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Jun 21

[ARCHIVED] Rental Fundamentals: When Can a Landlord Enter the Unit?

The original item was published from June 21, 2018 4:14 pm to June 21, 2018 4:15 pm

By Demetrius Pettway, Customer Service Representative

On April 1 of this year, Pensacola Housing implemented some changes to our HQS Inspection Policies. Since then, I’ve had a chance to see the impact the new policies are having on our landlords and tenants, and we’ve been able to pinpoint issues that may have escaped our attention before. One observation is that some landlords and tenants appear unaware that they are required to abide by the Florida statutes covering landlord and tenant relations, as well as the federal regulations that govern the voucher program.

Landlord/tenant law is covered in Chapter 83 of the Florida statutes, and the entire chapter is available online. One section that comes up a lot during the inspection process is section 83.53, “Landlord’s access to dwelling unit.” If our inspector arrives and the tenant is not available to grant access, sometimes the landlord or property manager wants to enter the unit to escort the inspector, but without providing the tenant with proper notice. However, the law says that unless it is an emergency, the landlord must provide the tenant with prior written notice when they intend to enter the unit to inspect it, to make repairs, or to show it to prospective buyers or renters.

Florida statute defines adequate notice as a minimum of 12 hours from the time of notification to the actual entering of the premises. The notice can be simple. Many apartment complexes will post a flyer-type letter to residents’ doors stating that maintenance or office personnel will be entering the unit on a specific future date, within a set time frame, for a specified reason, such as filter changes, pest spraying, or even just to inspect for items that need repairing. This method is easy to use, and I would suggest it for our individual and sole proprietor landlords as well.

It is legal for the landlord to give our inspector access to the unit, and for them to enter together when the tenant isn’t home, as long as this prior written notice has been delivered, or the tenant has given their consent. However, if the landlord can’t confirm that prior written notice was provided, our inspectors will not enter the unit.

When this issue comes up, sometimes landlords tell me prior written notice is covered in their lease. While it is a good idea to cover your maintenance and right-to-enter policies in your lease, a blanket policy like that is not sufficient to comply with section 83.53, which requires you to give prior written notice of your intent to enter the unit on a specific date.

Section 83.53 is not just for the benefit of tenants; it offers protections to the landlord as well. Under the law, the tenant cannot unreasonably withhold access to the premises. Sometimes we hear from landlords who say their tenant is refusing to allow them to enter the unit to make necessary repairs. When that happens, we remind the landlord that the tenant cannot unreasonably deny access. The landlord just needs to post their 12 hour notice, and then they can enter and complete the repairs.

As with so many things, the key to a successful landlord/tenant relationship is good communication. When landlords and tenants communicate their needs and concerns directly to each other, a better partnership results—and the HQS inspection process goes more smoothly, too!