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Understanding How to Legally Access a Rental Property

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

Advice for Landlords on how to obtain Tenant permission to enter a rental property and what to do when access is denied.

During the life of a tenancy, it is more than likely that a you will need access to it – for repairs, safety certificates or to conduct a viewing.

For clarity, Tenants need to give permission for a you to enter a property. This is known as the Right to Quiet Enjoyment. Landlords cannot access the property whenever they like, unless it is an emergency, and must give at least 24 hours’ notice of visits for things like repairs. Access must be at a reasonable time; this is even true if the tenant is absent or away from the property at the time.

Entry without the Tenant’s permission constitutes trespass, Landlords that commit this offense could find themselves on the end of a claim or damages or an injunction to prevent entry by the Landlord (or Landlord’s agent).

This article will provide some information on the steps you need to take in order to access a rental property.

Clause in the Tenancy Agreement

Get the paperwork right from the beginning! The Assured Shorthold Lease agreement that Heyworth Gordon issues to tenants has a clause inserted into it that clarifies access to the property. Ensure that any tenancy agreement you issue is sufficiently well drafted to accomplish this.

It should cover the reasons why you may need to enter the property and also provides clear instructions to the tenants as to when they must provide access.

This also makes it clear to the tenant that refusing access will be a breach of contract, which could potentially lead to you being able to seek damages if they do not comply with your reasonable access requests.

Gaining Access to a Property

In most cases, the easiest way to gain access to a property is to send an email to the Tenant, giving them at least 24 hours’ notice before the time that you would like to enter.

You cannot assume permission – be sure that your tenant replies to your email confirming that you may access the property.

If extensive works are needed at the property, be sure that your Tenant knows the schedule and confirms it is acceptable for you (or the workmen) to be present for that length of that time.

When you need to perform repairs on the property, there are three rights of access implied into every contract (regardless of whether it is written in it or not).

The National Residential Landlord’s Association has highlighted the following clauses when repairs are needed:

Section 11 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985

This allows access to carry out repairs with at least 24 hours’ notice. It also permits access to carry out inspections to see if repairs are needed again with at least 24 hours’ notice. Note however, that the statutory power of access will only authorise access if this is genuinely needed to carry out repairs or inspect to see if repairs are needed.

Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2019

This implies a clause into the tenancy agreement that allows the landlord to access the property to inspect its condition and state of repair. The notice must be in writing and provide at least 24 hours advance warning.

Housing Act 1988

This implies a term in all tenancy agreements that the tenant will give reasonable access to allow repairs to be carried out at the property. There is a similar provision under the Rent Act 1977 applicable to regulated tenancies (including statutory tenancies) governed by that act. Again 24 hours’ notice is required.

Tenant Refusing Access

If you have made a written request for access but this is denied by the Tenant then this could potentially be seen as breach of contract, which allows you as the Landlord to sue for damages. Remember to be flexible where you can – if your tenant is usually accommodating but has simply asked for another date then it’s only reasonable to do your best to meet that need.

On the other hand, if you decide to enter the property without consent from the Tenant then this may be considered a criminal act, which carries a potential jail sentence.

If the Tenant perpetually refuses access for repairs then we would recommend:

1. Reminding them of their contractual obligation;

2. Explain that if access cannot be secured for repairs then an injunction will be sought;

3. If this continues then you will need to repossess the property.

We would recommend obtaining professional advice before you open a case or suit against the Tenants. Each scenario brings with it a novel set of ideas and you’ll want to be sure of the process before you put time and money into it.

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