Legal considerations before calling in on your tenant
Landlords’ rights don’t give the landlord or their investment property manager the right to enter a property at will. Even though this may seem odd to you (after all, it’s your property), the law recognises that it is the tenant’s home. Your tenant can refuse you the right of entry. It is one reason why you must understand the rules for the buy-to-let landlord to evict nightmare tenants – one wrong move, and you could set back the process by months.
Your rights as a landlord to enter your property, and the rights of the tenant to refuse entry, are established by the Housing Act 1988. In this article, you’ll learn about:
- Your rights of access to your buy-to-let investment property
- What conditions you must meet to enter your property lawfully
- Exceptions to the law which allow you to enter without notice
What rights of entry does a landlord have?
There are three main rights of entry that the law gives you. These are for reasonable access, for inspection, and for cleaning. In general, you’ll need to give a minimum of 24 hours’ notice to the tenant of your intention to enter the property.
- The right of reasonable access is predominantly given to allow you to carry out maintenance to make necessary repairs. The meaning of ‘reasonable access’ is affected in certain circumstances, such as if emergency repairs are needed.
- The right to inspect is conferred to allow you to enter the property to inspect a repair or maintenance work, the property itself, or to empty an energy slot meter.
- The right for cleaning can only be used if there is a contract between you and the tenant under which you provide cleaning services.
If you want to enter the property for any other reason than these three stated, you will need to obtain a court order to do so.
What conditions control a landlord’s right of entry
Even when entering the property for any of the above reasons, there are conditions that must be followed when doing so. For example:
- 24 hours’ notice must be given
- Entry can only be made during reasonable times of the day. (These should be stipulated in the tenancy agreement.)
The notice period provides your tenant with the opportunity to arrange to be present, and have a witness if they wish. It also gives the tenant an opportunity to tidy up and clean the property.
There’s always an exception to a rule!
Under certain circumstances, you could enter the building at any time of day and with no notice. This exception is provided to allow you to deal with emergency situations, which might include:
- Smell of gas
- Structural damage that threatens the integrity of the property
- Suspicion of a criminal incident
What if you want to show the property to new applicant tenants?
Fortunately, the law recognises that it is advantageous to keep void periods to a minimum. If you have served a Notice to Terminate, or the tenant has given notice that they will be moving, you’ll want to show the home to prospective tenants.
You can show the home to other people during the 28 days before the property is due to become vacant, but you must still give 24 hours’ notice.
How should notice be given?
In most circumstances, the landlord/tenant relationship is good enough to arrange a visit with an informal phone call. However, even where this is the case, it should also be made formally in writing. This goes for visits by tradespeople, too.
If you don’t make a formal written request for entry, the tenant can refuse to allow you into their home.
How to avoid prosecution
If you enter the property unlawfully, you could be prosecuted by the tenant for harassment. Under the law, the tenant has a right to live in the home that they rent from you ‘without unreasonable interruption from the landlord’.
Most visits are not problematic. Property inspections, for example, are covered in the tenancy agreement, as are your rights (and ours, where we are the investment property manager) to enter, and the tenant’s rights to refuse. But if there is a problem, and you are sued for harassment, you could be fined and even barred from entering your property at all! Written evidence of a request to enter is essential, even if you and your tenant are best buddies.
Summarising the landlord’s right to enter
If you enter the property or ask us to enter the property without the tenant agreeing, you will have broken the law. You can be sued, taken to court, and barred from entering your property at all.
When you do visit the property, it must be at a reasonable time. Only in emergencies will these rules be relaxed. These tips should keep you within the law and with a good landlord/tenant relationship:
- Always give 24 hours’ notice of the intention to enter
- Put the notice in writing (e.g. by email) even if agreement is verbal
- Be flexible and visit when it best suits the tenant
- Visit only when you must, be courteous, and let the tenant invite you into their home
The rules that govern entering your property are a minefield. Make sure you know them, and that you don’t break any that could ruin your relationship with your tenant and lead to an unwanted (and unnecessary) court appearance.
Contact Ezytrac today on+44 1522 503 717, and discover how we foster great relationships with your tenants. Relationships that help us manage your property, rental finances and tenants effectively and efficiently.
Yours in effortless property management,
Brett Alegre-Wood MARLA MNAEA