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being harassed by landlord... is this legal?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

here is the situation... i live in this apartment complex. it's one of those situations where this company owns a few complexes all over the state and the landlord is this far away unknown person with an office building full of departments and secretaries. in the complex i live in, occasionally they have exterminators come and spray the grounds. they just knock on your door without giving any notice at all. in the past, i've occasionally turned them away because i either wasn't dressed properly, or i was trying to get out the door with my kids. well, once i refused and the guy went away... only the complex manager came by and yelled at my husband and said that we had to let the guy in. we have three kids, so there were toys on the floor, baskets full of laundry, and dishes to be done... nothing a "health risk" (no rotting food or garbage lying around). a week later i got a "notice to cease" that said my apartment had been INSPECTED by the bug guy, and that it was "unkempt/unsanitary"! i was furious, because i received no notice that i was being inspected. so i did a search, and this is what i found...
Entering the tenant’s dwelling unit
All leases, whether written or oral, give the tenant “exclusive possession” of the dwelling unit. This means that only the tenant, or members of the tenant’s household, or people the tenant allows in the house or apartment, have the right to be there. The landlord does not have the right to come into the house or apartment whenever he or she wants. In a written lease, the landlord’s duty to not enter the tenant’s house or apartment is called the covenant of quiet enjoyment. This covenant (promise) means that the tenant has control over who can or can’t come into his or her apartment or house. Cite: Ashley Court Enterprises v. Whittaker, 249 N.J. Super. 552 (App. Div. 1991).

When can a landlord enter?
The law allows the landlord or the landlord’s workers to go into the tenant’s dwelling only in a few special situations:

-If the tenant invites or asks the landlord or one of the landlord’s workers to come in.

-If the landlord needs to inspect the apartment, but only
at reasonable periods of time—every day is unreasonable, every few months might be okay; at a reasonable time of day—4 a.m. is unreasonable, 4 p.m. might be okay, depending on whether the tenant will be home at that time; and only after giving the tenant reasonable notice that he or she is coming to inspect.

Reasonable notice usually means a written notice. It also usually means that the notice must be given at least one day before the landlord wants to come in. For buildings containing three apartments or more, there is a regulation requiring one day’s notice before a landlord can come into an apartment to make an inspection or do repairs. Cite: N.J.A.C. 5:10-5.1(c).

If the landlord or one of the landlord’s workers needs to come into the apartment to do maintenance or make repairs. If the repairs are not an emergency, they can only come into the house or apartment at a reasonable time and after giving reasonable notice.

If the landlord or the landlord’s workers need to come into the house or apartment to do emergency repairs. Under this circumstance, the landlord may not have to give one day’s notice—or even any notice—if the emergency is really serious or dangerous, for example, the apartment is on fire or water is rushing out of a broken pipe and pouring through the floor. But even in the case of an emergency, the landlord should try to give some notice if he or she can, even if the notice is just a phone call.
so... since i was harassed into letting the bug guy in and then inspected by the guy without any notice, i decided that i wasn't going to let them in any more without being given notice. so the other day, they (two maintenance guys and the bug guy) show up at my door out of the blue, and i answer through the window next to the door (since i wasn't dressed properly)... conversation went like this:

me: hi, can i help you?
maintenance dude:exterminator...
me: aren't you supposed to give me some sort of notice?
maintenance dude: they just show up, we don't know when they are coming until they get here*, you've been here for a few years, you should know that...
me: well legally, i have no obligation to let you in if you don't give me some notice...
maintenance dude: yes, you do.
me: i looked it up.
maintenance dude: so you're refusing?
me: yes, i'm not dressed properly, i'm in the middle of something, i'm taking care of my kids...
maintenance dudes and bug dude walk away.

a few days later i get a notice to cease that says "tenant refused access to apartment for exterminator inspection" : they quote something that says "landlord shall have the right to enter the apartment at all reasonable times for purposes of making ordinary or emergancy repairs and maintenance as well as to inspect the apartment." does that mean they actually have the right to show up unannounced whenever they feel like it? the idea makes me stressed... what if i'm sick and they show up and the house is a mess because i've been on the couch all day? what if i haven't slept, or i'm in the shower? will they let themselves in? i feel like these people are breathing down my neck.

