February 04, 2019
Access rights for landlords vs tenant rights are always a hot topic. A landlord needs access to their rental property for inspection, repairs, and maintenance. While the tenant has the right to "quiet moment" and power to control the access to the property. How to work it out? Our guide explains all scenarios for a good working relationship and conflicts.
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Can a landlord enter without permission?
Many tenants are not clear about their rights if they rent a property in the UK.
Many landlords, on the other hand, like to think that they have the right to enter their rental property whenever they please, without any one's permission.
In certain scenarios, that might be acceptable, but in general, there are strict rules and regulations in place that define if and when a landlord or a letting agent can or cannot, enter the rental property.
A good working relationship should always be a preferred approach. But sometimes, things aren't that smooth but we have rules and regulations in place for these unfortunate scenarios and it helps to know what are the boundaries and guidelines set in place.
As a rule of thumb, in most cases, a landlord or letting agent cannot access a rental property without having consent from the tenant.
Ignoring the law can complicate things for both the landlord and the tenant and both sides may be able to claim damages.
In extreme cases, tenants can even gain an injunction which would help prevent the landlord repeating this behavior.
Landlord Access | Housing Act 1988
Landlord Access | Housing Act 1988
As stated in the Housing Act 1988, a landlord or letting agent need to give written notice to the tenant, at least 24 hours before the intended visit time.
Along with the minimum 24-hour notice, the visit must be during reasonable times of the day.
In certain circumstances, like where there is a non-working relationship between tenant and landlord, a witness could be arranged as well.
What are the tenant rights in the UK?
Tenant Rights UK
The right to ‘Quiet Enjoyment’: Quiet enjoyment refers to the provision for the tenant, to live in their rental property in a peaceful, clean and comfortable environment.
Privacy: The tenant has the right to live in complete privacy in their rental property.
Trespassing: Anyone, including the landlord, who attempts to enter without tenant's permission is deemed a trespasser and harassment law applies in such case.
No such thing as full access at all times: Under no law, a landlord or letting agent is granted full access to the property. Any such statement, being part of the tenancy agreement is illegal.
Minimum 24 hours notice: Section 11, The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, states that a landlord or letting agent need to provide at least a minimum of 24-hour notice for a planned visit.
Reasonable timings for a visit: the visit must be only during reasonable times. For example, you cannot be expected to entertain an inspection at 11 pm at night or 7 in the morning.
Inspections and repairs: Landlord, lettings agent or any appointed personal may need to access the property for repair or inspection but not without tenant's permission.
What is the right to 'quiet enjoyment' in the UK?
The UK law defines the right to 'quiet enjoyment' as an entitlement for tenants to live and enjoy a rental property, peacefully and in a comfortable environment, without any interference from the landlord, letting agent or any representative on their behalf.
Landlords are obliged to make sure that the tenants have the right to ‘Quiet Enjoyment’.
Any landlord or letting agent who breaches the law could be reported to a ‘tenancy relations officer’ as the first course of action and even to the police as a last resort.
There is a de facto agreement between a tenant and a landlord. An Assured Shorthold tenancy agreement provides a tenant with a legal power to control other people’s access to the property, for a fixed term.
Any landlord attempting to enter their rental property without tenants permission is considered as:
- A trespasser and
- In the breach of the agreement
In fact, anyone who attempts to enter your home without either
- Your permission
- Or without a court order
Is deemed as a trespasser in the eyes of law and is committing a criminal offense. Even the police are not exempt.
Interestingly, this legal power to control other people’s access to the property gets transferred down the line, even if a person is a subtenant. In such case, the person who is subletting, becomes a legal landlord, a separate entity from the property owner.
There are circumstances, of course, when the property owner will need to access the property, with or without tenants permission. Let's go through these in detail.
The Right of reasonable access
We understand that the tenants, after entering a tenancy agreement have the ultimate power to control the access for a rental property, during a fixed term, mentioned in the contract.
Landlords and letting agents have a right to access under certain conditions, such as repairs, maintenance, and inspections.
In any proceedings relating to a failure to comply with the lessor’s repairing covenant, so far as it requires the lessor to carry out the works or repairs in question, it shall be a defence for the lessor to prove that he used all reasonable endeavors to obtain, but was unable to obtain, such rights as would be adequate to enable him to carry out the works or repairs.
Section 11 | he Landlord And Tenant Act 1985
Justifiable reasons for a landlord’s access to a rental property
Scheduled inspections count for the most visit paid to a rental property by the landlord or a letting agent.
Scheduled inspections are necessary and landlords have an absolute right to inspect their property on reasonable and scheduled intervals throduring a tenancy.
Scheduled inspections benefit both, the tenants and the landlords. For tenants, an inspection would provide a reason for upkeep and regular maintenance which they might be putting off for one reason or another. Things and issues left unattended for a long period can turn into serious complications. For example, take regular cleaning. If the tiled floor is not cleaned properly on regular basis, it might start to get permanent stains or tiles might fade. This could cost a tenant much more to fix at the end of a tenancy.
