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Landlord is doing a walk-through in 2 days. Any advice?
August 27, 2007 6:57 PM   Subscribe

My landlord left a letter on my door informing me that there will be a "walk-through" the house this week. What are my rights, and what is some good advice? (I live in New Mexico, USA)

I have rented this place for just over 13 months, and this is the first time I've received notice of this rather random walk-through of my home by the owner and someone who works with him. I've never received such a "walk-through" in the 7 years of me renting in this town.

I've always paid my bills on time, except for last month when I was a day late. The landlord fined me $30 for being a day late, and I paid the fine promptly without complaining.

This puts a lot of excess anxiety on me, because I am not sure why there is all of a sudden sufficient concern with my landlord to warrant a "walk-through." This also is a huge inconvenience because they want to conduct the walk-through during my working hours. The note said that I do not need to be present. I am also in a panic to get the house cleaned up and am considering a shampooing of the living room.

I am fearful that their motive is to find something wrong with the place and evict me.

Now, after 13 months time these are the things that I have attributed to in the degradation of this house:

* Living room carpet has a few more spots then it did originally. That being said, in the lease I wrote in my initial inspection of the house that the living room carpet was already trashed and would need to be replaced and there wasn't really anything more I could do to it that could degrade its value. They agreed to this.

* I have installed doggy doors on the door to the laundry room and the door that lead to the back yard from the laundry room. The back door is very old, the wood is rotted and it has had reinforcements put in (and put in poorly I might add). The door that connects the kitchen to the laundry room is an extremely cheep door. I did not ask if it was ok for me to install these doggy doors, but I am willing to pay and see that they are replaced before I leave this place.

* The back door (which I commented on in the last point) has been scratched up very badly on the outside by my dog. I had a hard time with the dog when I first got her (I rescued her), but now she is well trained and well behaved. She has not torn up anything else and the land lord was notified that I got a pet and started charging me more per month.

I dunno... this may just be a routine of the land lords to check their rentals every year. I still feel like my privacy is somehow being violated and wish they would have given me a little more than a 2 day notice.

I do plan on being present when they do this walk-through, however inconvenient, and I will have a digital audio recorder recording the walk-through.

Questions (please answer to your best knowledge even if you do not live in the state of New Mexico):

1. How much can they search around? Can they look in my closets? Can they start going through my stuff?

2. Can the land lord come in my house whenever they want and without notifying me? In other words, is it perfectly legal for them to invade my privacy?

3. Where can I find out more about my state laws on such matters?

4. What ammunition/leverage can I use if they want to evict me?

5. What about if they want to raise my rent? Is there anything saying that they can't raise my rent by $1000 a month and force me out? I originally signed a 6 month lease, but was not asked to sign an additional 6 month lease and did not pursuit it personally.

Thanks for all your information!
posted by nickerbocker to Home & Garden (41 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Right of entry
The landlord must provide a tenant with a 24-hour written notice before entering the premises. This does not apply if the tenant has requested repairs or services be performed or in the case of an emergency.
posted by ND¢ at 7:04 PM on August 27, 2007


There are many reasons a landlord might need to see the apartment that don't have anything to do with eviction -- my former landlord was remortgaging the building and the bank representatives needed to see the units, for instance -- so I wouldn't panic.

Know your rights and clean the place up in a reasonable manner, but don't panic.
posted by occhiblu at 7:07 PM on August 27, 2007


You are reacting very strongly to the term "walk-through". Maybe you should call them and ask what it involves and why they're doing it, since the real reasons are inevitably better than the worst case scenarios you are envisioning.
posted by smackfu at 7:08 PM on August 27, 2007


I don't know about New Mexico, but in most states I think it's normal for a landlord to be allowed to come by with 2 days notice. Bugs the hell out of me too, but it's part of renting. It's probably not an attempt to evict you, landlords hate evicting people because it means

1) they have to leave the place empty while they find a new tenant

2) they have to spend a lot of time and money fixing the place up, since the previous tenant is not going to do it for them in order to recoup the security deposit.

So probably the landlord is doing the walkthrough for a reason other than your removal. A couple things that come to mind:

They're having the house appraised because they're thinking of selling it.

