California tenants are protected from unauthorized landlord entry.  However, California tenants must provide their landlords with reasonable and lawful access to the rental unit.  Although the law clearly covers the rental unit, must their landlords provide advanced, written notice of entry for California tenants with yards?  Or can the landlord enter a California tenant’s yard without permission?

Please note, that this article pertains to California tenants with private yards, and not common area yards accessible by multiple units at a single complex.

Can Landlords Enter California Tenant Yards Without Permission?

In California, the landlord may not enter a California tenant’s yard without permission.  While no court has expressly determined this issue and a strict interpretation of Civil Code section 1954 could be interpreted to limit unauthorized landlord entry only to the, “dwelling unit,” itself, landlords likely must obtain permission or provide advanced, written notice before entering a California tenant’s yard.  First, when defining the leased premises, most leases include the yard.  Thus, the landlord may not enter the yard, when defined as part of the rental unit, without permission.  Second, unauthorized landlord entry onto a California tenant’s yard almost always constitutes an abuse of the right of access or California tenant harassment in violation of California Civil Code section 1954(c).  Third, unauthorized landlord entry onto a California tenant’s yard almost always constitutes a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment and nuisance.  Therefore, California tenants are well protected from unauthorized landlord entry onto their yard without advanced, written notice.

Under What Circumstances May a Landlord Enter a California Tenant’s Yard?

Under California law, landlords may only enter a California tenant’s unit, including the yard, during:

  • An emergency;
  • To make necessary or agreed repairs;
  • To show the rental unit to potential or actual new tenants, purchasers, mortgagees, workers, or contractors;
  • After the California tenant vacates their unit;
  • With a court order;
  • Inspection for purposes of water conservation; or,
  • Inspection of exterior load bearing building elements for buildings with at least three (3) units. California Civil Code § 1954;
  • To inspect a waterbed installation. California Civil Code § 1940.5(f);
  • To inspect the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Health and Safety Code §§ 13113.7(d)(2)(A) & 17926.1(b); and,
  • To read a submeter. California Civil Code §§ 1954(a)(5) & 1954.211.

Additionally, California tenants are entitled two (2) reasonable written notice informing them of the landlord entry.  California Civil Code § 1954.  Courts generally consider approximately twenty-four (24) hours to constitute reasonable advanced notice.  The written notice must state:

  • The entry date;
  • The approximate entry time; and,
  • The entry purpose.

What Options Are Available to California Tenants for Unauthorized Landlord Entry?

An unauthorized landlord entry is an unlawful trespass, and depending upon the seriousness, the California tenant may possess a claim for significant monetary damages.  California Civil Code § 1954(c).  If the landlord’s unlawful entry seriously interferes with the California tenant’s use of the rental unit – such as unauthorized alterations to the unit – and it continues indefinitely to the point that the California tenant may no longer reside in their home peacefully, the California tenant may be forced from their home.  If the jury agrees that the California tenant was justified in vacating their home due to the sustained, unlawful entry, the California tenant has a successful constructive eviction claim.

For unlawful landlord entry, including in the yard, California tenants may recover:

  • Actual damages;
  • Emotional distress damages;
  • A civil penalty of up to $2,000.00 for each violation. California Civil Code § 1940.2(a)(4), (b);
  • For constructive eviction claims, moving costs, and all associated actual damages.