For landlords, it is an opportunity to notice any damage or deterioration caused by elements or aging of the property which could save money, if repaired or maintained on time.
If the damage is by no fault of the tenant, they have an obligation to inform the landlord who would need to assess the problem and plan for repair or maintenance. It is the responsibility of the landlord to keep things in order such as a broken boiler.
Even if the damage is due to the fault os the tenant, they still need to inform the landlord and seek their approval before they execute the repair.
Access for repairs and maintenance assessment
The landlord is responsible for any repairs if those are not due to the tenant's fault.
For example, someone breaks into your house and you end up with a broken door or locks. These kinds of repairs are covered by landlords insurance.
It's not only landlords responsibility to get it repaired but repaired in reasonable time. Remember, the landlord is also responsible for providing you with the right to 'quiet enjoyment'.
In both cases, if you figure out any needs for repair or maintenance, inform the landlord as soon as possible. Landlord will probably need to inspect and assess it. Maybe more than one time. (for example to get multiple quotations for repair)
Access for repairs and maintenance works
To carry out any repairs, landlord or their appointed personnel will need the access, again with your permission and prior notification.
Access for inventory management
Right when a tenant moves in and takes the keys, landlord or letting agent will need to take note of the inventory. This is normally done collectively by the landlord and the tenant so that records telly. Also, both parties need to agree, sign and exchange the copies for the inventory list for their own records.
A similar thing happens at the end of the tenancy, right before a tenant is about to hand over the keys. The inventory checklist prepared at the beginning of the tenancy is reviewed for contents. Again, both parties need to agree, sign and exchange the copies for the inventory list for their own records.
TIP: As a tenant, always keep that copy safe for your records and as proof against any false claims.
Complete Moving Out Checklist For Landlords And Tenants
Access for safety checks
Several safety measures are installed by default in most properties across the UK these days.
There might be regular electrical, gas or water safety checks. Checks might also include fire and security alarms and other safety equipment. These devices need to tested periodically to confirm they are in working order. An inspection might be required to to carry out these tests.
It is required by law to renew the gas safety certificate, annually by performing an annual check to the gas installation and appliances.
Similarly, some of the appliances might need an annual check for safety such as refrigerators, cookers, boilers or oven.
Access for the end of tenancy viewings
To arrange for a new tenant in a timely manner, your landlord or letting agent would need to arrange for viewing with prospective tenants.
These viewings could be carried out, only, as early as 28 days, near the end of the tenancy.
Off course, your permission is still necessary but due to access required multiple times, for the purpose, during a short time span, it helps if the access is agreed over the phone or email.
Email is considered equivalent to written communication and could be used as a piece of evidence, if required.
Can a landlord enter the property in case of an emergency situation without tenant permission
Emergencies come without notice. Though we do prepare in most cases and most properties are well equipped to avoid emergencies, the truth is, it is not in our control. If any such situation may arise, and emergency access is required, landlords and letting agents can access the property without any prior notice or permission.
Some of the scenarios could be:
- Fire at the property or near, that could damage the property (might need to shut down gas valve inside, if the neighboring house is on fire).
- Leaks like gas or water.
- Flooding in the area
- Security alarm going off
- Damage to the property by accident like a car hitting the wall.
- In case of a break-in, windows or doors need urgent repair.
Unjustifiable reasons for a landlord’s access to a rental property
Following reasons are deemed unjustifiable:
- An inspection without your presence.
- An inspection without your permission.
- A visit for any assessment without notice or your permission.
- Unannounced or frequent visits or unnecessary stopovers.
- Visits during unreasonable hours like early or late at night.
Can landlord visit his property at any time?
A simple answer is no.
Not all times are convenient for a tenant. Tenants have the right for "quiet enjoyment" and the landlord or letting agent is sitting a visit at unreasonable times are infringing these rights.
Other than an emergency, the landlord should only request for "reasonable times".
Along with reasonable times, a minimum of 24 hours notice is a must.
Of course, if you both have a good working relationship then you can arrange a convenient time between both of you but a landlord cannot insist otherwise.
On what grounds can a tenant refuse access to a property?
The tenant has the de facto right to control the access to a rental property and they have the right to refuse access on reasonable grounds. Some of them might be:
- Inconvenient date and time
- An emergency might arise and tenant might have to request a reschedule
- A planned holiday
- A planned out of town visit
- A refusal to cooperate due to too many visits by landlord or letting agent
Most tenants would like to cooperate to maintain better working relations and the fact that a well maintained and safe property is in their own interest.
Some, however, would obstruct reasonable visits by landlords. In such case, the law provides support for the landlords and there are steps they can take to make sure they can secure necessary visits and keep things in order.
Harassment and trespassing by landlord or letting agent
The reasons mentioned above and many others are categorized as a means of harassment. Repetition of such behavior can lead to charges against the landlord or letting agent under the Housing Act of 1988 for landlord harassment.
Most landlord though keep their visits limited and try to maintain a good working relationship with their tenants. After all, It's their property in the hands of the tenant and a being on good terms means tenant will be inclined towards taking care of it.