They do an annual check of all their properties to see if any maintenance is needed (termites, roof, etc)

They are an absentee landlord and feel like they should make a showing whenever they happen to be in the neighborhood so they can feel more "in control"

Unless you're doing structural damage or trashing the place way beyond what your deposit will cover, I don't think you need to be anxious.
posted by contraption at 7:11 PM on August 27, 2007


3. Where can I find out more about my state laws on such matters?

I do the same thing on most simple legal question that I see on AskMe: go to google and enter "[state name]" and "bar". Every state's bar usually has some type of "Law 101" webpages with stuff like landlord/tenant law, small claims court information, stuff that people come across a lot. As opposed to sites like "Rentallaw.com" or whatnot, these are usually pretty reliable. Most state's legislatures have their statutes on the web as well, but reading statutes can be difficult and not very helpful. However, if what a person needs is not on their state's bar's website, then I may point them there. I also look on this as not giving legal advice in states that I am not licensed in, because I just quote what is on the page and direct them to it. So, now you can research law in your own state and can answer half the legal questions on AskMe.
posted by ND¢ at 7:11 PM on August 27, 2007 [92 favorites]


BTW, they don't really need to find a reason to evict you anyways. Your lease expired, and you're on a month to month, so they can kick you out with 30 days notice. From ND¢'s link: "To end a month-to-month tenancy, the landlord or the tenant must give 30-days advance notice at the beginning of the next rental period."
posted by smackfu at 7:12 PM on August 27, 2007


nthing the advice to just call him and ask why. It could be something simple, or he could be kicking your ass to the curb. Either way, he owns the building, you're renting, and he has every legal right to enter the property with advance notice.

note: I am a licensed real estate agent.
posted by item at 7:15 PM on August 27, 2007


Don't sweat it there are probably ten no consequence reasons for every bad reason. Among them is legally mandated safety inspection (some places landlords are required to inspect smoke detectors annually for example), place being sold/shown to potential buyer, planning upgrade of building (new windows or replacing that rotted door or something), estimating for fumigation or preventive maintenance, appraisal for insurance purposes, landlord leaving so doing walk though with new landlord, etc. etc.

If they were a busy body wanting to snoop that probably would have come up sooner than 13 months.
posted by Mitheral at 7:18 PM on August 27, 2007


Your landlord's probably just refinancing and needs an appraisal. Some homeowners policies also want periodic walk-throughs for rentals. It's pretty common.
posted by desuetude at 7:18 PM on August 27, 2007


It is good to know that if they do decide to evict me then I will at least have 30 days from the beginning of next month. I still feel anxious. I would feel better if I knew what their motives were.
posted by nickerbocker at 7:18 PM on August 27, 2007


It sounds to me like it's an appraisal, either because he wants to refinance the mortgage, or he's thinking about selling the place. Don't freak out yet!
posted by cmonkey at 7:21 PM on August 27, 2007


I would ask him why but I wouldn't worry too much about it. I would be more concern if he had no interest in the place. In my thinking he is just checking up on his investment which is a pretty smart thing for anyone to do. I would look at it as a chance to get to know the guy- perhaps see if he might fix somethings for you in the process and make a friend.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:32 PM on August 27, 2007


1. No, they don't have the right to rifle through your personal possessions.
2. No, they need to provide written notice. The timeframe is probably dependent upon local tenant laws.
3/4. dunno
5. There should be a maximum amount they're allowed to raise the rent by based on local laws, and it should be with sufficient notice.

Whatever the reason, it's probably still worthwhile making sure the place is clean and presentable. If the walk-through is for legitimate reasons, the landlord will appreciate it. If the landlord is looking for reasons to kick you out, well a clean and tidy place gives less reason, no? Either way, you're currently living there, so ending-up with a clean and tidy place isn't a bad thing.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 7:34 PM on August 27, 2007


Eh, we* try to do a walk-through/inspection of every rental property once a year. For condos/houses/townhouses, we call the tenants and set up a time. If we can't reach them, then we send a letter with a date and time, so there's proper notice. If it's an apartment building, it's done once a year in conjunction with a fire and safety company who tests all the units' smoke detectors, and the building's fire equipment.

