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This is a common question asked by tenants and often crops up when there’s a dispute between the two parties.
It’s understandable that a landlord would want to inspect a property they own from time to time, usually just to double-check that the property isn’t being used in a way that would lower its value or deter future tenants.
One must also consider that a tenant probably wouldn’t appreciate an invasive visit with only a short notice being given.
There are two statutory rights laws that must be considered. Unfortunately, they both conflict with each other:
For the Landlord:
The landlord or agent has the legal right to enter the property at reasonable times of day to carry out the repairs for which the landlord is responsible and to inspect the condition and state of repair. The Landlord must give 24 hours’ notice in writing of an inspection.
For the Tenant:
The tenant has the legal right to live in the property as his or her home with quiet enjoyment. The Landlord must ask the tenant’s permission before entering the premises.
So Can a Landlord Gain Entry Even if the Tenant Has Denied Them Permission?
The landlord must give the tenant at least 24 hours’ notice of a visit and this should be provided in writing. The visit should be at a reasonable time of the day.
Periodical inspections should also be at reasonable intervals, every quarter is the industry norm.
If the tenant refuses access, the landlord cannot enter the property.
While preventing the landlord from gaining access may mean the tenant is in breach of the tenancy agreement, this doesn’t mean the landlord can violate the tenant’s rights or breach the tenancy agreement themselves.
What If the Tenancy Agreement States the Landlord Can Gain Access Without Permission?
The tenancy agreement doesn’t override the statutory rights a tenant enjoys.
Any tenancy agreement that states the landlord can gain access without the permission of the tenant would be unenforceable.
The rights laid down by law always override those which are stated in a written or oral agreement. An agreement which suggests that you or your landlord have less rights than those given by common law or statute is a sham tenancy agreement.
What Happens if the Landlord Enters the Property Without Permission?
The tenant has the right to call the police as this could be considered harassment and trespass.
The tenant may also apply to the courts for a restraining order against the landlord.
What Steps Should the Landlord Take to Gain Access Legally?
Communication is the key.
The landlord should first try to understand why the tenant has refused access.
In most cases, this is because the tenant would be at work and doesn’t feel comfortable letting the landlord or their agent into the property unattended.
However, if the tenant doesn’t have a reasonable excuse for refusing access, we suggest the landlord follows these steps:
The landlord should send at least three letters to the tenant, preferably by recorded or signed delivery. This will show the landlord has made a reasonable effort to contact the tenant and gain permission.
Each letter should state the reason for the intended visit, the proposed date and time, and details about who will be entering the property and for how long. The letters should also request permission from the tenant and remind them of the obligations under the tenancy agreement and in law.
If the tenant still refuses access, the landlord has two options:
- Apply to the courts for an order granting them permission to enter the property.
- Apply to the courts for a Section 8 Notice (seeking possession of property) for a specific breach of the tenancy agreement.
Given that the relationship between the two parties would be very soured at this point, a Section 8 Notice may be the best option from the landlord’s perspective.
The eviction notice period under a Section 8 Notice is between 2 weeks and 2 months and depends on which terms of the agreement the tenant has breached.
More details about the differences between Section 21 and Section 8 notices can be found on the government website.
Circumstances Where the Landlord Can Enter the Property Without Permission
There are a few circumstances where a landlord can enter a property without first gaining the permission of the tenants.
These are mostly during times of emergency and are quite rare:
- Serious flooding or fire
- There is a smell of gas – a gas engineer from the relevant gas company has the right to enter the property to make sure it’s safe.
- A suspicion that the electric meter has been bypassed – this usually occurs when the tenants are using the electricity to grow illegal drugs (Cannabis) and a representative from the electricity company has a right to enter the property to inspect the electrics.
- Structural damage has occurred that needs urgent attention.