The Importance of Tenant Privacy Rights in a Shared Property

A wooden desk holds a blue leather book on landlord and tenant law that spells out tenant privacy rights

Sharing your property with a tenant has many benefits. It can boost your income, offset your homeowner costs, and provide a tax deduction, whether it’s a roommate situation or separate units. Starting with a shared property is also a great way to begin a career in property management, but it can also be challenging. Laws governing tenant privacy rights seem confusing when you live on the same property, but one mishap can lead to legal complications, extensive fees, and sometimes loss of assets.

Respecting tenant privacy builds trust and is necessary to maintain a productive, successful relationship with a tenant. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Living within earshot of each other opens both parties to another level of scrutiny, even if unintentional.

It’s hard to miss lease violations such as extended guests, extra pets, or junk in the yard when you live there too. The best course of action, regardless of apparent violations, is to stick strictly to tenant rights laws and behave with the utmost professionalism. This guide will simplify the process by walking you through the basics of tenant privacy laws in a shared property and what you can do to stay compliant.

The Basics of Tenant Privacy Laws

Privacy is a human right and is essential to personal autonomy and human dignity. Tenants have many rights provided by law, including a right to privacy, but landlords retain the right to enter their property, even when someone else is renting it.

Federal and state laws protect the rights of both tenant and landlord. The law requires landlords to adhere to specific provisions about rental entry. They must give 24 to 48 hours’ notice and may only enter under the following circumstances:

  • They are making repairs
  • They are performing routine inspections
  • They are showing the property to prospective new tenants or buyers

A landlord may enter without notice only when it’s in the best interest of both parties, such as an emergency, like a fire, or to save a life or stop a crime. Landlords who violate these laws are subject to legal repercussions, which could include jail time. The exact amount of notice time, and other specifics, vary from state to state.

9 Ways to Respect Tenant Privacy

Living in a shared property with a tenant can make respecting their privacy a little more complicated, especially if you’re in the same house. There are some easy ways to ensure you’re always in compliance with tenant privacy laws, though. Here are seven ways to respect a tenant in a shared property:

a landlord and tenants going over tenant privacy

Separate Entrances

Respecting a tenant’s privacy is much easier when you’re sharing two separate units under one roof. Separate entrances and common areas, such as laundry and kitchen, reduce the number of times you’ll interact. The tenant’s comings, goings, and guests are private and not on display.

Have a Clear Lease

One of the best ways landlords can protect themselves against tenant issues is by having a clear lease agreement. It must state the exact requirements for landlord entry in detail, including conditional problems such as broken plumbing. Shared living space as roommates requires even more additions to the lease. Mandated quiet time, using common areas, and any house rules are all topics that should appear on the lease.

Deny Entrance to Other Parties

A landlord can only allow the police, emergency medical personnel, or a repairer into a tenant’s rental unit, by law. The tenant’s family or friends do not legally have access to their home.

Curb Your Curiosity

It can be easy for landlords to talk themselves into a little snooping when they suspect a tenant of violating the lease – but it’s never a good idea. Nosing around and being intrusive breaks the tenant’s trust, strains the relationship, and might break the law.

Avoid Arbitrary Rules

Suddenly adding or changing the house rules because you suspect something is wrong will lead to problems. It’s illegal in certain states, such as Washington, where landlords cannot restrict common areas or create arbitrary rules based on tenant behavior. Rules must be stated in the original lease or as a yearly amendment.

Maintain Open Communication

Open communication is vital in all types of relationships. The key is to remember it’s a business relationship, and privacy is essential. Tenants need to feel encouraged to be honest about extended-stay guests or new pets without the landlord asking leading or intrusive questions.

Conduct Business Professionally

A rental agreement is a legally binding contract between tenant and landlord that signifies a business arrangement, and all interactions should be civil and professional. No discussion should ever include curse words, threats, or shouting. Address any grievances with formal warnings, notices, and eviction, if required, and document every action in case the issue ever goes before a judge. Maintaining a professional relationship also means landlords and tenants shouldn’t engage in friendships that interfere with business.

Releasing Tenant Information

Landlords should never release information about their tenants, whether it’s by gossiping or relaying information to bill collectors or salespeople. All tenant’s personal information is private and protected by law.

Reading Tenant Mail

Sharing a property might mean sharing a mailbox. Under no circumstances should a landlord read or review any mail belonging to a tenant. Mail tampering is a crime in most states.

Adhering to tenant privacy laws is vital to maintaining a healthy landlord-tenant relationship. Sharing property with a tenant can blur the lines of privacy if you’re not careful, but there are also other ways of violating a tenant’s privacy. A shared property situation forces a landlord to be extra diligent about sticking to privacy laws. Staying professional, having a clear lease, and maintaining open communication help make things easier.

Find Help With Your Shared Property Issues

Sharing property with a tenant is an efficient way to boost your income and share some responsibilities, but the legalities can be overwhelming. Rent Safe is a digital service that lets renters easy-submit their applications for rentals (apartments, homes, etc.), and landlords streamline the steps to screen potential tenants. Our innovative online platform allows the landlord to monitor every step of the application and screening process. Contact the Rent Safe team to see how our platform can help simplify finding qualified new tenants.

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