Many tenants are subject to privacy invasion and harassment by landlords who think that just because they own the building they have a right to enter whenever they please. One tenant complained that her landlord would let himself in at odd hours to "check things out." He would brush up against her and other female tenants. Another woman complained that her landlady would enter the house while the tenants were not home, rearrange the furniture, and leave them notes. Privacy invasion by a landlord can be simply a nuisance, or it can be much more serious, as in the case of sexual harassment.
If you pay the rent, then the apartment or house is your home. A landlord who enters without permission or notice is trespassing. State law says tenants are entitled to privacy, although there's no definition of that right. In Ann Arbor, the city booklet, "Rights and Duties of Tenants" states that a landlord must give "reasonable notice" before entering. See Section 8:529 of the Housing Code.) In mid-1989, Ypsilanti adopted a privacy ordinance. This law prohibits landlord entry without notice and provides additional penalties for landlord sexual harassment.
What is "reasonable notice" before entering?
You should set standards for your landlord to follow. Write your landlord a letter making clear your expectations. You might demand one to three days written or verbal advance notice for permission to enter. The landlord's request should state who is entering, at what time, and for what reason. You have the right to be present whenever someone enters and the right to refuse entry.
If it is not an emergency, and your landlord enters without permission or notice, she or he is trespassing. Potential remedies include calling the police at the time the illegal entry occurs and withholding rent the next time it is due. Write a letter explaining that you are withholding rent until the landlord stops entering without permission and agrees to set terms for entering. Keep a copy of this letter. Put your rent money into a savings account until you are able to work out a reasonable agreement and you feel sure your landlord will not violate your privacy. Then negotiate your compensation for the privacy invasions.
Adding or changing locks
Some tenants feel the only solution is to add or change locks. You could add a second lock and leave it unlocked when your landlord has requested access but you are unable to be there to let her/him in. But if there is an emergency, your landlord may need to enter your unit. If your landlord or emergency personnel need to break down the door to get in, you may be liable for the cost of repairing or replacing the door. To avoid this, you can give your landlord a copy of the new key in a sealed envelope, and sign the envelope across the seal. Give your landlord written instructions to break the seal only in the case of an emergency.
If new locks are
necessary because the existing locks did not work, or because the
landlord had repeatedly violated the tenants' right to privacy, the
tenants can deduct the cost of the new lock from their rent. First,
they should write a letter to the landlord explaining the problem and
giving the landlord an opportunity to correct the problem. If the
problem is not corrected, the tenants should notify the landlord in
writing that they have been forced to correct the problem by
Information, Not Legal Advice. We are providing this information as a public service. We try to make it accurate as of the date noted in the materials. Sometimes the laws change. We cannot promise that this information is always up-to-date and correct.
We do not intend this information to be legal advice. By providing this information, we are not acting as your lawyer. If you need legal advice, you should contact a lawyer through your local legal aid organization. Always talk to a competent lawyer, if you can, before taking legal action.
E-mail. Viewing this web site, or sending an e-mail message to the Michigan Tenants Counseling Program or other legal organization through this web site, does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Michigan Tenants Counseling Program or other organization and you. Sending e-mail to an attorney mentioned in this site does NOT create an attorney-client relationship between you and the attorney. Unless you are already a client, your e-mail may NOT be protected by the attorney-client privilege. Also, unless it is encrypted, e-mail can be intercepted by other people.
Deadlines are extremely important in most legal matters. You may lose important legal rights if you do not obtain an attorney immediately to advise you. Many people do not check their e-mail daily, and some attorneys do not respond to unsolicited e-mail.
Lawyer Advertising. This web site is not intended to be advertising or solicitation. Hiring a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based on advertisements. Before hiring an attorney, you should investigate his or her reputation and qualifications.
Links. Some of the items listed here have not been prepared by us, but are instead "links" to information prepared and posted by others. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of information posted on other sites. The links are not intended to imply that we sponsor or are affiliated or associated with the people who created those sites, nor are the links intended to imply that we are legally authorized to use any trade name, registered trademark, logo, legal or official seal, or copyrighted symbol that may be reflected in the links.