One of the main causes of tensions or arguments between landlords and their tenants are often misunderstandings of the landlord’s right to inspect or view the properties which they let.
It can sometimes feel as though the rights the tenants and landlords have are in direct conflict of each other, however provided that everyone understands their positions disputes can be avoided and tensions quashed before they even arise.
As a landlord there will be times where you want to or need to visit a property that you own, it is perfectly reasonable, however it is important to be aware that you can not just make these visits when you feel that they are appropriate. In accordance with the law, you are required to give your tenants 24 hours’ notice before you visit, or else your tenants are within their rights to refuse you entry.
To make this easy for you to understand we have broken down your rights, as they are set out in the Housing Act 1988 plus the rights of your tenants.
The 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 any necessary repairs. The definition of ‘reasonable access’ in the Housing Act 1988 will be dependent upon why you need to gain entry. In an emergency for example, you will be entitled to immediately enter the property to carry out any necessary work to make the property safe.
The Right to Enter to Inspect the State of Repair of the Property/Empty a Fuel Slot Meter
The second right you have is to enter the property in order to inspect the state of repair of the building or to empty a fuel slot meter.
Unlike the first right however, this does not grant you immediate right of entry. In this case you will need to provide your tenant’s with 24 hours notice.
The Right to Enter in Order to Provide Room Cleaning Services
The third right is only conditional upon the contract between you and your tenant and only arises if you have an agreement that stipulates you will provide a room-cleaning service or where the room is shared by multiple lodgers. In this scenario, you do not 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.
What does the Law say?
Your right of entry is regulated by the law, in accordance with the rules laid out in the Housing Act 1998. Unless you are entering the property for one of the three primary reasons stated earlier, you will need to follow these basic rules:
How much notice does a Landlord have to give?
You are obliged to provide your tenants with at least 24 hours’ notice before entering the property.
Can I visit at any time after I have provided the notice?
As standard, your tenancy agreement will most likely 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 wish to be, may have a chance to tidy up before your visit or arrange to have a witness present if you perhaps don’t have the best relationships, abiding by these rules benefits both parties.
Can I take other people into the property?
If your tenant has given you notice that they want to end the tenancy and move out, you have the right to both conduct visits and also to show the property to prospective new tenants. However, this only applies in the last 28 days of a standard assured shorthold tenancy agreement.
The same right exists if you served your tenant with a Notice to Terminate, if you 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. Any 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. The 24 hour 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.
Are there any exceptions to the 24 hour rule?
Yes, an exception to the general rule of providing notice arises in the case of an emergency, if you or your representative needs immediate access to the home. It is very rare for such a scenario to happen and it will only come into force when there is a genuine threat to safety. Examples 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 the formality necessary?
Despite the legal stipulations in most instances where the relationship between landlord and tenant is good, visits will generally be arranged without a formal written notice – for example via a quick phone call. This is normally the case 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.
It is important that as a landlord you understand what rights you do and do not posses with regards to entering the property, if you fail to abide by these rules you run a very real risk of being prosecuted for harassment under the Housing Act 1988.
Take the time to familiarise yourself with the rights of both yourself and your tenant and make sure you abide by them and are respectful of your tenants. Always bear in mind you are asking to enter someone’s home irrespective of who owns the deeds to the property. In this way you can ensure respect, politeness and fairness from both sides and create a good relationship with your tenant.
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