We do inspections with out of town owners who just want to have a look at their rental property, to make sure that repairs are or are not necessary (e.g. to look at replacing a roof or repairs to other structural aspects), for realtors who need to do an appraisal, and yes, sometimes if we suspect there are illegal activities occurring or if the tenants give us cause for concern that the rental property is not being well-maintained. The last is the least common reason.

I can't answer your five questions because I am not in New Mexico and landlord/tenant law varies by state/province.

*I work in a property management office.
posted by Savannah at 7:35 PM on August 27, 2007


Nthing the call to ask why. I got a similar message last month and calles. Apparently where I live, the county (or city?) officials do a yearly walk through of the residents to make sure it's habitable.
posted by jmd82 at 7:49 PM on August 27, 2007


Nthing "probably nothing to worry about". Also, I don't know what the law is in your state, but in mine and many others, if the visit would unreasonably inconvenience you, or something like that, you can reschedule with them. So if you have an event planned already for that day, you can probably ask them to come another time that's convenient for both parties. Again, probably not to worry, but it wouldn't hurt to call to ask exactly why they need to see the place. Don't be accusative, just say something like, "I was wondering if you can give me a rough time frame when you're coming, so I can make sure I won't be in your way. Oh and what exactly was it you said you were doing?"

Good job noting existing damages on your original lease, and good for your landlord having a space for this on the lease (it sounds like that was the case anyhow). Also, to avoid undue worry during walkthroughs or when you move out, make sure you tell your manager (and keep a record) about additional damages that aren't your fault as they occur, or as you find them if you didn't notice them at first.

And one more thing. They fined you for being one day late? In my state that's illegal. Maybe not in yours. I would check.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 7:50 PM on August 27, 2007


Thanks for the posts everyone, I am a little less paranoid now :).

Should I ask for another 6 month lease if the landlord doesn't bring it up? I re-red through the original 6 month lease and there is a statement

"To quit and surrender the Premises peaceably and quietly, at the expiration of this rental agreement and to give a 30 day notice after this 6 month rental period..."

I think they have to submit an eviction notice that gives me 30 days if i'm under a 6 month lease or I'm not. If I break the lease while under it I have to pay $100 for breaking it (which really isn't much to be concerned about honestly).
posted by nickerbocker at 7:53 PM on August 27, 2007


Yeah, probably a good idea to ask for a new lease if you have no problems with the place.

Also, I checked, and it looks like NM does allow the landlord to charge a fee if rent is late at all. Harsh.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 8:13 PM on August 27, 2007


Whoa, just relax. It sounds like you're hiding state secrets in your apartment. They're within their rights, and it almost certainly has nothing to do with eviction or jacking up your rent. And please rethink the recording, that's tinfoil hat territory.
posted by chundo at 8:51 PM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Don't fret. (It doesn't help anyway.)

Tidy up, but no need to go crazy.

Unless your landlord has been shown to be wacky or something, it's probably no big deal. He may even be coming through to see what YOU need fixed. "When can we install new carpet?"

It's in the landlord's best interest to keep the place in good shape. The mere process of living there wears things out. He may want to spruce it up.

It's not likely he is targeting you for some wrongdoing.

The walk-through may be a 5 minute thing.

Again: the most likely reason has to do with checking the property, not targeting you.

My story of a recent walk-through: I got a note on my door that they needed to check air conditioners and smoke detectors. I fretted, like you. Plus, I have a cat I am not really supposed to have. (Didn't intentionally try to break the rules, but the ex was threatening to give away my daughter's cat unless I picked it up within 2 days. Nice, huh?) Anyway, I fretted, I vacuumed, I bought a new throw-rug to cover spots on the carpet, I cleaned, I took the cat to a friend's house for the day, and requested the landlord to wait till I was home from work to enter the place. He came by, tested the smoke detector and checked the air conditioner and left. 30 seconds.
posted by The Deej at 9:18 PM on August 27, 2007


On the off chance that you're a student (despite the EE in your profile), university legal offices deal with landlord/tenant stuff all the time:

NMSU Legal Assistance for Students

Phone: 646-4419 or 646-4415
Location: Corbett Center 2nd floor

Contact Person: Chris Ray
Hours: Call for an appointment

Email: cray@nmsu.edu (Student Attorney)

Provides legal advice. This office does not provide litigation services. Must be a currently registered student to qualify for services.
posted by desjardins at 9:21 PM on August 27, 2007


... and I will have a digital audio recorder recording the walk-through.

