LAURENE H. YOUNG, (B) MPM, RMP, REALTOR
Young Hawaii Homes, Inc.
2011 President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers
Q. My tenant is leaving in two weeks. I want to go into the unit so that I can get estimates for repairs and start work as soon as he leaves. I gave the tenant a two-day notice, but they are refusing to let me in. Can I go in without their permission since I already gave them notice? I’ve had other tenants that have also refused to let me in, even though I gave them notice. What can I do?
A. Many landlords try to get into a unit beforehand in order to assess any damages that the tenant would have to address prior to the move-out and/or to get ready for a new tenant. It would likely minimize the time that the unit sits vacant. However, not all tenants are easy to deal with.
Also, moving is a very stressful event in anyone’s life and the tenant may just not want to have people visiting during this time.
Section 521-53 of the Landlord-Tenant Code states that “the tenant shall not unreasonably withhold the tenant’s consent to the landlord to enter into the dwelling unit in order to inspect the premises; make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements; supply services as agreed; or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective purchasers, mortgagees, or tenants.” The landlord needs to give the tenant two days notice of their intent to enter the unit.
There are some tenants, for whatever reason, who will deny a landlord access. In that case, the landlord may need to get a court order to enter the unit. If you have a difficult tenant, going into a unit without their permission may open you up to other lawsuits. They may claim that something is missing or damaged. If they are present, they may be a little hostile and you wouldn’t want to get into a physical confrontation with them. With these types of tenants, it is probably best to just wait until they leave. If you sent a two-day notice of your intent to enter but did not receive consent from the tenant, you cannot go in. You must receive actual consent from the tenant or could be liable for damages or missing items. The only time you are allowed entry without consent, is in an emergency such as a fire or flood. You must get consent for every entry.
The landlord cannot continually and unreasonably request entry to the unit or enter the unit without the tenant’s consent. In that case, the tenant’s recourse would be to either terminate the rental agreement, or go to court to stop the landlord from this type of harassment.
The landlord may be subject to a fine not to exceed $100 for repeated, unreasonable requests for entry to the unit.
Tenants should also be aware that under Section 521-73 of the Landlord-Tenant Code, they could be liable to the landlord for any damage directly related to their refusal to allow access to the unit after proper notice is given to them. So, if the landlord or his agent needs to gain access to the property to assess roof damage caused by high winds and the tenant does not allow them on site, the tenant could be responsible for any water damage caused by the inability to inspect and repair the roof.
If you have a difficult tenant who never allows you access to the unit and you are concerned that either they are hiding something or that you may never be able to do necessary repairs, you might consider terminating the tenancy at the end of the lease term.