Landlord shouldn't be letting himself in

Dear Amy: My husband and I have a well-meaning landlord who frequently comes into our apartment to do little repairs without telling us.

We appreciate that he is so attentive, but it has gotten to the point where we can't relax because we're afraid he'll barge in on us.

He knocks once on the door and, if we don't come to the door right away, he lets himself in.

Several times on Saturdays, we have heard a knock on the door and had to jump out of bed before he could let himself in.

The other day, I didn't have to go in to work and had just gotten out of the shower. He simply let himself into the apartment without even knocking and caught me dressed only in a towel.

He was extremely apologetic and embarrassed, but I'm still angry.

I know that he actually owns our apartment, and I suppose he has every right to come in when he wants, but I really hate that he can just invade our private space.

Is this lack of privacy just part of living in an apartment, or do we have the right to say something to him about how we're feeling?

SARA

Amy says: Actually, while you pay rent, you do "own" the apartment. It's your home. You should check your lease to see if there is language covering your landlord's access.

Your landlord should never let himself in without your permission or prior notice, unless you're away and there is an emergency such as a burst pipe. The fact that he has access to your place presents a serious security risk to you.

This sort of unannounced access is not a normal part of apartment living. For basic maintenance or repairs, a landlord should let you know in advance -- not knock and enter. You don't need to discuss your feelings with him. You should ask him to install a deadbolt or sliding bolt lock to the inside of your door, and you should use it whenever you are home.

Help could be mutual

Dear Amy: I have a 6-year-old daughter. A friend of mine has three children, ages 17 months, 3  1/2 and 6. Our 6-year-olds are friends. The problem arises every time the 6-year-olds receive an invitation to a birthday party or other event; the last four times my friend has asked me to drive her 6-year-old. It boils down to the fact that she doesn't want to have to deal with getting her three children into the car and her husband won't help.

Her child is difficult; she doesn't mind me. I don't want to be put on the spot, but I don't have a good reason not to assist.

I realize that with one child it is much easier for me, but that is the choice my husband and I made.

Am I out of line for not wanting to help every time something comes up?

RAISING ONE ONLY

Amy says: It would be nice of you to lend a hand to an overwhelmed mother from time to time. Until you've walked a mile in another mother's Huggies, you can't know what it's like to try to transport three young kids.

You are certainly not obligated to help, however. Your friend would advance her own cause if she found a way to reciprocate.

You could split the difference by saying to her, "I can take the kids today if you can manage to pick them up." That's saving both of you one trip. Otherwise, if you don't want to do this sort of favor, you'll have to tell her.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Av., Chicago, IL 60611.
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