5 On Your Side

Law doesn't protect NC renters from people entering their homes

Posted July 30, 2014

— Renters sometimes have people come into their homes without warning, including maintenance and other workers hired by the landlord or apartment complex. The law doesn’t offer great protection for renters, but new technology can.

One Apex renter set up a security camera and, within 30 days of installing it, caught a worker rummaging through his things. The worker, hired by the apartment complex, was supposed to clean the dryer vent.

“There no reason, really, to be anywhere except for the laundry room,” said the renter, Kevin, who asked that his last name not be used.

The laundry room is just inside the front door, but the video shows the worker never entered that room.

“(He) closes the door behind him and walks into the guest bedroom,” Kevin said, showing 5 On Your Side the video. “If you listen, you can hear the drawers opening and closing.”

The video also shows the worker looking in nearly every cabinet in the kitchen, going into Kevin’s master bedroom and going through cabinets and drawers in the bathroom.

“That’s just terrible for someone to just walk into your home and go through all of your things,” Kevin said.

Cary renter Amy Dozier says she also feels her renter rights were violated.

"I put my key in the door to unlock it, and I realize that it had already been unlocked,” she said.

Days earlier, a complex worker went in to check her water heater. No one from the complex re-locked the door, reset the alarm or even let her know it was triggered. She found out about it from her alarm company and Cary police.

“Why are you in my house? Why didn’t I know about it, and why did you not call me to tell me there was some sort of incident?” she asked.

As an attorney for North Carolina State University Student Services, Pam Gerace deals with landlord/tenant issues all the time. She says North Carolina law does not require landlords to give renters notice before entering the apartment or home.

“There’s not a statute, one particular statue, that says exactly what kind of notice the landlord has to give before they enter, because they balance it against they own the property,” Gerace said.

Under the law, tenants have a right to what's called "quiet enjoyment." Gerace says that basically means while the landlord can go into the home to make necessary repairs, they cannot “unreasonably” interfere with a tenants "peace of mind.”

"If you have a landlord that is coming in and entering so much that it is disturbing their ability to live there – which is what they pay, that is what their rent is in exchange for – then it's a possibility that it's a violation,” Gerace said. “(But) going through things, they have no right to do that.”

If your landlord or workers enter your home to the point they disturb your enjoyment, Gerace says build a paper trail – log dates and times they enter. Or, even better, do what Kevin did and install a security camera.

WRAL's 5 On Your Side asked Gerace if cameras are a good idea.

“Yes. Oh, absolutely, especially when it’s your word against theirs,” she said.

The worker caught on Kevin’s security camera is Chris Caymin. WRAL’s 5 On Your Side talked with him by phone.

“Technically, I didn’t do anything wrong. Do what you have to do,” he said and hung up.

Caymin was fired but not charged with breaking in because he had a key, and Kevin didn't notice anything missing.

Kevin says he just doesn't want anyone in his home while he's not there.

It’s important to note that no matter how annoyed you may be with your landlord entering your home, it is illegal to change the locks without permission and also illegal to withhold rent in retaliation.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Mannin Black Jul 31, 2014
    user avatar

    That is why my lease specifically states that I will be given 24 hr. notice prior to the landlord or any workers enter the premises. Also, it may be illegal to change the locks without permission but what about adding locks?

  • Robert Richardson Jul 31, 2014
    user avatar

    Honestly speaking though, you would think the landlord would always want to place a phone call or note about an upcoming visit. If for no other reason then the safety of their employees or themselves. Just because you have the right to enter without notice doesn't mean it will be safe for you to do so.

  • mike275132 Jul 31, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Well, If you are a Renter-
    You live in the equivalent of a long term Hotel room.
    The owner can come in Inspect and make repairs even if you are not there.
    Most good landlords give notice except for emergencies like pipe breaks etc.

    If you don't like it then Buy your own home. That is only way you have absolute control Property

  • Inter Alios Jul 31, 2014

    When I was in college I suspected my landlord was entering my apartment for no apparent reason. Inserted a folded up matchbook cover between the door jamb and the door before closing it exactly 6" off the floor. Same day, came home to find the matchbook cover on the floor. Called landlord and asked if he had seen anyone going in apartment. He said no and asked why. Told him I could tell someone had entered the apartment. Never had another problem with him.

  • PowderedToastMan Jul 31, 2014

    View quoted thread

    If you rent, you don't have a say, so act tough all you want..it would mean nothing.

  • Brian Jenkins Jul 31, 2014

    Oh stop. If you have nothing to hide you shouldnt care. Right NSA/police trolls?

  • busyb97 Jul 31, 2014

    I'm surprised someone hasn't been shot entering a home in this manner before. I tell you, if I was living there, and someone started entering and I had no clue, that's the first thing I'd be doing! Protect myself. If I don't have a clue who is coming in, you are for sure I'm not going to wait and ask! And under the castle law, I don't have to. If you say "he is entering with a key"...so what...there are bump keys and other ways to break into a home without busting the door down or breaking a window.

    I get that a landlord owns the home, but that should not give them the right to just ENTER at will without notice. The law should be such that they are required to give notice, except in emergency (ie- leaks). They have all of your contact details- USE them. And a maintenance worker should never be in there alone - as we see from Mr. Chris in the video. dirt-bag.

  • mevanston1967 Jul 31, 2014

    The maintenance guy, in my opinion, appeared to be looking for something specific but apparently didn't find it. If anyone asked for my guess, I would say maybe pills??? Just speculation....

  • Heather Brittingham Jul 31, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Yeah, if you want to go to prison.

  • Thomas Fenske Jul 31, 2014
    user avatar

    Renting is a tough thing and as more and more landlords are heartless corporations this kind of stuff only gets worse.
    Allowing them access is a condition of the lease,but as we saw with the example, there are limits. If I ever have to rent again, I will definitely put in a camera.
    I would ask to amend the lease to provide for notification if possible. To take the video example ... a phone call or note explaining , "we'll be checking the dryer vents" is really not an unreasonable expectation. Investigating smoke or water, that's another thing entirely. This guy was maybe just nosy, but he appeared to be looking for "something" ...