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Help! Tenant Refuses to Let Landlord Show the Apartment


It’s not uncommon for investors to ask what they can do if a tenant refuses to let a landlord show an apartment. It can be incredibly frustrating when you try to be reasonable with the tenant, and they won’t cooperate. While the situation isn’t ideal, it doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do.

This guide will highlight some of the most common questions investors and landlords have about the topic and discuss your legal rights regarding the situation.

Tenant Refuses to Let a Landlord Show an Apartment FAQ

Q:  Can I Show My Property During a Public Health Crisis?

A: It depends on local and federal mandates.

Generally, a tenant is not allowed to prevent a landlord from showing an apartment. However, if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, life can come to a grinding halt if the state or the federal government mandates a “stay at home” order due to a public health crisis.

Businesses can be shut down, recreational and religious activities can be paused, and we could even be told to cancel travel plans. One of the biggest headaches landlords faced during the COVID-19 pandemic was needing to allow tenants to remain in their rental properties if they didn’t pay rent.

Even though Congress could secure more than $46 billion for rent relief, small landlords suffered the most. Some had tenants who legitimately couldn’t pay rent, while others had tenants who took advantage of the moratorium and chose not to pay.

Note: Unfortunately, landlords are not allowed to charge late fees for any month that falls within the period of the public health emergency. But, the months before and after the public health crisis has ended are fair game.

Q: What Can I Do If a Tenant Is Quarantined and the Lease Is Ending?

A: The landlord may allow the tenant to stay in the rental during quarantine, but with penalties.

NAR’s Coronavirus Guide for Realtors states that if the tenant is quarantined, but the lease is going to end, the landlord has the right to enforce penalties for failing to vacate the rental unit or property as stated in the lease agreement.

Of course, the landlord also has the option to allow the tenant to stay if they agree to pay additional rent until they are out of quarantine and have vacated the premises.

Q: When Can I Legally Enter My Rental?

A: Refer to your state’s laws regarding the landlord’s right to enter.

Of course, a landlord can enter the rental property with the tenant’s permission. But if the tenant refuses entry, there is no clear-cut answer for this.

Some states have no laws regarding a landlord’s right to enter a tenant-occupied rental property. At the same time, some states require that the landlord give reasonable notice (usually 24 to 48 hours) before entry for non-emergency situations.

In most states, a landlord can enter a rental property under the following circumstances:

  • Dealing with an emergency

  • Inspecting the rental

  • Making repairs, alterations, or improvements

  • Showing the property to prospective tenants or buyers

  • During a tenant’s extended absence

  • When the tenant abandons the property

States without a state law regarding a landlord’s access to occupied rental units include:

  • Georgia

  • Idaho

  • Illinois

  • Maryland

  • Missouri

  • New York

  • North Carolina

  • Pennsylvania

  • South Dakota

  • Texas

  • West Virginia

  • Wyoming

Q: Can a Tenant Refuse a Showing Appointment?

A: No, but the landlord (or someone acting on their behalf) should give reasonable notice before entry.

Generally, the landlord (or the showing agent) can enter the rental unit with reasonable notice. It’s recommended to refer to the lease agreement for the exact terms, but it may look like something like this:

The Landlord shall have access to the Property on reasonable notice to the Tenant in order to(a) inspect the interior and exterior of the Property, (b) make necessary repairs, alterations, or improvements, (c) supply services, and (d) show it to prospective buyers, appraisers, contractors or insurers.

Q:  How Much Notice Does a Real Estate Agent Need to Give Before a Showing?

A: 24 to 48 hours notice before the appointment.

Most states require landlords to give tenants 24 to 48 hours notice before entering the rental unit. These laws typically state that the rental can only be accessed during “reasonable times” or during business hours (Weekdays between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

How to Deal With a Tenant Refusing to Let a Landlord Show an Apartment Without Resorting to Eviction

If you’re trying to show an apartment, but your tenant refuses to cooperate, you might be at your wit’s end and consider going through the eviction process. Keep in mind that if you do go this route, it could work against you.

The tenant may destroy the rental unit, which can cost you time and money.

An active eviction claim could be a deterrent for potential investors who wanted to keep the tenant in the unit — if they were a good tenant that paid on time, of course.

An evicted tenant could seek legal retribution and make false claims of discrimination, wrongful eviction, theft, or harassment, all of which could delay the sale.

So, how do you deal with a tenant who refuses to let a landlord show an apartment without going through eviction?

1. Understand Landlord/Tenant Laws In Your Area

Your state’s landlord/tenant laws are your best friend in this situation. These laws don’t just protect the tenant; they’re there to protect you as well.

As we mentioned, some state laws clearly state when a landlord can enter the premises and how much notice is required. That’s not all that these laws cover.

Some jurisdictions allow tenants to break their lease and vacate the rental if the property is on the market. Other jurisdictions require tenants to keep the property in showing condition when the rental unit is for sale.

2. Offer the Tenant Compensation

As a landlord selling a rental property or unit, you stand to make a profit. The tenant, however, does not. Indeed, you don’t have to consider the tenant when you’re selling the rental property, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be mindful of their situation either.

The tenant is at the mercy of a new owner who they know nothing about — they could be a slumlord for all they know! Or, the tenant needs to vacate the premises because the new owner could decide they want to live there, and now the tenant has to find a new place to live.

When a tenant feels that they’re getting the short end of the stick, they’re less likely to be inclined to show the property or to keep it in showing condition. On the flip side, if you offer the tenant some incentive (be it a small percentage of the sale, a decrease in rent until the unit is sold, or whatever else you think is fair), they may be more amicable.

3. Avoid Unnecessary Showing Appointments

Even if a tenant agrees to allow showings, you don’t want to make life difficult for the tenant. They may work at night and sleep during regular business hours. They may have small children and may not have time to get the unit in showing condition on short notice. You don’t know what’s going on in their life.

When a potential buyer wishes to view the property for the first time, offer to give them a virtual tour instead of scheduling an in-person walkthrough. Then if they show they are serious about the property, only allow in-person tours.

4. Be Empathetic to Their Concerns

Understandably, a tenant may be concerned about strangers walking through their home. They don’t want some random person snooping through their things and feel it’s an invasion of their privacy.

Some tenants may feel uncomfortable having people come to see the house during the evenings or weekends. Others might only want to let people into the unit during certain times.

For everyone’s sake, don’t shrug off a tenant’s concerns. By showing empathy toward them and addressing their concerns, everyone’s life will be a little bit easier during this sometimes-stressful time.

5. If All Else Fails, Proceed with the Eviction Process

Try as you might, if the tenant still refuses to show the rental unit even though your lease agreement states you can enter the unit with reasonable notice, you may have no choice but to start the eviction process, citing a lease violation.

Upon receiving the notice that the eviction process has begun, the tenant may realize the seriousness of the situation and comply with requests to show the rental. However, if they do not, you may have to let it work out in the courts — which is costly and time-consuming.

If you found this article about what to do if a tenant refuses to let a landlord show a helpful apartment, check out the New Western blog for everything related to managing your investment, marketing your property, finance, and so much more!


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