Civil Code 1954, also sometimes referred to as CC 1954, explains when and under what circumstances a landlord may enter a residential dwelling unit in California that is currently occupied by a tenant.
The full text of Civil Code 1954 reads (text in bold for emphasis only and not part of original text):
(a) A landlord may enter the dwelling unit only in the following cases:
(1) In case of emergency.
(2) To make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workers, or contractors or to make an inspection pursuant to subdivision (f) of Section 1950.5.
(3) When the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises.
(4) Pursuant to court order.
(5) For the purposes set forth in Chapter 2.5 (commencing with Section 1954.201).
(b) Except in cases of emergency or when the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises, entry may not be made during other than normal business hours unless the tenant consents to an entry during other than normal business hours at the time of entry.
(c) The landlord may not abuse the right of access or use it to harass the tenant.
(d) (1) Except as provided in subdivision (e), or as provided in paragraph (2) or (3), the landlord shall give the tenant reasonable notice in writing of his or her intent to enter and enter only during normal business hours. The notice shall include the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry. The notice may be personally delivered to the tenant, left with someone of a suitable age and discretion at the premises, or, left on, near, or under the usual entry door of the premises in a manner in which a reasonable person would discover the notice. Twenty-four hours shall be presumed to be reasonable notice in absence of evidence to the contrary. The notice may be mailed to the tenant. Mailing of the notice at least six days prior to an intended entry is presumed reasonable notice in the absence of evidence to the contrary.
(2) If the purpose of the entry is to exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, the notice may be given orally, in person or by telephone, if the landlord or his or her agent has notified the tenant in writing within 120 days of the oral notice that the property is for sale and that the landlord or agent may contact the tenant orally for the purpose described above. Twenty-four hours is presumed reasonable notice in the absence of evidence to the contrary. The notice shall include the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry. At the time of entry, the landlord or agent shall leave written evidence of the entry inside the unit.
(3) The tenant and the landlord may agree orally to an entry to make agreed repairs or supply agreed services. The agreement shall include the date and approximate time of the entry, which shall be within one week of the agreement. In this case, the landlord is not required to provide the tenant a written notice.
(e) No notice of entry is required under this section:
(1) To respond to an emergency.
(2) If the tenant is present and consents to the entry at the time of entry.
(3) After the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the unit.
This is a lot of information to absorb, so I want to take some time to highlight the main parts of Civil Code 1954 and emphasize the parts that come up the most in the landlord-tenant context.
You will notice that Civil Code 1954 does not give a landlord/agent the right to enter at any time and for any reason, even with proper notice. A landlord must have a reason that fits into one of the above categories in order to enter the property. Two of the most common reasons would be to make repairs or to show the property to prospective new tenants when the current lease is expiring.
The most common way to give notice of entry under CC 1954 is to post a notice at the door at least 24 hour in advance. The entry can only be during normal business hours. Good leases will specify what constitutes normal business hours. But if the lease is silent on this issue, then generally accepted normal business times would apply to satisfy the business hours requirement under CC 1954.
Even though posting a 24 hour notice at the property is probably the most common way of giving the tenant notice, there are other accepted methods of giving notice. The notice can be hand delivered to the tenant, left with someone else of suitable age and discretion at the property, or mailed. But if the notice is mailed to the property, 24 hour notice is not enough — a landlord would need to give at least 6 days notice if the Civil Code 1954 notice is sent via mail.
While Civil Code 1954 gives the landlord rights to enter a dwelling unit, the landlord is prohibited from abusing this right or using it to harass the tenant.
If the landlord has a valid reason for entry and gives proper notice to a tenant under Civil Code 1954, and the tenant refuses entry, the landlord would then have the right to give a 3 day notice to the tenant. Furthermore, if the landlord goes to the property to enter and finds that the tenant has changed the locks without permission, the landlord would also want to give the tenant a 3 day notice. We discuss the 3 day notice in other blog articles.
In the case of an emergency, such as a water or gas leak, the landlord can enter at any time of the day, night, or weekend, and with no notice at all.
We offer a free, downloadable 24 hour notice template [PDF] for landlords that complies with Civil Code 1954.