Can my landlord do that?

key opening doorAnonymous emails:

Help AOA! I received a letter today from the property manager of my apartment building [regarding upcoming apartment inspections to review the condition of units] that rubbed me the wrong way. This in particular, "we will note any cleanliness or excess clutter issues that need to be addressed."
It gave me the feeling they are going to snoop around my unit looking for things they don't approve of. I have already had a few issues with privacy; such as entering my unit without notice. Is this legal or even reasonable according to the Right to Privacy Public Service Law ยง 228?

Well, we are not lawyers. We don't even play one on TV. But here's a tenants' rights guide published by the state attorney general's office.

Anyone have suggestions for Anonymous about how to proceed? Please share.

photo: Flickr user Menage a Moi

Comments

Yikes, entering your apartment without you knowing? That would really bug me. I lived in an apartment complex where management did occasional inspections (annually, I think), but we were always informed of when it would be.

I wouldn't worry too much about the "excess clutter issues that need to be addressed", they probably just want to make sure their tenants aren't hoarders. Just tidy up and lock away any valuables before the inspection.

I'd read that as being concerned about fire hazards and vermin, but I would definitely want to be there when they were doing the inspection. In fact, they should want you there too, so if there are any concerns they can communicate them to you.

I had a landlord systematically entering my place without notice back when I was renting, and since then I make a point of always notifying my tenant when I need to fix something in her apt (say, check the furnace, or play with her new cat, oh wait no I don't do that). Not that it isn't common sense or basic courtesy anyway.

I don't have my Landlord for Dummies book right now, but whether or not he/she denies doing it, if you would rather be immediately informed that said landlord is lurking in your apartment, here is how I had things setup. I was using a cheap webcam (most laptop have one nowadays) and was running a free program called Zone Minder to perform basic video surveillance in my own apartment (my landlord was the very definition of a slumlord, I wanted to know what he was doing).

This program will run in the background, look at your place through the camera and starts recording whenever something changes or someone enters the premises. It can be setup to ignore lighting conditions (shadows, sun moving), and probably discard cats/rodents/small pterodactyls. I had it configured so that it would email me at work right away with a few video frames, and record the whole show automatically. You can even watch what's going on remotely (warning: it may drive you nuts).

Note to my own tenant if she reads that comment: do not install the same thing, I'm wearing a tin foil hat when I perform maintenance in your apt. Can't fool me.

I wouldn't get too paranoid about it. At least they're letting you know it's happening. They're likely just concerned about extreme health hazards like hoarding and filth.

I am now a landlord and remember my old landlords playing the same games. They need to give you 24 hours in NY unless it is an emergency, you can say no and reschedule for a time when you are there. It is your property when you are renting from them. I believe, (although not a lawyer) that they cannot supersede this with language in the lease either, anyone know?

If my guess is correct, the landlord you are referring to is fairly well known in the area because she owns many units. Since she feels that her units are superior/opulent to any of the surrounding ones and knows that there will always be someone else who can take your apartment next year, she treats all tenants quite poorly and with little respect.

Having recently been through something like this, I can speak from experience that a landlord in the city of Albany must have his/her building inspected every 30 months. The inspection cannot be done without someone present.
I would take a look at the following brochure from the code enforcement website: http://www.albanyny.gov/_files/CodeEnforcementHandbook.pdf

A printed out copy was given to me during recent legal issues I was having with my previous landlord. These are the things the enforcement officers will be looking for when they come to your apartment. They're mainly concerned with the structural issues, not your personal belongings unless they are clearly causing damage/obstructing things.

Most leases have a clause that is something like "Tenants must keep apartment clean and free of excessive clutter." I think they're just trying to protect themselves from hoarders (people who keep everything), fire hazards, or vermin hazards. Still, nothing says you shouldn't call your landlord for clarification, and ask to be there if you think he/she is shady.

The inspections Sally refers to are done by the fire department, not landlords. The firemen inspect the apartment for code compliance, and is necessary for the landlord to have a residential occupancy permit. They cannot be done when no one is present.

Regarding the landlord apartment inspection issue, contact United Tenants of Albany, a tenant advocacy organization www.unitedtenantsalbany.org.

We have so-called "fire inspections" four times a year. But I know that the landlords use this as a way to snoop in our homes. The reason why I know this is because every time it is done a notice is sent to our homes of what they "found." It can be little things like for ours a piece of paper was in our window. (This was because they forgot to install our blinds for a few weeks when we moved in and I put a piece of paper there and forgot to remove it when it was installed.) And for others it was pets that were not reported on their lease, storing things in their garage, etc. I do not think this is right as this is not the intent of them coming into our house. If this is for a fire inspection, it should be for a fire inspection and not a "snoop inspection." It is just not right. What more are they going to do next time? Its like they have free will to do whatever they want.

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