to make the repairs without giving you any advance notice. After seven days, unless your landlord is still reasonably working on the repair, your landlord must give 24 hours’ advance notice before coming into your home to make the repair. If a repair person is someone other than the landlord, you can ask to see written authorization from your landlord for that person to come into your unit.
Another exception to the 24-hour rule is if you and your landlord agree that less notice or no notice is required before a particular entry. This agreement can only cover that particular situation; it does not mean your landlord can enter with less than 24 hour notice in other situations.
If you have an agreement in writing that the landlord is required to do yard work, and you and your landlord also agree that someone can enter the yard to do yard work without entering your unit, your landlord doesn’t need to give 24-hours’ notice.
If your landlord reasonably believes you moved away permanently or abandoned the unit, she may enter it.
A final exception is when your rental unit is for sale. Your landlord may want frequent access to the unit to show it to prospective buyers. If the unit is on the market, you may agree to allow access to the landlord without requiring 24 hours notice. You must sign a written agreement that is separate from the rental agreement. You should be compensated in some way for the inconvenience.
Your landlord and the repair people must enter your unit at reasonable times. You should discuss these times with your landlord. Your landlord cannot use the right of entry to harass you or to retaliate against you. Your landlord also can’t use the right of entry to inspect your belongings.
You have the right to refuse entry after receiving a 24-hour notice. You may refuse entry by specifically alerting the landlord of your decision, or you may attach a written notice of refusal to the front of your apartment in a secure manner. However, just as the landlord can’t abuse the right to issue a 24-hour notice to harass or retaliate against the tenant, the tenant can’t arbitrarily deny access to the landlord after receiving a 24-hour notice. Thus, if you do not let your landlord enter your home after he or she has given proper notice, the landlord can get a court order to allow reasonable access or end the rental agreement. The landlord can also sue you for losses caused by your failure to cooperate.
If your landlord enters without notice or permission, behaves unreasonably while in your home, or harasses you by repeatedly demanding to enter, you can ask for court protection. In these situations, you can obtain a court order restraining your landlord from these illegal acts. You may be entitled to further damages as well, such as your attorney fees and a penalty equal to one month’s rent. Finally, you may end the rental agreement altogether.
Additionally, a landlord may remove a motor vehicle (that is not abandoned) from a space specifically assigned to a tenant only with the agreement of the tenant at the time of the tow. The tenant’s agreement is necessary, presumably, to ensure that the vehicle does not belong to a guest of the tenant. In some cases and under the right circumstances, a landlord may also remove a motor vehicle from an open space not specifically assigned to a certain tenant or tenants. Finally, a landlord may remove a vehicle that is inoperable but parked in compliance with the rental agreement after at least 72 hours’ written notice to the owner if the vehicle owner fails to make the vehicle operable within the appropriate time frame.
If you think your landlord has entered or towed unlawfully, you may wish to call a lawyer or a legal aid office for advice.
Legal editor: Jason Posner, November 2011