We want to enter residents' backyards to do exterior inspections. Are we legally allowed to enter someone's yard without the homeowners permission?
The answer is probably yes. However, you will need to review the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, Restrictions, Easements, Charges and Liens (the "Declaration") recorded against the subdivision. Most homeowners association Declarations give the homeowners association the "right, at any reasonable time or times upon reasonable notice to the owner, to enter upon and inspect any lot and any improvements thereon for the purpose of ascertaining whether the maintenance of such lot and the
maintenance, construction, or alteration of buildings thereon are in compliance with the provisions contained in the Declaration." These provisions typically provide that "neither the homeowners association, nor any agent of the homeowners association shall be deemed to have committed a trespass or other wrongful act by reason of such entry or inspection." If your homeowners association's Declaration has a similar provision, the homeowner need not grant the homeowners association permission to enter upon the homeowner's lot since the association has the contractual right to do so under the Declaration. This right can be legally enforced by way of an injunction imposed by a court requiring an owner to permit the homeowners association to enter onto his lot to conduct an inspection. Declarations also typically provide that the owner is responsible for the homeowners association's legal fees incurred to enforce the provisions under the Declaration, including the right of entry.