“Ask the Lawyer” will be a recurring column presented by Associated Students Legal Resource Center attorneys Ron Perry, Robin Unander and Steve Rice. The aim is to present legal information that students and staff will find useful, topical and interesting. The ASLRC provides legal information and referrals at the UCen MultiCultural Center Monday through Thursday. Although our attorneys are unable to provide representation, we can help find answers to legal questions.

My landlord always walks into my apartment like he owns the place, usually without prior notice, and half the time he doesn’t even knock. Do I have to let him in when he just shows up like that?

It is reasonable to expect that your landlord will respect your right to privacy and to notify you before disturbing you. California Civil Code 1954 requires your landlord to enter your place only for certain reasons such as emergencies, to make necessary or agreed repairs or to show the property to prospective renters or buyers. The law expressly states that a landlord may not use abuse the right of access or use it to harass the tenant.

Recent amendments to the law now require the landlord to give written notice of the date, approximate time and reason for entry, and mandate that the entry should be during normal business hours. Twenty-four hours notice is generally presumed to be reasonable.

Of course, landlord and tenant can agree to less than 24-hours notice or to entry at a time outside of normal business hours. A tenant may consent to allow entry if he is present at the property at the time the landlord requests entry. Where there is mutual respect between landlord and tenant, most tenants would allow entry. At the A.S. Legal Resource Center, we advise to cooperate with landlords as much as possible on this issue. It is usually in the tenant’s best interest to allow the landlord ample opportunity to maintain the property in good condition. If the landlord proposes a time that is inconvenient, don’t “just say no,” offer an alternative time that is better for you.

So I got in a little bit over my head with the credit cards. Now, I’ve got collection agencies up the yazoo. They’re calling me at home and work at all hours, calling my parents and even calling neighbors! One of these morons even accused me of fraud and threatened to “notify the authorities.” Is there no limit on what they can say or do?

Before we get to that, first, buy a pair of scissors – and don’t use a credit card to buy them. Now, cut up the cards. Okay, good. The federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) states that debt collectors may not harass you, make false statements to you or engage in unfair practices, such as tricking you into accepting a collect phone call.

Generally, debt collectors are not permitted to call you before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. If you write the debt collector a letter telling them to stop contacting you, they must stop except to confirm in writing that they will not contact you further or to inform you of a specific action that they intend to take. They may call you at your employer’s unless and until you inform them – preferably in writing – that your employer does not permit such calls. They may call other people – such as your parents or a neighbor – to obtain your address or phone number, but generally they may call only once, and should not reveal that you owe them money.

Send your questions to . The material in this article has been provided by the A.S. Legal Resource Center for general informational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding your specific legal problem. For an appointment at the ASLRC call 893-3374.