One of the main causes of tension between landlords and tenants is a misunderstanding of the landlord’s right to inspect or view properties that they own. It can sometimes feel as though the rights you both possess are in direct conflict with each other yet, provided that both you and your tenants understand your positions, disputes can be avoided and tensions quashed before they arise.
It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that, as a landlord, there will be times when you want or need to visit a property that you own, yet it’s important for you to realise that these visits can’t simply be made whenever you feel that they’re appropriate. In accordance with the law, you’re required to give 24 hours’ notice before you visit, or else your tenants are within their rights to refuse you entry.
For your clarification, here’s a breakdown of your rights, as they’re set out in the Housing Act 1988, plus the rights of your tenants.
A Landlord’s Rights of Entry
As a landlord, you have three primary rights of entry.
The Right of Reasonable Access
Your first right as a landlord is a right of reasonable access to carry out repairs. The definition of ‘reasonable access’ will be dependent upon why you need to gain entry. For example, in an emergency, you’ll be entitled to immediately enter the property to carry out any necessary work.
The Right to Enter to Inspect the State of Repair of the Property/Empty a Fuel Slot Meter
Your second right as owner of the property is a right to enter to inspect the state of repair of the building or to empty a fuel slot meter.
Unlike the former right, however, this does not grant you an immediate right of entry. In this case, 24 hours’ notice must be provided prior to entering your tenant’s home.
The Right to Enter in Order to Provide Room Cleaning Services
The third right is conditional upon the contract between you and your tenant, and only arises if you have an agreement stipulating that you’ll provide a room-cleaning service, or where the room is shared by multiple lodgers. In this scenario, you don’t need to obtain permission before entering the property.
In every other circumstance, you don’t have a right of entry unless you have a court order stating otherwise.
A landlord’s right of entry is statutorily regulated, in accordance with the rules laid out in the Housing Act 1988.
How Much Notice Does a Landlord Have to Give?
According to the Housing Act 1988, as a landlord, you’re obligated to provide your tenants with at least 24 hours’ notice before entering the property.
Can I Visit at Any Time Provided Notice has been Provided?
As standard, your tenancy agreement will also state that visits must only be made at ‘reasonable’ times of day. This is in place to ensure that your tenant has the option to be there if they want to be, has a chance to tidy up before you visit and is able to arrange to have a witness present if you don’t have the best relationship with them. Abiding by this benefits both parties, and failure to do so could be highly damaging to the relationship between you.
Can I Take Other People Into the Property?
If your tenant has given notice that they want to end the tenancy and move out, you have the right to both conduct visits and show the property to prospective new tenants. However, this only comes into effect during the last 28 days of a standard assured shorthold tenancy agreement.
The same right exists whether you’ve served a Notice to Terminate (essentially, a notice of eviction) or your tenant has given notice that they’re moving out. If you’ve served notice before the end of the lease agreement, then this must have been done in accordance with Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988.
Even in this scenario, access is only gained by providing 24 hours’ notice in writing. Ongoing disputes with regards to tenants not wanting to leave, for example, won’t affect this basic right to show prospective tenants around your property, except in very rare cases where landlord harassment has been cited. This notice period is likely to benefit you as much as your tenants, as most people will make sure that the property looks tidy and respectable if they know others will be visiting their home.
Are There Any Exception to the 24 Hour Rule?
An exception to the general rule of providing 24 hours’ notice arises in the case of an emergency, if you or your representative needs immediate access to the home. It’s very rare for such a scenario to arise, and will only come into force when there’s a threat to safety. Examples of such a threat include:
- A fire in the property
- The smell of gas
- Structural damage that urgently needs attention
- The suspicion of a violent or criminal incident
My Tenant and I Get Along - Is All of This Formality Necessary?
Despite these legal stipulations, in most instances, where the relationship between landlord and tenants is cordial, visits will generally be arranged without a formal written notice – via a quick conversation on the phone, for example. This is usually the same for any visits from tradesmen that you arrange, including those where you won’t be present.
However, where this is the case, any visits you or your representatives make may legally be rebuffed, and your tenant is entitled to bar you from entering.
Landlord Obligations and Liability
It’s very important that, as a landlord, you understand what rights you do and don’t possess with regards to entering the property because, if you fail to abide by these, you run a very real risk of being prosecuted for harassment under the Housing Act 1988.
How Can I Avoid Such an Outcome?
To avoid this kind of situation, take the time to understand the basic rights of your tenants, primarily the right to live in the property ‘without unreasonable interruption from the landlord’.
What Happens if I Don’t Abide by My Landlord Responsibilities?
Although most landlord visits present no problems, as they are infrequent and polite, if you’re persistent you can be charged as above, fined and ordered by the court to stay away from your property. In very rare and extreme cases, you may also find that the police are notified.
To clarify, always be aware that it’s, in fact, illegal for a landlord or agent to enter a property without agreement from the tenant. The golden rule to abide by is always to provide your tenants with written notice at least 24 hours before any planned visits. Try to always be flexible about the time, and visit when it suits your tenant. Do not visit more than is necessary and, when you do, always ring the bell or knock on the door politely, waiting to be invited in – you should never just let yourself in without
permission, unless there’s an emergency.
Take the time to read up on the rights of both yourself and your tenant, and make sure that you abide by them and are respectful of the person who’s paying money into your bank account each month. Always bear in mind that you’re asking to enter someone’s home, irrespective of who owns the deeds to the property. In this way, with respect, politeness and fairness, you can foster a good relationship with your tenant – an arrangement that’ll be beneficial for both of you.
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