Locks and Landlord Access to a Rental Unit

Landlords do not have a right to hold a key to a tenant’s rental unit. A renter has the right of exclusive possession. Under California Civil Code Section 1954 the landlord and/or agents of the landlord have only limited rights of entry. They can not enter a tenant’s home without prior consent and they must provide 24 hours written notice. Even with notice and consent the landlord and/or agents may only enter to make necessary or agreed upon repairs, to show the unit to prospective buyers, renters, contractors, or mortgage holders, after the renter has permanently vacated the unit, or when the landlord has a court order authorizing such entry.

Landlords can not bar access to a unit nor can they use access to the unit as a means to influence or “harass” the tenant into vacating the unit. Tenants who suspect the landlord of violating the landlords limited right to entry should contact an attorney and reference both California Civil Code 1954 as well as Civil Code 1940.2(a).