One of the frequent questions that landlords ask is “how much notice do I need to give my tenants before entering the property?” The short answer is – it depends. Utah State Law requires that “except as otherwise provided in the rental agreement, an owner shall provide the renter at least 24 hours prior notice of the owner's entry into the renter's residential rental unit.”*
However, there are times when you need to enter the property with less than a 24 hour notice. That is why it is important to have a good lease that protects your rights, because the law expressly says that a rental agreement can spell out how much notice needs to be given. The UAA lease says that “[the] Owner may enter the Premises during reasonable hours with or without notice [for any] reasonable business purposes.”**
That being said, it is generally the best advice is to give as much notice as possible. If you know that you are going to come over to do an inspection next week, or that in twelve days you have a plumber scheduled to come do some routine maintenance, then you should let the tenants who will be affected know as soon as possible.
One reason for this is that it is simply good customer service to give as much notice as possible when entering a unit. You want to keep your tenants happy so that they will stay, refer other tenants, give a good review online, understand when you need to raise the rent, and in general cooperate with your and not cause any problems. And entering a tenant’s apartment with little or no notice (especially if they happen to be in the shower) tends to make them a bit grumpy. It’s also a good idea to post a notice on the outside door when you have entered without the tenant’s home to tell them that you are in the unit if they arrive home, and to leave a notice that you entered the unit after you left so that if something is off when they get home they know what happened.
Another important reason for this is that if the tenants ever try to bring up the legal aspects of your entering their unit in court it is much easier to prove to a judge that you complied with the law by giving a 24 hour notice than to prove that you complied with the lease by being “reasonable”. After all, what sounds reasonable to you or another property manager or landlord might now sound reasonable to a tenant, a lawyer or a judge. So, when possible give your tenants a 24 hour notice.
Nevertheless, there are times when you need to get into the apartment right away. Sometimes it is because of an emergency (you see smoke billowing out of the window for example). Sometimes it is to prevent damage to the building or make pressing repairs (the upstairs plumbing is flooding the downstairs tenants bathroom and you need to get in right away to stop it). Other times it is a matter of a small difference in time (you only know 18 hours in advance when the plumber will be there), and still other times you need to enter right away to verify occupancy or collect evidence that the tenant is violating the lease. It is up to you to use the rights provided to you by the lease wisely. Just always keep this thought in mind – if I have to prove to a judge that my decision to enter with less than 24 hours’ notice is reasonable, will I have an overwhelming case that it is? If the answer is not a resounding yes, then proceed with caution.
Finally, it is important to know what to do if the tenant refuses to allow you into the unit (whether or not you gave notice). You should never force your way into the unit. Instead, the moment they notify you in person or in writing that they won’t let you into the unit (or into any part of the unit), you should give them a 3 Day Notice to Preform Covenants of the Lease notifying them that they are in violation of the lease by refusing to allow you in and that they have three days to come into compliance by permitting you to enter – or else you will evict them. If the problem persists or reoccurs you should call your attorney or the UAA staff for further advice.