Q: I rent a house, and the management company recently changed. Yesterday I received an e-mail saying there is a city inspection coming up, so I took off work to be home for the inspection. Then I received an e-mail stating that the new management company doesn’t have a key to the property, and that, prior to the inspection, they need to come re-key the house and take photos inside and outside to determine the condition of the property.
Our old management company never made demands like this and I’m a little agitated at having to waste another vacation day on top of the one I just took. I work 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, and they wouldn’t work with me at all in regards to coming when I was off work, so I wouldn’t have to use a vacation day. They claim the latest they can come is 2 p.m. because their technicians work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
My house is clean, in good condition and has been well taken care of since I’ve lived here. I worry about the photos because I have a few expensive items, and I don’t want knowledge of my belongings to get out, especially to a management company that is based out of state. Do I have to allow them to take pictures of the inside of my rental home?
A: Minnesota law states that a landlord may enter a tenant’s place only for a reasonable business purpose and after making a good-faith effort to give the tenant reasonable notice, under the circumstances, of their intent to enter. The law gives some examples of what a “reasonable business purpose” might consist of, which includes allowing for inspections.
You do not have to take off work to be at your rental property during the inspection, since they will have a key.
There is no law stating that you must allow the company to take photos of the inside of your rental home because you do have a right to privacy and comfort in your own home. However, when the company has a reasonable business purpose for doing so, it’s difficult to object. Your old management company most likely already had photos of the property for appraisal purposes. However, because there is a new management company involved now, it’s understandable that the company needs photos of the inside and outside of the home before the city inspection for appraisal, insurance, maintenance or other business reasons.
You should confirm with your landlord or your management company that the photos will be used only for appraisal and insurance purposes, to assess maintenance or damages, or for other reasonable purposes. You can also let the company know that you would like to view the photos before they submit them. There should be no personal photos that identify you as the tenant, which your new management company most likely realizes. You could remove or take down items that you don’t want photographed, or let your management company know of these items.
Since your management company has a reasonable business purpose for taking photos of the inside of your rental home, you should allow it. However, you can always negotiate what photos will be taken, request to see the photos before submission, and request that they not take photos of your personal items, artwork or expensive pieces. If you are still concerned about the photos, you can always draft a written agreement regarding what may be photographed, and get it signed by both parties.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your particular issues. E-mail renting questions to email@example.com, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 650 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.