You're probably overreacting a little bit, here.

I've been on the receiving end of a walk-through where the landlord's motives were clearly hostile (i.e., based on my conduct and the tone of his note, he was looking for problems that he was assuming I was causing in the apartment), and I didn't even bother being there.
posted by jayder at 9:45 PM on August 27, 2007


I hope that I am just over reacting. You are all probably right. It is just something I have never seen before.
posted by nickerbocker at 10:28 PM on August 27, 2007


IANAL, but I'd check the eavesdropping laws before clicking "record" on that sucker. You can probably do video without audio, but I've heard of front-porch intercoms running afoul of eavesdropping statutes. That's dangerous territory.
posted by Myself at 10:40 PM on August 27, 2007


I've been in two apartments where the management did a walkthrough. The first was a yearly thing, they just wanted to have the maintenance people check everything out so they could fix little problems before they became big ones. The second was done by an appraiser, shortly afterwards they sold the buildings to another company to turn into condos.
posted by TungstenChef at 11:06 PM on August 27, 2007


Walkthroughs are common in my part of the UK; I usually have them every 3 months, and the landlord is merely checking for damage. Takes about 5 mins and I'm asked to notify them of any 'wear and tear' before the visit. Absolutely nothing to worry about, and gives you an excuse to clean the place up!
posted by highrise at 12:17 AM on August 28, 2007


If I were you, I'd take a day off work (do you have "personal" days you can use?) and be there during the walk-through. Although it's probably likely that you have nothing to worry about, I've known very untrustworthy landlords, and even though I own my own house now, I would never have let a landlord walk through my house without me being there.
posted by amyms at 12:58 AM on August 28, 2007


It's probably nothing.

That said, I would notify him of the doggie doors prior to his arrival. Personally, I'd be pissed if one of my tenants installed something so destructive of a door without my approval. So you might want to deflect that a little with prior notice.
posted by miss tea at 3:37 AM on August 28, 2007


Although it's probably likely that you have nothing to worry about, I've known very untrustworthy landlords, and even though I own my own house now, I would never have let a landlord walk through my house without me being there.

Agreed. I had a bad landlord once who would sit in my apartment and make phone calls using my line while I was at work.
posted by gimonca at 4:52 AM on August 28, 2007


Some 'lite' security precautions couldn't hurt: don't leave obvious valuables sitting around in view, leave your computer in a password-protected state, etc.
posted by gimonca at 4:54 AM on August 28, 2007


What kind of building is this? Can you ask others in your building if they got walkthrough notices, as well? That'll at least tell you whether he's walking through your apartment because of a problem with you (unlikely) or he's walking through every apartment, because that's what he does periodically (likely).
posted by jacquilynne at 8:05 AM on August 28, 2007


1. They are shouldn't look through your personal stuff, but will probably open up cabinets to look at plumbing. If you have plumbing/wiring/etc in any odd locations in your house, move your personal stuff out of the way.

2. Your landlord has to give written notice some time in advance, it's either 24 or 48 hours, with an exception for emergencies of course.

3. I think there might be something on the state website, but it's locking up my browser. At the very least, you can look at the state code that applies to landlords and tenants at the library. It's only on the order of 20 pages or so.

4. Stop stressing about this, the landlord probably just wants to see if there are any repairs or maintenance that need to be done. Tenants are not always reliable about reporting things like water leaks that turn into expensive things to fix later. Your landlord might be grumpy that you have a dog door, but you won't get evicted for it.

