Under what conditions can my landlord inspect my apartment?
April 10, 2011 12:13 PM   Subscribe

My landlord (in Massachusetts) has given notice that they are inspecting my carbon monoxide detectors, but also intend to inspect faucets and thermostats. Is this legal?

My landlord slipped a note (a form letter seemingly distributed to all tenants) under my door that they will be entering my apartment on "Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday" to inspect carbon monoxide detectors as is required annually by order of their insurance company.

The note then launches into a rant about how water and oil prices have skyrocketed in the past year. (Heat and water are included in my rent.) They ask that tenants keep the heat down and report any dripping faucets. The note ends: "While maintenance is in the apartment they will be checking faucets and thermostats." For whatever reason, this really rubs me the wrong way and feels like an invasion of privacy.

You are not my lawyer, and I really don't intend to involve a lawyer. But is anyone able to give me pointers to resources which might answer whether this is permitted under Massachusetts law? (I'm fine with permitting them to check my CO detector, but take offense to them checking my faucets and thermostats, and with them giving me a multi-day range of when they will be entering my apartment.)
posted by fogster to Law & Government (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: As you mention I'm not your lawyer, etc. I'm just a guy who's googled this based on terms I've used for myself in the past. Given their reason and their notice, it looks like they can. Check out Tenant Rights and Responsibilities. See the section on Tenants’ rights, specifically: Rights Against Unlawful Entry which lists the lawful reasons they can enter your place.
posted by safetyfork at 12:24 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

when i've had water included in my rent, the lease stated that they could and would inspect faucets to make sure we hadn't put new fixtures in (they used low water, energy saving ones).

it's their building, and while you certainly have some rights to autonomy, i don't think this is out of the norm of what property managers get to control.

for the multi-day thing, i usually tell them a story about working at home/sleeping late/etc and that i'll need to know the day they expect to enter if they expect me to let them in.
posted by nadawi at 12:24 PM on April 10, 2011

here in CA, and i would assume most other places as well, it's perfectly legal to drop by for an inspection as long as they give at least 24 hours notice...my landlord has someone come by every year to make sure all the smoke detectors are working properly. as far as leaking faucets, you'd be surprised at how much water even a small drip can waste...it may not seem like much, but it's constant and it adds up. it can double a water bill. it might not be your unit, but i assume someone in the building has a leaky faucet. i know it's a drag to have workmen tramping through your personal space, but this is perfectly normal, and if you owned the place and you noticed your water or gas bill suddenly spike, you'd probably have someone come around to check it out, no?
posted by sexyrobot at 12:25 PM on April 10, 2011

In Michigan, it was my understanding that the landlord could enter my apartment for maintenance tasks as long as they provided 24 hours notice. They own the property and fixtures, and I think are within their rights to request that tenants make the apartment available for maintenance. If they find leaky faucets or a malfunctioning thermostat, I imagine they will fix them. Also, I'd brace yourself for a rent increase when your current lease expires.
posted by Roger Dodger at 12:25 PM on April 10, 2011

Best answer: Not a lawyer, but used to live in Mass and have seen this happen a lot (to add weight on top of the Tenant Rights document): unless they do so without notice, your landlord is entitled to inspect.
posted by anateus at 12:26 PM on April 10, 2011

Best answer: not your lawyer. blah.

For renting rights about them entering your apartment, you can check with local government. There is probably a website, but each state and even some cities have different rules on the specifics. found part of it.

so says the gov website:

"Rights Against Unlawful Entry
Your landlord, or an agent for your landlord, may only enter your apartment for the following reasons:

To inspect the premises;
To make repairs;
•To show the apartment to a prospective tenant, purchaser, mortgagee or its agents;
•In accordance with a court order;
•If the premises appear to be abandoned; or
•To inspect the premises within the last 30 days of tenancy in order to determine the amount of damage to be deducted from the security deposit.
The landlord should be reasonable and attempt to arrange a mutually convenient time to visit the apartment. If the landlord insists on entering your apartment in an unreasonable fashion, you may file for a temporary restraining order at your local district court (M.G.L. c. 186, §§ 14 and 15B)."

They can check to make sure there are no leaks, and fix any leaks.
That thermostat thing is weird and you might need to do a lot more reading to suss it out.
posted by Blisterlips at 12:29 PM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm confused - is there a reason you object to an inspection of the faucets and thermostat?
posted by bq at 12:33 PM on April 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

Blisterlips writes "That thermostat thing is weird and you might need to do a lot more reading to suss it out."

