As a landlord, there are times you’re going to want to access your property, whether it’s to perform routine inspections or carry out emergency work. Our guide to landlord access rights will help you make sure you stay within the law and maintain a harmonious relationship with your tenants.
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Under UK law, tenants enjoy what is called “the covenant for quiet enjoyment”, which means they’re entitled to live in a property without interference from their landlord, letting agent or anyone acting on their behalf.
However, there are of course times when you will need to be able to access the property, and those times are covered under the following three stipulations:
The first right is the right of reasonable access, which allows landlords to enter properties to carry out repairs. However, what counts as ‘reasonable access’ varies on the reason you need to access the property. In an emergency you can enter the property immediately, but in other circumstances you will need to give notice.
It will be very rare for an emergency situation to arise, but these are some examples of when you’d be entitled to enter:
With inspections or other routine visits, such as emptying coins from an electric meter, you don’t have any right to enter the property immediately and must give your tenants notice of your intention to visit.
If you provide an ongoing service for your tenants, such as room cleaning, and this is specified in your tenancy agreement or another legal agreement that your tenants have signed, then you have the right to access your property without notice in order to provide these services.
Legally, you’re obliged to provide your tenants with at least 24 hours notice before you visit the property. However, many landlords choose to give more notice, where possible. This gives your tenants plenty of time to arrange to be in, if needs be, and can make your working relationship easier.
A standard tenancy agreement will say that you can only arrange a visit at ‘reasonable’ times of day. Of course, this won’t apply if there’s an emergency in the middle of the night, but for arranged visits you should aim for daylight hours.
You should also inform your tenant of the time you intend to visit when you give them notice. If you let them know last thing on a Thursday and then show up first thing on a Friday, it won’t actually have been 24 hours.
Yes, if it’s necessary to bring someone else into the property, you are allowed to bring them with you, or give them access to visit on their own, so long as you let your tenant know.
People you may need to let into the property include:
If you or your letting agent want to show new prospective tenants around your property the same rules apply, but you are only entitled to do so in the last 28 days of your current tenant’s tenancy.
If you have a letting agent who conducts these sorts of checks and inspections on your behalf then the same rules apply. If you divide the duties between yourselves then it’s best to make sure that someone has informed the tenant in advance.
Yes, your tenant is within their rights to refuse you access to the property. In a lot of cases, tenants will refuse because the date and time isn’t convenient for them and will suggest an alternative date or ask you to rearrange.
However, some tenants will persistently try to obstruct you from entering the property. If that happens, there are steps you can take to resolve the issue.
First, contact the tenant and inform them that they will be liable for any deterioration of the property due to your inability to carry out repairs. It’s best to do this in writing so there is proof of your correspondence.
It’s also worth mentioning that you won’t be liable if they or their property suffer injury or damage because of a fault in the property that you weren’t able to remedy.
Depending on the severity of the situation, you may want to apply for a court order to be allowed to enter, or serve your tenant notice of eviction. Read more about how to evict a tenant.
As with refusing access, yes, a tenant is within their rights to change the locks of a property - and they're not obliged to give you a key.
For the most part, tenants won't change the locks, but those who do often cite their landlord entering the property without permission as the reason for doing so. Maintaining a harmonious relationship with your tenant is the best way to avoid such circumstances, but even if a tenant does change the locks, they could still let you in when you need to visit. If not, following the steps outlined in the previous section should help resolve things.
This article is just a guideline and does not constitute legal advice. If you need to take legal action against your tenant please consult a solicitor.
Have you had problem tenants in the past? How did you deal with them? Let us know in the comments.
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30 November 2016 • 4-minute read
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