Understanding Landlord Access Rights
According to RentData.org, Pennsylvania rents rank as the 25th highest nationwide, and like everywhere else in the country, statewide rents have been rising along with inflation. In 2021, a one-bedroom unit averaged $706 a month, a two-bedroom $878. By the next year, the one-bedroom rent had risen to $855 and the two-bedroom to $1,032. In 2023, the average rents are $917 and $1,117 respectively.
With all the turmoil in rental costs, have the rights of tenants gone up as well? For instance, does a landlord have carte blanche access to a unit you rent, say, by entering your unit using a master key without your permission? Or just showing up and asking to be let in to see if you’re keeping the premises in the proper condition?
Pennsylvania, unfortunately, is one of a few states that have no landlord-tenant access law on the books, but each lease is required by law to carry a provision called the “covenant of quiet enjoyment.” While this covenant has been interpreted in many ways during court cases, it generally means the landlord cannot do or allow anything to disturb your occupancy.
Therefore, tenants must review the lease to see how exactly the landlord spells out the covenant of quiet enjoyment and other access rights. For their part, landlords must carefully word their leases so that their rights to access, with or without notice, are clearly spelled out and protected.
If you as a tenant or landlord are involved in a dispute over access or “quiet enjoyment” in or around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, contact me at Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. I am an experienced and knowledgeable landlord-tenant attorney who can assess the situation and provide your best options for a resolution. From my Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office, I also proudly serve clients in Allegheny County and the surrounding areas of Butler County, Westmoreland County, Beaver County, Armstrong County, and Washington County.
The Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment
In a State Supreme Court case known as Kohl v. PNC, a typical covenant of quiet enjoyment clause was at the center of proceedings. That covenant was worded thusly:
“Upon Tenant paying the Rent reserved hereunder and observing and performing all of the covenants, conditions, and provisions on Tenant’s part to be observed and performed hereunder, Tenant shall peaceably and quietly hold and enjoy the Premise for the entire Term hereof, without hindrance or interruption by Landlord or any other person claiming by, through, or under Landlord, subject to all the provisions of this Lease and any mortgage to which this Lease is subordinate.”
If a quiet covenant is breached by the landlord, the court held that the lease shall be immediately terminated. However, exactly what the nature of quiet enjoyment still remains a bit elusive, and the covenant has been the subject of several lawsuits. Note that this particular covenant is silent on the issue of landlord access.
A Landlord’s Right to Access a Tenant’s Property
Absent a specific statewide law governing when and under which circumstances a landlord has the right of access to a leased property, the legal assumption has been that a landlord has a right to “reasonable access” to your leased unit.
Reasonable means that landlords should have a reasonable purpose for accessing your property, for instance, to make repairs or to show the unit to potential renters or buyers. Reasonable also means that they should give notice before entering, and when they show up, should knock first.
How much notice should they give? There is no established standard, but 24 hours is the normal practice, and many landlords say they give 48 hours' notice. Reasonable time is also considered to be between the hours of 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, weekends and holidays excluded.
Access During an Emergency
Obviously, if there is a fire, water damage, or other emergency or threat requiring immediate access to the leased property, the landlord has both the right and obligation to immediate access.
Turn to Trusted Legal Representation
Whether you’re a tenant or landlord, if you feel your rights have been violated when it comes to accessing a leased unit or piece of property, you should seek legal counsel and guidance on the next steps to take. Again, access issues should be addressed in the lease document, but if they are not, then there can be a practical if not legal gray area.
If the dispute you’re involved in has taken place or is taking place in or around Pittsburgh, reach out to Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. My practice is focused on tenant-landlord issues, and I will bring the experience and knowledge necessary to help reach a resolution that fits the circumstances.