ok so, about the *... i don't buy that for a second. how could they possibly hire an exterminator and have NO CLUE when they are going to show up? and this was in the middle of a work day... the vast majority of people living here are out working when these dudes show up. what do they do about all the apartments where they can't get in
post #2 of 17
sorry you have to deal with this. My last apartment had it set up so you had to call and put youself on a list everytime you wanted the bug-guy. He came only on Thursdays. He was given a "master key" to get into whatever apts were on the list. I never has my apt sprayed and it was never an issue, though I did get a bug or two when my neighbors got sprayed. I would say you didn't want all those chemicals around you kids.
Best of luck!
post #3 of 17
Do you or your chilren have any allergies? I am not wishing allergies on your kids or you!...but an easy way to nip this in the bud would be a note from a kindly doctor stating an allergy or sensitivity to chemicals....
armed with that you could inform your landlord that is the reason for your refusal of the bug guy and ask if he would like to be liable for making you or one of your children violently ill?

That would make him back off I bet...

You shouldn't have to do that, and I am sure there are other legal ways around it, but that would probably do the trick..
post #4 of 17
We've had to deal with this in the past. One time a few years back when it was just dh and I, I was getting ready for work and dh was still in bed. We were both undressed and the door opens and two men walk in saying "maitenance". I was literally standing there naked and they didn't even leave! I rushed to finish getting ready and ran up to the office where I yelled at them. Apparantly we were supposed to have gotten something on our door about them coming to inspect but we never did. They weren't apologetic at all. After I got off work I went up there again and informed them that not only had they invaded our privacy but they had left TRASH in our bathroom sink! I had to get a little threatening with them (told them that if it wasn't addressed I would be contacting someone who would address it for them) but they ended up reprimanding the worker and apologizing. After that I was a lot less tolerating. At the apartment complex we live in now they send a bug guy out every couple months and I always just turn him away at the door. Last time I didn't even give an explaination, just said "We don't do that" and shut the door. The fact that you don't want those chemicals around you or your kids is enough of a reason to refuse them access for that. Since they seem to be being jerks about it, I recommend getting everything in writing. Send them a letter stating your reasons for not wanting to allow them in the apartment (chemicals, untimely, whatever). State what happened in the past with them just showing up and state the law about needing to give you notice. The only way that they can FORCE you to have chemicals spewed about in your place is if your apartment is crawling with bugs that are infecting the other people's units. Otherwise they have to suck it up and leave you alone. Anyway, I've had bad luck with all of my landlords so far so I feel for you. It sucks when you can't even feel safe in your own place. Oh, and if you are going to be gone on a day when they're coming to spray a good thought is to leave a note tacked to the door saying that you don't want any. HTH
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 

i think i was right...

although i got a citation for not letting them in, i think they were definately just trying to scare me... because they called me today AND left me written notice on the door that they want to come by. i would think that if they really had the legal high ground here, they would have just showed up again, demanding to be let in.

so i've been up all night getting everything sparkly clean... so i can let them in with a nice big grin.
post #6 of 17

Keep the spray away!!!

I had a land lord who had it written in the lease (He also was a lawer) . In my state if the land lord has it in writing and you sign it they can bend the laws that are in place ! I never let the bug guy spray after 13 months my land lord came to ask me why i never let the bug guy in I told him i have asthma (witch i do) and he told the bug guy not to bother us any more.
post #7 of 17
I've had a couple horrible landlords. However, from what you wrote I don't believe it was an emergency and that they can just come into your apartment. They should be giving you notification for this issue. I think they were trying to scare you. you should check locally to see if you have any nonprofit groups that help with this sort of thing. I hope they realize you know the laws and won't allow them to take advantage of you.
post #8 of 17
I'm not sure if this is law, but our old landlord in the nice apts we lived in (you know, pay a little more than average for quick good repairs, gated parking, timely returns of phone calls, ect...) at one point told us that they had to have permission *in writing* to enter your apartment without you home (to just use the master key and come in not even knocking). We were never comfortable with that. Which made for some fun times when some water pipes in our kitchen needed replacing below the concrete line. We had people in our home for HOURS with a JACKHAMMER! Thank Goodness this was pre-child!
post #9 of 17
Check at your local Human Services or Legal aid in your city to see if they have any information both on renters and landlords legal rights. Here, landlords are required to give 24 hour notice. If they do not, then the renter can send them a letter documenting how the landlord broke the lease/law. This can be used as grounds for terminating the lease.