They may be inspecting your thermostat to make sure it hasn't been tampered with or replaced. Some of the rental housing I've done servicing for have thermostats where fiddling with the dial doesn't actually have any control on the room temperature which is instead set via internal adjustment screw.
posted by Mitheral at 12:39 PM on April 10, 2011

I live in Canada, but have always assumed that with 24 hours notice, landlords can check on just about anything. I have had friends whose LL checked conducted regular "grow-op checks" and another friend whose LL insisted on confirming that all of her furniture had felt taped on the bottom (lest the furniture mar the floor). I don't think the faucet or thermostat thing is out of line, but as one of the previous commenters noted, I'd try to nail down a day for your inspection (so you can keep your place clean and tidy and avoid a scenario such as your LL seeing your sex toy air-drying on the bathroom counter [as told to me by a friend]).
posted by analog at 12:44 PM on April 10, 2011

It seems like "checking the thermostat" could mean (1) checking the thermostat to see what temperature you set it at, or (2) checking the thermostat to see if it is functioning correctly. I would assume they're doing the latter.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 12:48 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes. They can and should inspect infrastructure in their building for which they pay utilities.

I'm a landlord and I'm very curious.... how is this an invasion of privacy at all, much less beyond inspecting the carbon monoxide detectors?
posted by cmoj at 12:48 PM on April 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

The tenancy acts I've seen have language that say the landlord has to give 24h notice, and a reasonable time frame for entry.

If my landlord said he was coming sometime in a three day span, I would take issue with that as unreasonable. I think you should check to see what the language is in your state.
posted by auto-correct at 12:57 PM on April 10, 2011

If you owned an investment such as an apartment building, wouldn't you want to be able to check on its operation?

If it's an invasion of privacy, it's probably because you are too sensitive. If you've done nothing to mess with the fixtures, then let them in and be done with it. It's nothing to do with you personally, unless you are the type of tenant they are looking for.
posted by santaliqueur at 1:08 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: For those that asked why this bothers me: Checking that safety equipment operates properly, as their insurance provider requires them to do, seems reasonable to me. But wandering through my apartment to check up on me and ensure that I don't have any unreported leaky faucets and that my thermostat is adjusted properly seems insulting, and the fact that someone I don't know will be doing it on an unspecified date is unsettling. It would be one thing to check my kitchen and bathroom, but they'll be coming into my bedroom to access the master bathroom, which is what's unsettling. That said, I'm really just interested in what the law says on the matter.

From reading the law, it sounds as though they're within their rights, and I don't see a specific provision requiring them to give an exact date.
posted by fogster at 1:18 PM on April 10, 2011

Best answer: I don't think that what they're asking is really all that unreasonable, but it's entirely reasonable as well for you to contact them and say that you'd prefer to be present when someone is in your apartment, and that you'd like to set up a specific time for them to inspect your place.

If they say they can't do that or otherwise stonewall you, then it might be worth escalating the issue. But you're within your apparent rights to try and schedule a mutually convenient time for the inspection and to not have it done when you're away.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:25 PM on April 10, 2011

I'm a home owner. I wish someone would check all that stuff for me for free, so if a and when something goes wrong, they could fix stuff like this. Chill.
posted by ducktape at 2:18 PM on April 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

But wandering through my apartment to check up on me and ensure that I don't have any unreported leaky faucets and that my thermostat is adjusted properly seems insulting,"

This isn't about you. Let that go.

It's possible that the landlord, looking at the maintenance logs in the building, has found more than one problem with faucets and thermostats in other units. Problems with faucets can be particularly expensive. (One place I lived in had a faucet break on the top floor while the renter was out, and every unit on that side of the building had to have the walls ripped out and the floors replaced because of water damage.)

Or maybe there's been a weird complaint by a neighbor. I once had an inspection in my apartment because the person downstairs thought I was leaving my window open in the rain and it was causing water damage in their apartment. I of course wasn't because that would be stupid, but I wasn't offended that they had to check it out. Some people -are- that stupid and it would be negligent of them not to at least look.
posted by Ookseer at 2:28 PM on April 10, 2011

I think it's reasonable to feel put out by this. As part of your agreement with your landlord, the landlord pays for certain utilities. Now your landlord is intimating, without evidence, that you are somehow abusing this arrangement by, among other things, keeping the temperature in your apartment at your preferred setting, which is completely within your rights anyway. And it feels as though your landlord is upset at having to pay for what s/he agreed to pay for, and responding by infringing on your privacy.

That's a pretty legitimate sentiment. But I suspect that your landlord is still handling this appropriately from a legal standpoint, and it's probably for the best that you try to see it from your landlord's perspective: they own the building, money's tight, and since they have to do this other maintenance thing anyway they want to see if they can lower their bills. Which is also pretty reasonable.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 2:58 PM on April 10, 2011

In Massachusetts, if I recall correctly, landlords are forbidden from billing tenants individually for water. I'm not sure of the specifics [my mother and sister are landlords in owner-occupied multifamily dwellings, this may only apply to those] but the upshot is that if the landlord puts low-flow stuff on your faucets and shower, you aren't supposed to remove it but it's sort of tough for them to ensure this, so I suppose that's why they inspect. I agree, it's annoying. I assume this inspection and the rant are the result of that weird policy. If they give notice, this is totally legal. That said, legally they can't keep you from turning the heat up or using whatever a reasonable share of the water is [they can ask, pretty sure they can't mandate] so I'd just be cool and it will be over soon.