Harassment and trespassing include but is not limited to:
- Your landlord visits often
- Your landlord visits unnecessarily
- Your landlord makes frequent stopovers
- Your landlord overstays an agreed visit
- Your landlord visits during unreasonable hours
- Your landlord insists on arranging a visit during unreasonable hours.
- Your landlord enters without your permission, other than in case of an emergency.
- Unwanted communication like phone calls, letters, and emails
- Any abuse and bullying online
- cutting off services and utilities like water or gas
- Any threatening behavior or violence
Any such behavior can be categorized as harassment.
In any such case, you should proceed with requesting your landlord to avoid repeating such behavior, in writing.
Request them to inform you in written for any future visits and insist on keeping all future communication in writing.
A repetition of such type of behavior could lead to your landlord receiving healthy fines and or orders to stay away from the property.
What should I Do if my landlord continuously refuses my request to not enter my house without my permission?
In case of continued unreasonable behavior and your landlord refusing to entertain your request for "covenant of the quiet moment", you have rights to take legal actions, you deem necessary.
Any landlord who is persistent and refuses to cooperate can be charged with harassment under the Housing Act 1988.
Keep all the records of your communication in order and consult Citizens Advice. An expert would be able to help, free of cost, and provide legal advice on how to defend your privacy and rights
Taking action about harassment | Citizens Advice
If you’ve experienced any kind of harassment, it is advised to contact your local authority as soon as possible, to avoid any matter escalating further.
If serious cases, you can also contact the police for intervention and support.
Keep in mind that It is a criminal offense if a landlords visit your home in any way that makes you feel uncomfortable, feel threatened or pressurized. Any person, appointed by a landlord or estate agent can be dealt under the same law and guidelines.
What steps can a landlord take if a tenant refuses entry to the rental property?
If a tenant refuses any visits by a landlord on unreasonable grounds, a landlord needs to follow the procedure and guidelines as follows:
Contact the tenant in writings and inform them that they are breaching the agreement by refusing to entertain justifiably and pre-agreed visits.
Inform them that they will be responsible for any damage or deterioration caused due to the inability of the landlord to gain access and carry out ant checks, assessment, and repairs.
Inform the tenant that the landlord could not be held accountable for any injury or damage caused in such case because you are not able to rectify the problem due to blocked access.
‘The covenant for quiet enjoyment’ provides the tenant the right to live in their rental property in peace and comfort. A landlord who cannot access the property cannot guarantee these right. Inform the tenant that the landlord would not be held liable for any claims regarding failure to provide ‘The covenant for quiet enjoyment’
As a last resort, a landlord can do any or both of the following:
Apply for a court order to gain permission to access the property.
A landlord may be able to use Section 8 notice, to evict the tenant, during the term of the tenancy, on grounds that tenants have broken the terms of the agreement.
Can a landlord enter my garden, garage or storage shed without permission?
It depends on your tenancy agreement. If the tenancy agreement states the garden, garage or storage shed is not part of the space included in the rental then a landlord or letting agent have complete right to enter it.
You should always make sure you read terms and conditions properly when signing a tenant agreement. You need to be sure of what benefits you are getting for the money you are paying as rent.
Can tenants change locks without the landlord's permission?
A tenant has the full right to change the locks if they wish to do so, at their rental property without providing a set of keys to the landlord or letting agent unless it was stated otherwise in your ‘assured shorthold tenancy agreement’.
Having the sole possession of access rights and keys does not give a tenant the right to refuse the landlord access on the reasonable grounds and might lead to serious complications like court order for access or even eviction in extreme cases.
Keeping a good working relationship is advisable for your own benefit. Locking out the landlord or letting the agent or failing to cooperate and community can with them is not advisable. Instead, maintaining a good working relationship is the right thing to do for your own benefit.
Access rules for shared houses of multiple occupancy or HMOs?
The rules and guidelines are different regarding shared house or houses of multiple occupancies.
A landlord or letting agent has the right to access the shared areas like kitchen, without any prior notice or permission from the tenant(s) for inspections, cleaning or maintenance etc..
With one exemption, the bedrooms. just like non-HMOs, they will need to give a minimum of 24 hours notice and for reasonable timings, in writing, if they wish to enter a room on reasonable grounds.
Again, emergency cisrcumstances do not require permissions or notices.
Landlord Access Rights And Permissions |Summary
- It is illegal for a landlord or agent to access a property without a priors permission from the tenant.
- It is illegal for a landlord or agent to access a property without a giving a minimum of 24 hours notice.
- It is illegal for a landlord or agent to request an access to a rental during unreasonable hours.
- A landlord or agent can access a rental property in case of an emergency.
- The tenant has the power to control the access to the property, they are renting.
- A tenant cannot refuse access by the landlord or letting agent if they have reasonable grounds for and follow the required procedure to do so.
- It is advisable to both the landlord and tenants to build and maintain a good working relationship.
- The right the the "quiet moment" is an obligation on the landlord. On the other hand it is possible only with he cooperation by the tenant.
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