I think the citation they sent you could be considered harassment. I would definately check into it. I would also send a letter by registered mail to the actual landlord (not the manager) about the situation.
post #10 of 17
I am a landlord (and former renter from horrible landlord as well). That sounds like harrassment to me. In this state, a lease is binding, as long as it doesn't violate a tenents *rights*. Sections of leases that *violate* a law are not usually considered valid in court around these parts. Like for example, our leases are generally more lenient about late rent than the law allows and that's fine. But if we put in our leases that we could stop in unannounced and use the renter's shower, that wouldn't hold up.

Sounds like these folks would just open the doors of tenents who weren't home. And probably wouldn't inform them - which they are prob. also required to do, if they had to enter unannounced for an emergency.

I agree with melissa17s. You can get good advice from legal services, and also document everything, no matter now insignificant it might seem. Every exchange.

Good luck, hope your situation gets better. I know personally the stress this can bring - and I didn't even have a little one back then. I ended up leaving without notice (I didn't want them to have 30 days to plan their final attack) and getting a lawyer cousin of DH to write a *very* strong letter. They not only stopped bullying me, but politely prorated my last month and gave back the security deposit, which I thought was gone for sure.
post #11 of 17
This is why (and for other reasons) I always put up a slide/or chain link lock on the inside of my door...Someone is ususally home so it is in place...They can't come in on their own cause they have no way to unhook/slide the extra lock...I started doing this once when I worked third shift...

I was sleeping in my t-shirt and underwear on the couch...I had worked a long shift the night before and was sleeping hard...I didn't hear the maintence guy knock but I did hear him come into my apartment vagually...There I was, almost skyclad laying on the couch with no blanket...And he and his assistant walked right in to put up new blinds on my windows...And the freakin bad thing about it was they didn't even notice me on the couch in the corner and walked right back to the bedrooms to do their buisness...I heard the hammering and shot up off that couch...I walked down there with a baseball bat of my sons that happened to be sitting in the corner...I charged them with that bat held over my head in my t-shirt and undies...I; sure scared the crap outa them...But by the goddess I sure was ticked off...

And you better believe I had lots to say and it wasn't words many would choose to hear .

I put on my robe, told them to finish and called the apartment manager to come over asap...

The maintence dude got written up and I got a really BIG apology...
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 

well, they came by...

everything went fine. everything was really clean... the funny part was that the maintenance dude picked up a tiny piece of dirt off my kitchen floor and tried to tell me it was an ant. :LOL

though, they re-stated that the exterminator "just shows up" and they don't know when... not even to the week. i asked what they do about all the people who aren't home (since this always happens in the late morning/late afternoon on a weekday) and his response was "i have a key to every apartment"!!! so i guess they just let themselves in.

i hate to inconvenience the dude, but i can't imagine that that's legal. i mean, what if i'm napping with the kids, or in the shower and i don't answer the door? i mean, i'm a muslim... i have a very high standard of modesty. i don't want to feel like i have to be fully dressed, hijab and all, in my own home. i would be mortified if i walked out of my bathroom, freshly showered and loosly covered in a bath towel.
post #13 of 17
I understood that they have to give 24hrs notice - thats what my landlady does before the exterminator comes. (unless its an emergency, but this is routine maintenance).

I agree to the exterminator as roaches three inches long are one thing that freak me out.
post #14 of 17
In Washington and Idaho a landlord needs to give their tenants 24 hours notice, in writing, that they need to come in to do something. If we weren't comfortable with it, we'd call them up and reschedule. But our maintenance guy got to see my in breastmilk drenched pajamas a few times - embarassed him more than me though.

post #15 of 17
I've used the city's Landlord Tenant office. They help mediate disputes. Often it's enough just to talk to someone there so you know what the law is and can be informed during any future encounters! See if you have one and get on their good side!
post #16 of 17
Call your municipality (in many cities the number is 311), and see if there is any organization for tenants' rights. We were having a similar problem, and found that in our area there is a group called "Canter for tenants' rights."
post #17 of 17
It happened to me nce that someone entered the aprtment without me havng receievd any sort of notice.You know what works?Pushing a big screwdriver under the door.No one can enter like that unless you remove it.It sure gave me my peace of mind back!
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