Homeowner let police into my rent house what are my rights?
Most tenants have a certain expectation of privacy, even if they are living in a home which they do not own. Recently on our legal forum a renter asked, “I have been living in my rental home for six months, and the other day police officers asked the homeowner if they could search my apartment. She let them come in and look around. I was not at home at the time, and I did not give my permission to have my home searched. Was this legal and what are my rights?”
You have rights against unlawful searches
Just because you are a renter does not mean that you have forfeited your right to protections outlined in the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, specifically the right to be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures.
What does this mean for you? When a police officer wants to enter a private residence they generally need a warrant. The warrant is issued only after officers have convinced a judge that they have probable cause or a reasonable belief that a crime has taken place. If the judge agrees, they will issue a warrant outlining the location and material for the search.
Now, if a warrant has been issued the police officer has the legal right to enter the rental home at any time, regardless of whether or not you or the landlord consented to the search.
What if the police do not have a warrant?
If the police do not have a warrant, however, they may still be allowed to enter your home without your permission. In fact, there are legal reasons which allow officers to enter homes, regardless of whether or not they have a warrant.
For example, they may enter your home without a warrant and without your permission if they are in pursuit of someone they suspect has committed a serious crime or they believe that someone is destroying evidence within the rental unit.
Under certain conditions, a police officer may also enter your home if they see evidence of a crime which is clearly visible within your home. For example, they look in the window and see a dead person lying on your floor.
Additionally, you, as the tenant, may also give the police legal consent to enter the premises without a search warrant. They are not supposed to use coercion or try to trick you into allowing them to enter your apartment, but they also do not have to give you a legal history lesson on the constitution and your protected rights to avoid unlawful search.
Landlord illegally consents to the search
So let’s take a look back at the question, “Does my landlord have the legal authority to consent to the search?” As mentioned above, if the police have a search warrant they do not need legal consent from anyone; they have the legal authority to enter and search.
If they do not have a warrant, however, unless the exceptions discussed above apply, the police are legally required to ask the tenant for consent to access the rental unit, not the landlord.
So, assuming none of the exceptions existed, the landlord probably did not have the legal right to allow the police to enter your home.
When can the landlord enter my apartment?
Landlords may not have the authority to usher in the state police department to rifle through your stuff, but it does not mean that the landlord cannot enter their own property under specific circumstances.
For example, state laws generally give tenants exclusive use and possession of the property and guarantee that they have a right to privacy, but state laws and contractual agreements also generally give the owner the right to inspect the premises, make repairs, and show the rental unit to prospective tenants.
The rental contract will generally outline whether or not the homeowner must contact the renter and give advance notice or restrict entry to reasonable times, but the landlord generally has the right, under the conditions listed above, to enter the home even if the tenant is not present.
If you have questions about when your landlord has a legal right to enter your home you need to review the rental agreement contract and your state tenant’s right laws. Keep in mind; if you refuse entry when your landlord is legally allowed to enter, they may have the legal right to evict you.
Evidence obtained from an illegal search
If you have been charged with a crime but you believe police officers unlawfully collected the evidence, talk to your criminal attorney about filing a motion to suppress the evidence. Specifically, challenge the use of the evidence on the basis that it was obtained in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure.
For example, if you were not home, the police did not have a search warrant, and you did not consent to the search, you may be able to prove that they unlawfully entered your home without your consent and the search was illegal.
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