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The right to enter a rental property is an important law for investors, property managers, and residents to understand. Sometimes unbeknownst to residents, property managers have a legal right to enter their rental unit under certain circumstances. 

Every resident has the right to enjoy their privacy and refuse entry at certain times, and property managers should never violate that. On the other hand, property owners have the right to enter when following the proper procedures, and residents should equally cooperate under the law. 

Resident’s Privacy is Protected 

A resident’s right to privacy is legally protected by the “covenant of quiet enjoyment.” The covenant of quiet enjoyment is, according to Cornell Law School, “an implied term in every lease that the resident shall have quiet and peaceful possession of the leased premises against the lessor.” Basically, this ensures that the property manager will not violate this privacy and gives the resident permission to possess everything listed as theirs under the rental agreement. 

This right covers all of the rental premises that the resident has personal possession of, including balconies, yards, garages, etc. All terms and conditions pertaining to this right can be found in the specific clauses of the leasing agreements. Many states have laws governing when and how landlords can legally enter rental properties. This is where the conditions for the right of entry comes in. 

The Conditions for Right to Entry 

Although the covenant explicitly states the privacy rights of residents, it comes with exceptions. Both the Wisconsin Statutes (sec. 704.05(2)) and the Wisconsin Administrative Code (ATCP 134.09(2)) carve out the exceptions to the covenant that allows the property owner limited rights to enter the rental unit. 

According to these laws, a property manager may enter with proper advance notice at reasonable times for three reasons: 

  1. Maintenance-related issues
  2. Showing the rental to prospective residents or investors 
  3. In cases of emergency to inspect the property

Property Manager’s Entry & Right of Access 

In Wisconsin, property managers cannot enter a rental unit unless they give the resident at least 12 hours notice. This notice may be verbal, but we highly encourage property managers to give this notice in writing, whether that be via text, email, or letter. This notice should include the date and time of the entry. 

This is beneficial because now there is documentation to support either party, and it doesn’t become the resident’s “word” vs. the property manager’s “word.” This date and time should be within reasonable hours, which isn’t explicitly defined. Usually these times are during ordinary business hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or whatever is stated in the rental agreement).

Before entering the unit, the property manager is required by law to announce their presence and identify themselves upon request (ATCP 134.09(2)(d)). Contrary to popular belief, residents don’t need to be present during the entry, as long as all the prerequisites have been met. In cases of emergency, a property manager may enter without prior notice. However, if a resident objects to the entry, the landlord must delay the entry until they can get a court order that allows it. 

Some exceptions to advance notice include: 

  1. If the resident states they can enter at an earlier time than proposed
  2. If there is a “health or safety emergency” (which is undefined) that needs to be addressed 
  3. To protect the premises from damage when the resident is absent 

Resident’s Right to Entry & Denying Access

In order to protect their privacy and ensure that their rights are respected, it is important for residents to understand their right to entry and take action if they feel this right has been violated. Knowing this right can help protect residents from potential harm or property damage.

It may be worthwhile to explain this in person or in a personal message rather than just letting the resident glance over lease agreements, just so you are on the same page. Also, this would be a good time to point out additional conditions that are stated in the lease that pertain to entry rights and violations.

Once a resident understands all of the rights and the covenant of quiet enjoyment, it is up to each party to respect the law. However, bad property managers can sometimes cause problems by violating privacy laws because they believe that because they legally own the property, they should be able to enter whenever they want. A property manager should NEVER violate entry rights unless it is for one of the stated emergency reasons. 

If a resident feels that their right of entry has been violated, they have a few options:

  1. Write the property manager a letter that states the dates of illegal entry and applicable laws prohibiting it. Explain next steps you may take if it is not addressed or happens again.
  2. File a complaint with their local housing agency. The agency will investigate the property manager’s action and take appropriate action if necessary.
  3. Call the police. The police may say that it is a civil matter for the courts to handle, but the police can at least report an illegal entry occurred for documentation purposes. If the resident is home when the property manager tries to illegally enter, the police may show up and fine the property manager (depending on state laws).
  4. Depending on the severity of the situation, residents may be able to sue for invasion of privacy, trespassing, or distress.

When a Resident Won’t Grant Access 

In some cases, the resident may be the one violating right to entry laws. If a resident refuses to allow the property manager to enter the rental unit, it is an advisable first step to try to settle the issue through communication. This may be a good time to remind them of their obligations under the lease or law that grant property management rights to enter. 

If the resident continues to deny entry after proper communication, then they are in breach of their rental agreement and state law. This now gives the opportunity to potentially initiate eviction proceedings. After that, it is a matter of cooperation between the resident and property management that will either result in a successful entry or preparing for court/eviction proceedings. 

How We Can Help

Owning a rental property is a very serious and demanding job. It comes with many positive benefits but can also lead to negative interactions as well. To help alleviate some stress and gain further knowledge of the housing market, it may be in your best interest to hire a property manager

Here at Performance Asset Management, we guarantee world-class customer service for residents, which includes abiding by the laws and regulations. Additionally, we have been rated one of Milwaukee’s best property management companies, especially when it comes to interacting with and finding world-class residents. We treat your property as our own. We understand property management isn’t perfect, but we strive to do better each day. Contact us today to learn more about how we help investors with their rental properties.