5 On Your Side

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

Posted July 30, 2014 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated July 30, 2014 5:55 p.m. EDT

— 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.