Of course I am not a tenant's union, so you may want to check with yours to get information from one specific to your area and situation.
posted by jessamyn at 3:00 PM on April 10, 2011

Ignore the guilt-tripping rant (no one's forcing them to be landlords), and if they bring it up simply suggest they improve the insulation of the building. Double-paned windows are good, too.
posted by rhizome at 3:10 PM on April 10, 2011

Dude, you gotta get over feeling insulted about this and remember it's his property.. You're just temporarily living there. Of course he can look at the faucets that he owns as long as he gives you ample notice as required by law...
posted by Glendale at 3:32 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Now your landlord is intimating, without evidence, that you are somehow abusing this arrangement by, among other things, keeping the temperature in your apartment at your preferred setting, which is completely within your rights anyway.

I see no evidence of that. He's making a request that people monitor their utility usage. If/when he were to charge an additional fee and/or require a renter to use only a certain amount of water and heat, then that would be a problem. BTW - for him to do so would be an expensive infrastructure upgrade on his part, since he would have to install all new equipment with individual water, heat and electrical monitoring capability.

What is the likely scenario has been stated above: a property owner wants to inspect the building's infrastructure to see if everything is operating properly in each unit. The 3-day inspection window is likely because he has many units to inspect -- and if/when he finds a problem faucet, leaky toilet, etc. he can have them repaired and then move on to the next inspection. Go ahead and request a certain day and time. He might indeed be happy to schedule the visit to your unit. If you don't ask, you'll never know.

As has been stated, a leaky faucet (or, toilet) can go unnoticed and have a significant impact on the water usage and charges. Happened to me in my own place. The water bill jumped from $75 to $300 over one-month. It turns out that one of my toilets had a very slow internal leak which could not be seen, or heard. So, given the fact that you can't "see" any leaks doesn't mean that there isn't something else going on.

BTW -- in Boston any property owner can check "monitor your daily water consumption, view a transaction history and track monthly billed water usage for up to two years" at the Boston Water & Sewer Commission website. I check the data and fancy graphs there periodically to see if consumption is normal. It's likely that your landlord has seen a significant bump in water usage -- likely due to infrastructure problems. FWIW -- another friend's condo association had a significant bump in water usage one month. They hired a plumber to come in and inspect all 12 units. Sure enough they found a leak -- like mine -- imperceptible to most not familiar with the HVAC system of the building.

As above, chill. Be happy that you have a landlord who cares about the operations of his building. He's not going to ask you to restrict your water use or is he going to monitor your thermostat. He's asking that you conserve where you can. He/she has seen an uptick in utility costs and seeks to remedy them.

BTW --
"A single drip of water can be as much as 1,200 gallons a year of wasted water." *

The Cost of a Leaking Faucet

Drip Accumulator Calculator: How much water does a leaking faucet waste?
posted by ericb at 3:45 PM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

When I last lived in an apartment building, the apartments in the buildings were condos. Some people who lived in the building owned their units. Other people, like me and my husband, rented from the unit's owner.

The condo association would routinely have inspections of this sort (we did not have our own thermostats, however, just the leaky faucets), and they would leave notes of the sort you received under every tenant's door.

First of all, this is perfectly legal in Massachusetts, and second of all, you better adjust to this if you intend on moving ever because the brokers showing the apartment will give you less than 20 minutes notice sometimes, especially if you live in the Boston area.

Second of all, renters don't pay for water in Massachusetts. It is, therefore, in the owner's best interests to make sure the faucets are working correctly. So, in our last apartment that was a condo, some of the people in the building were probably appreciate of the associations proactive dealings with the water leakage that would occasionally occur.

With three to five days notice, which is at least what you have, I'm really struggling with what your problem is and why on earth it's "an invasion of privacy." Because, dude, it's not.
posted by zizzle at 4:10 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is he coming to JUST your apartment, or are they coming to everyone's apartment?

It's a little narcissistic to assume it has anything to do with you. It's his property. You are only a temporary tenant.
posted by santaliqueur at 5:09 PM on April 10, 2011

I can see being annoyed by the vague timeframe for entry, but it seems well within your landlord's rights to check on thermostat functionality and to ensure the water fixtures are in order. My tenants pay for their own heat but I pay for water and when I have reason to be in their unit I always glance to make sure the faucets aren't dripping and the toilets aren't running, as well as glancing around areas where I might be able to detect potential roof leakage issues. I'd rather catch these things well in advance of them becoming a serious problem--because if it did become a serious problem rather than something I can fix in a couple of minutes on my own, it's likely to inconvenience my tenants.
posted by padraigin at 8:00 AM on April 11, 2011

« Older Moving to Dallas & would like advice on East...   |   what backpack to take and where to go in bahia... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.