Privacy

Overview

Study the lease carefully to determine the circumstances under which the landlord may enter your home. Unless the lease agreement says that the landlord can enter your apartment or house, the landlord has NO right to do so, except perhaps in emergencies and for repairs you have requested. This is because a tenant has exclusive possessory rights to the property.

When a landlord leases property, it gives all possession rights to the tenant with exceptions only found in the lease agreement. Of course, it is good to try and get along with your landlord if possible, so if a landlord wants entry, you should try to work something out if you can.

Texas laws are weak

Now, while the law gives exclusive possessory rights to a tenant (except for exceptions in the lease), many landlords do not recognize this right. Landlords also put many exceptions in the lease agreement that swallow the rule. (See the reasons in the TAA lease below.) Even if the landlord has a good reason to enter, the landlord should give a tenant advanced notice where possible. Thirty-eight states have statutes to protect tenants from improper invasions of privacy, but Texas is not one of them.

Lease agreement provides many reasons for entry

The Texas Apartment Association (TAA) lease allows entry into your home when you are not there for any of these things:

* responding to your request * making repairs or replacements * estimating repair or refurbishing costs * performing pest control or doing preventive maintenance * changing filters * testing or replacing smoke detector batteries * retrieving unreturned tools, equipment, or appliances * preventing waste of utilities * exercising a contractual lien * leaving notices * delivering, installing, reconnecting, or replacing appliances, furniture, equipment, or security devices * removing or rekeying unauthorized security devices * removing unauthorized window coverings * stopping excessive noise * removing health or safety hazards (including hazardous materials), or items prohibited under our rules * removing perishable foodstuffs if your electricity is disconnected * removing unauthorized animals * cutting off electricity according to statute * retrieving property owned or leased by former residents * inspecting when immediate danger to person or property is reasonably suspected * allowing persons to enter as you authorized in your rental application (if you die, are incarcerated, etc.) * allowing entry by a law officer with a search or arrest warrant, or in hot pursuit * showing apartment to prospective residents (after move-out or vacate notice has been given) * showing apartment to government inspectors, fire marshals, lenders, appraisers, contractors, prospective buyers, or insurance agents

Under the TAA lease, the management must leave notice of entry inside your apartment indicating that a management representative entered the apartment, and why he or she was there. The TAA lease gives the landlord a lot of reasons to enter your home. However, if the landlord is just using one of those reasons as a pretext for entering, then the landlord is violating the lease agreement and your right to privacy.

If you are home, you are in charge

If you are at home when the management wishes to enter the apartment for any reasonable reason, the management must ask to enter peacefully and at reasonable times. The tenant is solely responsible for determining who can enter. But, you should be reasonable in providing access. 

Note the landlord must provide, no matter what the lease says, a keyless deadbolt on all exterior doors that can only be unlocked from the inside. This will also prevent improper entries while you are home. The landlord has to pay for the installation. See Locks and Security Issues. Other tactics a tenant should consider are: joining or establishing a tenant organization.

Forms

Letter Demanding Privacy

Lawsuit Petition for Violation of Privacy