5. Is there anything saying that they can't raise my rent by $1000 a month and force me out?

You will get 30 days written notice if your rent is being raised (It won't be raised by $1k/mo in Cruces). Your landlord can kick you out with 30 days notice if they decide one of their relatives is going to live there or something. You can move if you give 30 days notice. That's why this is called month-to-month (which you are presumed to be on once a lease runs out in NM, look it up in the code for more details). This is not at all unusual in NM.

I'd mention the doggy doors and your plans for fixing/paying for repair beforehand, or at least when you greet your landlord at the door. I wouldn't mention the scratches or the carpet. Let your landlord know you will be there for the walk through so they don't just walk in thinking you are not home, and ask if they can do this at a better time for you if you have not already. I'd skip the recording, this is probably nothing to worry about, but if I'm wrong about that your landlord won't say anything that will be helpful to you to have recorded anyhow.

You feel your privacy is being violated. Think about what you would do if you were renting a house to someone. Wouldn't you want to check on it periodically, to make sure a leaky water heater wasn't rotting the flooring underneath and threatening to drop into the crawlspace? Not making this up. Your landlord has a legal duty to you to maintain the property you are renting, and they can't do that without taking a look at it periodically.
posted by yohko at 8:46 AM on August 28, 2007


Walk throughs are no big deal. I don't even do any major cleaning beforehand- just make sure there's nothing illegal or enticing sitting around (stash your dope, guns, piles of cash, &tc.).

Fire safety and refinancing are the two most usual reasons for walk-throughs in my experience.

If you're nervous, take the afternoon off and be there for it.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:43 AM on August 28, 2007


If my apartment's really messy I warn them about it, and just say it's a bad time for me and they'll just have to deal. No one has said they minded. Except for the time I was moving out and the poor landlord was trying to find a new tenant. Still- when you're moving out, things just aren't going to look pretty.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:46 AM on August 28, 2007


I'm a landlord. Walkthroughs are necessary and may or may not have anything to do with your status as a tenant.

I'd be upset about a doggy door done without permission, but it wouldn't be by itself something that could lead to eviction. I could decide that you're mucking with the apartment too much and give you the 30 days notice, but that's what you accept when you go month-to-month.

A day late, once, on your rent is not something that would cause any but the most anal of landlords anything more than momentary concern. The fee (or fine or whatever they call it) should be specified in your lease, but you don't have a lease anymore.

(BTW, in my state if you are on a lease it is legally assumed to renew, but that is not true in most states.)

If they did not tell you the reason for the walk-through, just ask. If they're planning to evict you, they won't hide it. (It's a lot easier if someone moves out compared to going to court to get them to move out.) The way this is usually done is by giving you notice that your rent will increase, though. If there is a problem you would probably have already heard about it (e.g. noise, trash, water leak).

My sense is that you're panicking over what is probably nothing. It might go quite well, especially if you ask to discuss getting back into a formal lease arrangement.
posted by dhartung at 8:44 PM on August 28, 2007


Has anyone located such a page for Georgia? I looked at the state bar's website, but couldn't find any "Law 101" type sections.
posted by nzero at 1:34 PM on August 29, 2007


Yeah I just scanned the Georgia Bar's website and it doesn't appear to have the type of information I describe. Try LegalAid-GA. Tons and tons of great stuff there, and in my experience very accurate.
posted by ND¢ at 1:45 PM on August 29, 2007


Cool, thanks.
posted by nzero at 2:18 PM on August 30, 2007


Heck, when I had an apartment in Oklahoma City, I woke up one day to find two plumbers in my bathroom taking apart my toilet. I rolled over and was like "uhm, hi. who the heck are you?"

"Sorry man, emergency plumbing - there's a leak under your toilet somewhere that's flooding your downstairs neighbor".

"Oh, okay. Carry on."
posted by mrbill at 11:56 PM on September 3, 2007


My whole building had a walkthrough a few months back. No biggie, they get in, check to make sure nothing is broken or dangerous and get out.
posted by parallax7d at 8:48 AM on September 6, 2007


In LA, it's legal to record any conversation as long as you are one of the participants. Do these things vary for states?
posted by Jenafeef at 4:43 PM on October 11, 2007


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