Every landlord’s goal is to have his/her rental property under lease and occupied by tenants who will not only pay their rent on time, but who will properly use and maintain the property. After all, the property is an investment by the landlord of both time and money. While landlords typically relate property damage to tenants’ use of the property (i.e. throwing wild parties or vandalism), nonuse can also result in significant damage to the property, not only causing damage to the structure itself, but a diminution in value of the property overall. This is especially true during the winter months. For example, a tenant may take an extended vacation for the holidays or even abandon the property altogether. Any time a property is unoccupied for an extended period of time, maintenance issues may go undetected and/or other problems may arise unbeknownst to the tenant(s) or the landlord. These issues/problems may include the heat being turned off by the tenant, running water left on, a leaky faucet, a stove being left on, an electrical issue, or the shut off of one or more utilities by the respective utility company for nonpayment. Such issues can result in damage to the property, including, but not limited to, frozen/burst pipes, flooding, or fire. Moreover, the damage can extend to other units and/or affect the safety of neighboring tenants. Thus, it is important for a landlord to know when a tenant is going to be gone for an extended period of time.
In Kentucky, pursuant to the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (“URLTA”)(KRS 383.505 to 383.705), unless otherwise agreed to by the landlord, the tenant is required to occupy the property in a residential capacity throughout the entire lease term. Furthermore, the landlord is permitted to include a provision in the lease agreement requiring the tenant(s) to provide the landlord with advance notice of any extended absence from the property in excess of seven (7) days. This notice serves as a protective measure in that it allows the landlord to stay apprised of the condition of the property and any maintenance issues which may arise during the tenant’s absence. However, such a requirement must be included in the lease agreement to be enforceable.
In the event that a tenant is absent from the property for more than seven (7) days and has not provided the landlord with the notice required by the lease agreement, the landlord may recover from the tenant actual damages incurred as a result of the tenant’s absence. Also, during such absence, the landlord may enter the property at times reasonably necessary to perform an inspection and/or address any maintenance issues. The landlord is also entitled to access the property at any time in the event of an emergency. Should the landlord determine that the tenant has abandoned the property, the landlord may, in addition to accessing the property for inspection/maintenance issues, seek to recover possession of the property pursuant to the eviction process.
Requiring tenants to provide notice to the landlord of any extended absence from the property is a safeguard to both the property and neighboring tenants. It not only allows for proper maintenance of the property itself, but provides protection of the landlord’s investment.
Brendan Yates joined the Lexington office of the firm as an associate in 2002. Brendan is a member of the firm’s Litigation Department, where he focuses his practice on construction and real estate litigation, workers’ compensation defense litigation, insurance defense and commercial litigation. He has successfully defended his clients in state and federal courts, the Kentucky Court of Appeals, the Kentucky Supreme Court, and in administrative agency proceedings in Kentucky. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (859) 231-8780, ext. 208.
This article is intended as a summary of state and federal law and does not constitute legal advice.
 Please note that the URLTA governs counties who have expressly adopted it. This article assumes adoption of the URLTA and is based on its provisions.
 KRS 383.620.
 KRS 383.620.
 KRS 383.670(1).
 KRS 383.670(2).
 KRS 383.615.