Coodes’ Litigation Executive Hayley Gaffney explains why residential landlords need to understand landlord responsibilities and the rights of tenants…
It’s not unusual to hear about residential landlords being accused of trespass, harassment or taken to Court by tenants for unlawful entry. For this reason, it is important landlords understand their rental rights and the rights of tenants.
All tenants have a right to peaceful enjoyment of the property they are renting without interference from landlords or letting agents. ‘Peaceful enjoyment’ is an implied term in all tenancy agreements, whether expressly stated in the written agreement or not.
Landlord responsibilities: Act courteously
Other than in an emergency, it is illegal for a landlord or their agent to enter a property without agreement from the tenant. As a golden rule, other than in the case of a genuine emergency, you should provide your tenants with at least 24 hours’ notice before any planned visit.
Always try to be flexible about the time and visit when it’s convenient for the tenant.
Do not visit more than is necessary and, when you do, always ring the doorbell, or knock politely and wait to be invited in. Never let yourself into the property without being invited, unless there is a real and genuine emergency, and you have no other option.
When can a landlord enter a property?
As a landlord, you have three primary rights of entry:
Firstly, if there is a real and genuine emergency you can enter only to carry out necessary works. Normal repairs or maintenance such as undertaking gas safety certification is not emergency work – the tenant must be advised and agree to entry for this purpose.
Secondly, you have a right to inspect the state of repair of the property, undertake routine maintenance or empty a fuel slot meter but must give notice of these visits.
Lastly, you may enter if your tenancy agreement stipulates that you provide a room-cleaning service.
How much notice does a landlord have to give?
Under the Housing Act 1988, you’re obliged to provide your tenants with at least 24 hours’ written notice before attending to enter the property other than in an emergency.
An ‘emergency’ includes a fire, suspicion of a serious concern for welfare, structural damage requiring immediate attention, flood or water flowing from the property or gas leak.
This is irrespective of what your tenancy agreement states unless it provides a longer notice period then should you stick to that timeframe.
Any clause in a tenancy agreement that allows the landlord to enter the property whenever they like without reasonable notice or permission will be void. This will be classified as an unfair term of the contract.
Can a landlord visit at any time?
Your tenancy agreement will likely state that visits must only be made at reasonable times of the day.
This ensures your tenant can be there if they want to, has a chance to tidy up beforehand and can have a witness present if they wish to.
What if a landlord enters the property without notice or permission?
It is illegal for a landlord to enter the property (unless it is an emergency) without giving notice and receiving permission. If they do enter the property without this, it is a violation of a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment. The landlord could be prosecuted for harassment.
Entering the property without permission or notice or trying to organise too many visits which may be deemed excessive could be considered harassment. You could be taken to Court for this.
What if the tenant refuses entry unreasonably?
If you have given reasonable notice in writing requiring entry to the property and the tenant still refuses access, you should try to contact the tenant in another way. This can include text, email, or phone call.
If they still refuse access, you may have to apply to the Court to be allowed to enter. The Court is usually sympathetic to genuine applications by landlords for this purpose. It may even order the tenants to reimburse you for some or all your costs for having to take that action. This should be a last resort as it would likely lead to an irrecoverable breakdown in your landlord and tenant relationship.
Provided that both you and your tenant understand your position, disputes and tensions can be avoided.
Take the time to read up on landlord responsibilities and rights of tenants and make sure you stick to them. Be respectful of your tenant and bear in mind that while the property belongs to you, it is the tenant’s home.
For more information on residential property landlord tenant law and landlord tenant rights, please contact Hayley Gaffney in Coodes’ Personal Disputes Team