Landlord's Right To Enter Home

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Question: In this situation, the landlord (i.e., community owner) owns the manufactured home located on a space in the park. The resident gave a 30-day notice earlier in the month. Rent was paid to the 10th day of the following month. The resident left the home, taking his belongings, but claims he will be back to clean the home up and collect his $400 cleaning deposit. However, the electric company is coming out to shut off the power because the resident owes them for unpaid bills. The landlord is concerned about the pipes freezing, since the local temperatures at night drops into the low 20s. What are the landlord's rights as far as entering the home? Specifically, what can the landlord do to save the pipes? Can the landlord have the electric bill changed to his/her name, enter the property and turn on the heat and power and then turn it off during the day? Where is this covered in the Oregon Revised Statutes? Can the landlord apply the $400 toward funds advance toward the electric bill?

Answer: Under this scenario, the landlord is also the owner of the home, so under certain circumstances, access would be permitted. Under the manufactured housing side of the landlord-tenant law, where the tenant owns the home, I would say that the only right of access – even in an emergency – is to the space itself and not the interior of the home. It would only be following the landlord’s declaration of an abandonment under ORS 90.675, that he/she would have a right to enter the home itself. Until that right arises, I would probably advise the landlord to stay out of the tenant’s home under almost any circumstances, since there is no provision under the manufactured housing side of the law that permits such entry where the tenant owns the home.

In our present case, the landlord also owns the home, so his/her rights are the same as any other landlord of an apartment or other rental unit. A landlord’s right of access where the landlord owns the home, would be found in ORS 90.322

90.322(1)(b) deals with emergency access:

In case of an emergency, a landlord may enter the dwelling unit or any portion of the premises under a tenant’s exclusive control without consent of the tenant, without notice to the tenant and at any time. "Emergency" includes but is not limited to a repair problem that, unless remedied immediately, is likely to cause serious damage to the premises. If a landlord makes an emergency entry in the tenant’s absence, the landlord shall give the tenant actual notice within 24 hours after the entry, and the notice shall include the fact of the entry, the date and time of the entry, the nature of the emergency and the names of the persons who entered. [Underscore added. - PCQ]

As for the application of the security deposit, I’m afraid it’s a little more complicated than simply applying it toward monies expended to keep the electricity on. Your question called it a “cleaning deposit.” If that is how it was designated, it suggests that it may be applied only toward cleaning of the home. The better term to use in the rental agreement is “security deposit” which is designed to “secure the tenant’s performance under the rental agreement.” If the rental agreement required that the tenant keep all such utility charges current, then the breach of that provision would entitle the landlord to apply the deposit toward the expenditure of funds to remedy the breach. The security deposit statute is ORS 90.300, and is helpful to read, as it addresses the landlord’s duty to account to the tenant for the expenditure of funds within 31 days following termination of the tenancy, or the tenant’s departure, if later than the termination.

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