Restricting usage of Basement

13 Replies

My rental property has a basement.   It is not habitable with low ceiling and narrow/steep stairwell.  Hence in my rehab, I have put in a door that I intend to lock and not provide access to tenant.  I understand there is no way of enforcing a waiver on the tenant to protect me from liabilities should something happen while accessing basement.  Also to note is the water heater which is located in the basement.

As landlord, am I allow to restrict access to basement?  I have already noted in rental agreement, but tenant is saying she has right to use basement.

This is a section 8 tenant. Not sure if it makes a difference.

Thanks very much for your advise.


When you showed or marketed the house, did you say anything about the basement? Has she had access to it in the past? I liken it to some of the posts here when an AC breaks. While it’s not required to have an AC (or basement), if you rented it with the understanding that it does, and they are in theory paying for that, it’s underhanded to remove it. But if you were up front from the beginning, I don’t see why not. Especially if it’s in her already signed lease.
@Reggie Maggard Have had the exact same situation . Section 8 too. MIne was bad becsuse The inherited tenant was hoarding several pickup loads of trash in the basement too ! I put up a notice on the door that the unit is hers to use and the basement is mine . hoardIng wont be tolerated and any junk or personal affects will be tossed within 30 days and it will come out if her deposit and section 8 will be notified . That fixed the problem atleast I hope it stays that way
@Mike McCarthy It was never marketed. Not mentioned in listing. Lease was signed with the restriction language in agreement. I offered to provide a storage shed instead. She initially agreed, but came back to tell me her lawyer and section 8 says she is entitled to use the whole house, including basement. I'm trying understand what a landlord is entitled in restriction of certain part of house
@Ernest Ho just guessing here, but maybe tell her the basement will not pass the section 8 inspection. She will need to get section 8 out to inspect and if the basement fails inspection she will have to leave because you will not fix the basement. California is very different so that tactic may not work...may even backfire.

I have 100+ SEC 8 tenants and we restrict all of them from basements and attics unless the breaker box is in there. We just put a lock on it that has a code different than the house so our master key will open it in the event we need a contractor to get in. We’ve even restricted the use of detached sheds and garages because we didn’t want to have them inspected. It isn’t a problem with any of the 7 housing authorities in our market.

I restrict the basement access in all of my buildings - all C+/B-.  The doors are locked.  In the lease it says the basement is not accessible to tenants.  This creates inconvenience sometimes because the breaker boxes are usually down there.  That's okay, because if a tenant is repeatedly overloading a circuit I would like to know that.  If they were resetting it themselves constantly I might not ever find out until there is a fire.  This also tells me which circuits need to be split.

On the front end it's a bit of work, but I seldom get breaker calls on the properties whose circuits I have attended to.

I sometimes leave a lockbox for a contractor if I need to, or leave it unlocked.  (I prefer the former.)

I restrict access to the basement to all my tenants. They don't have any business down there and if they get hurt as it is not finished that is your problem. Avoid access as stated on the lease.

@Ernest Ho it’s not a matter of equity, it’s a matter of law, therefore @Mike McCarthy is just stating his moral beliefs which arnt really relevant to your question. In Oregon you would have to give him access to the basement as a matter of law. I spoke with my lawyer about a very similar issue. You need to find out what the law is where the rental is located. Gathering non-legal opinions of people virtue signaling isn’t going to answer your question
@Ernest Ho you said her and her lawyer, did you ask your lawyer? If she signed the lease stating the basement is restricted then one would think you are in the right here. However I advise you contact your lawyer, who knows if what she ACTUALLY told her lawyer is true.