Rental property inspections

Right of access for inspection and viewing

Although the responsibility of the tenant and landlord should be outlined in the tenancy agreement, there may be times where this is subject to change and the landlord may wish to inspect the property. A landlord must be sure that their investment is being cared for properly and if they suspect this is not the case then they may want to look into it.

Over the years there have been many documented cases of tenants severely damaging property and supplied furniture. In extreme cases, some landlords have entered properties only to discover that the tenant on the lease is not actually there and strangers are living in the property instead. These things are usually hidden from the landlord until the end of the tenancy agreement OR if the tenant abandons their lease and flees the property. If a landlord frequently inspects a property they can protect themselves against breaches in tenancy agreement.

There is, however, no legal entitlement for a landlord to undertake a mid-tenancy inspection so how can they get around this in a way that allows them to remain protected without breaching the rights of the tenant? The Landlord treads a narrow line between making sure that they meet the legal obligations to keep the property in good repair and to ensure that all the services are safe.  There is a  legal obligation not to disturb the tenant’s enjoyment of the property, which after all is the tenant’s home. Yes, the Landlord does own the property but has chosen to accept rent from another person, in return for that person using the property as a home. Having a properly drafted tenancy agreement which includes a term that enables a landlord to carry out inspections of the property periodically will protect the landlord and encourage the tenant to be more reliable.

In the case of an inspection a landlord must give an acceptable notice period, for example, a week, outlining the date and time of the visit. Unannounced visits could be considered harassment so are strongly advised against. The time of the visit should be within normal working hours and should state that, if the time and date are inconvenient, then the tenant must contact the landlord to make alternative arrangements. NB. There is always a chance that the tenant is on holiday or working away from home when you issue the appointment so if they do not answer the door then try issuing another notice.

Good tenants will have nothing to hide and should be most obliging, but be aware of obstructive tenants and proceed with caution. The Housing Act allows the agent to enter property to carry out necessary repairs only and not for routine inspections. You are, therefore, beholden to the tenant to gain access to the property if you do not wish to be sued. When inspecting the property  a walk around it should be enough to discover if furnishings are being cared for and the property is being regularly cleaned. Take the opportunity, if the tenant is there, to ask about any maintenance issues they may have or if breakages have occurred. If the tenant is not there and someone else is in their place then politely enquire who they are as they may be illegally subletting and can be evicted. On the other hand, if tenants report a problem to their landlord, the landlord has the responsibility to repair the problem within a reasonable time. The landlord is responsible for the outside of the property as well as heating, plumbing, water and other appliances. They are required to do everything possible to make the house a safe environment for the tenant.

In extreme cases a tenant may refuse entry, despite having been given Notice, when there is a legal obligation to cover and this is a tricky one. If the  landlord arrives with a Gas Engineer and the tenant refuses to let them in, they should try to negotiate to come back at another time. If the landlord gets cross and tells the tenant that they served 24 hours Notice and that the Engineer is costing them £70 an hour this can be construed as harassment. It is important to stay calm and if the tenant refuses entry, then so be it.

1. Write to confirm to the tenant that the landlord has a legal obligation to carry out the necessary work and that if they continue to refuse access the local authority will be informed.

2. If the tenant does not give access following the letter/email ask the contractor who attended following the original 24 hour Notice, to write on his letter head that he called at x time on y date and the tenant would not give him access.

3. Take the contractors letter and a copy of your communications to the tenant to the local Environmental Health Officer and ask him to assist. Often a tenant will grant entry once a local authority calls them

If the tenant still refuses entry you need to go to Court to ask for a Court Order for access. Communication is the key to a successful landlord/tenant relationship and reporting a problem as early as possible will allow a landlord to act more quickly. Similarly, a landlord should respect a tenant’s privacy and only carry out the required checks in order to be assured their property is in safe hands. In return they should get a much better response from their tenants.