Updated: Mar 21
One common landlord task is to access the rental property for inspections, repairs, maintenance, and showings. This article addresses legal obligations of landlords and tenants and practical operation methods of accessing the property.
F.S .83.53(1) obligates the tenant not to interfere with lawful access to the premises. It states:
The tenant shall not unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to enter the dwelling unit from time to time in order to inspect the premises; make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements; supply agreed services; or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workers, or contractors.
F.S. sec. 83.53(2) gives the landlord a statutory right o access the property for lawful purposes, and "reasonable notice" is at least 24 hours notice, and "reasonable time" is between 7:30am - 8:00pm. It states,
The landlord may enter the dwelling unit at any time for the protection or preservation of the premises. The landlord may enter the dwelling unit upon reasonable notice to the tenant and at a reasonable time for the purpose of repair of the premises. “Reasonable notice” for the purpose of repair is notice given at least 24 hours prior to the entry, and reasonable time for the purpose of repair shall be between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Further Rights to Enter
The landlord may also enter the dwelling unit when necessary for the further purposes set forth in subsection (1) under any of the following circumstances:
(a) With the consent of the tenant;
(b) In case of emergency;
(c) When the tenant unreasonably withholds consent; or
(d) If the tenant is absent from the premises for a period of time equal to one-half the time for periodic rental payments. If the rent is current and the tenant notifies the landlord of an intended absence, then the landlord may enter only with the consent of the tenant or for the protection or preservation of the premises.
Subsection (3) of the statute requires that “the landlord shall not abuse the right of access nor use it to harass the tenant.”
Protection or Preservation of the Property Access
F.S. 83.53(2) provides that the “landlord may enter the dwelling unit at any time for the protection or preservation of the premises.” This section of the statute is somewhat vague in the sense that it could be interpreted to mean that the landlord need not give 24 hours notice, or to mean that the landlord needs to give 24 hours’ notice, but that there is no time of the day that is required, meaning, the landlord could access the premises outside of the 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. time period.
The safer approach here is to still give at least 24 hours’ notice even the access is “for the protect or preservation of the premises.” This provision should be used with caution as accessing the premises without the tenant’s consent or without delivering at least 24 hours’ notice may present problems for the landlord.
If there is, in fact, an emergency situation, F.S. 83.53(2)(b) provides that the landlord may access the premises “when necessary”. It states:
The landlord may enter the dwelling unit when necessary for the further purposes set forth in subsection (1) under any of the following circumstances: ...(b) In case of emergency.
Method of Notice
Any method of giving notice is acceptable. For example, hand-delivery, posting on the premises, mail, email, text, software program, etc.
TIP: the lease agreement should define the kind of notice that is acceptable.
TIP: do not use a form of notice that is not acceptable in F.S. ch. 83, pt. 2, not in the lease agreement, or not customarily used by the parties, because the tenant may challenge the notice given if the landlord had to evict based on the tenant unreasonably withholding consent based on the form of notice given to the tenant to access the premises.
TIP: ensure that the recipient address used is correct (e.g. correct email address or cell phone number).
TIP: when preparing the notice to access, provide the tenant with the specific date of the access and the time period of that day that the access will happen.
In any case, it is best practice to attempt to get the tenant’s consent to the landlord’s access in every situation where the landlord needs to access the premises for whatever purpose. For example, the landlord should attempt to get the tenant to respond to the landlord’s notice by, say, a text message or email reply. When the tenant expresses his consent, it alleviates issues that could arise when a tenant hasn't responded to the notice of access.
Tenant Unreasonably Withholds Consent
A more difficult scenario arises when a tenant unreasonably withholds consent and the landlord needs access to the premises. This situation most commonly arises when the landlord gives notice of his intent to access the premises, and:
1) the tenant expresses that the landlord has no permission to access the premises;
2) states that the tenant must be present at the premises, but does not make himself available to be present during the date(s) and time(s) that the landlord has given the tenant to access the premises;
3) changes the locks, thus preventing the landlord’s access to the premises; or
4) the tenant has made threats of physical violence towards the landlord if he were to access the premises.
If communication with the tenant has broken down, or there are more serous problems happening with the tenant, the best practice is to deliver a 7 day notice to the tenant to cure the tenant’s default (i.e. unreasonably withhold consent to the inspection or interfering with the inspection).
To make this notice most effective, the landlord should also consider delivering notice of the landlord’s intent to access the premises on the 7th day of the notice to cure, because that is the last day that the tenant has to cure his default. On the 7th day, the landlord or his vendor that is needed to be present should arise at the premises pursuant to his Notice to Access. If at that time, the tenant still unreasonably withholds consent to access the premises, the landlord has grounds for eviction.
Note: if there are other grounds for eviction, e.g. 3 day notice to pay, 15 day notice to terminate month-to-month, holdover, non-renewal of a lease term, the landlord should consider pursuing the eviction on those grounds, as they are a more efficient method to prosecute eviction.
Coordinating Access with Vendors
One of the problems landlords run into is with vendors they use for inspections and repairs to the premises. When a landlord hires a vendor for that purpose, the landlord may instruct the vendor to contact the tenant to arrange a date and time for the access.
TIP: instruct the vendor to communicate the date of the inspection or repair with the tenant and the landlord. If the vendor communicates the date of the access, but the tenant still interferes with the vendor’s access in some way, the landlord can either send a more formal notice of access to the tenant or deliver a 7 day notice to cure (see above).
TIP: once the landlord delivers notice to the tenant of the date of the inspection, communicate with the vendor that the vendor can pick up keys to the premises at the landlord’s office before the inspection or repair, or provide the vendor with the landlord’s access code (if the premises has a “smart lock”) so that the vendor can access the premises even if the tenant is absent from the premises.