I is for Inspections

I_inspectionsA property is a valuable investment.  A very valuable investment which landlords place in the hands of strangers to look after and to care for.

They will therefore want to check every now and again to make sure that there are no problems.  And also to deal with any minor repairing issues so they do not turn into major repair issues.

Under the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 s11, which imposes repairing obligations, landlords are given a specific right to do this.  This specifies that

  • If it is not the landlord or his managing agent who is doing the inspection, then the person should be authorised in writing
  • the inspection must be at ‘reasonable times of the day’
  • the landlord (or letting agent) must give at least 24 hours notice in writing
  • the right given by the section is for the landlord (or his authorised agent) to enter to view the property’s ‘condition and repair’.  So not for anything then.

Must the tenant allow inspections?

An inspection can feel quite intrusive and tenants sometimes object to them and want to refuse the landlord or his agent entry.  Are they entitled to do this?

If the landlord has not complied with s11(6), then probably yes.  For example

  • If no or insufficient written notice has been given
  • If the person wanting to do the inspection is someone other than the landlord or his managing agent and the tenant has not been told who they are (generally this will be done in the notice letter)
  • If the time of the inspection is not reasonable, and
  • If the inspection is not for something authorised by the act

Often however the tenant will not want the inspection to go ahead because the appointment is  not convenient for him.  For example if he wants to be present but can’t make that particular time.

Having the tenant there is a good idea.

  • it protects the landlord / agent against allegations such a theft, and
  • the tenant will be able to help with the inspection by pointing out any problems they have noticed

What though, if the tenant refuses to allow the inspection altogether?

My view is that if the tenant has specifically said that they landlord cannot enter without his approval then if the landlord (or his agent) uses his keys and goes in anyway, then this will be trespass, and also harassment which is a criminal offence.

However the refusal will put the tenant in breach of his tenancy agreement.  Landlords may want to consider whether they will allow the tenant to stay in the property long term, and whether a s21 notice should be served.

There are also some compelling  reasons from the tenants point of view why they should allow inspections:

  • if the tenant has an accident due to a repair problem, he may not be able to claim compensation as the landlord will say it is not his fault – as if he had been allowed in to do the inspection, the repair work would have been done, and
  • If the landlord is able to show at the end of the tenancy, that the property is in worse repair than it should have been due to the tenants failure to allow them to do ‘running repairs’, this may be something they can claim against the deposit

Inspections for other things

The main two other reasons why landlords do inspections are

  • to show round prospective new tenants during the last month or so of the tenancy and
  • if the landlord wants to sell the property with the tenant’s in situ, to show prospective purchasers

Both of these need to be authorised in the tenancy agreement, and if not, the tenant is entitled to refuse permission.

Any tenancy agreement clause is likely to be unfair and therefore unenforceable under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations if it does not say that the tenant must be given at least 24 hours written notice and provide for the inspections to be at reasonable times.

Gas inspections, by the way, will probably fall within the scope of s11.  They are discussed in some detail here and also here.

Oppressive inspections

Sometimes tenants complain that landlords want to carry out repair inspections too often, for example monthly.  Or maybe landlords are coming round every day showing prospective new tenants round.

Can they do this?

Its a difficult question.  So far as repair visits are concerned, I think it will depend on whether the condition of the property warrants it.

So if the landlord is monitoring some repair work that has been done, then this may be allowable.  However if the landlord is really just using this as an excuse to spy on the tenant, then the tenant may be justified in refusing entry.

As regards showing people round, I think the landlord has to be reasonable here.  This is the tenants home.  Too many inspections could come within the definition of harassment. I discuss a possible solution to this here.

Emergencies

Section 11 makes it clear that if there is an emergency the landlord can enter without permission.  But what is an emergency?

My view is that it has to be something really obvious, such as a fire.

If (for example) the landlord is just worried because the tenant won’t let him in to do the gas inspection, this will not count.  Any suspected gas leaks should be reported via the National Gas Emergency number: 0800 111 999.

Generally

Although landlords have some statutory rights regarding inspections, and may also have rights under the tenancy agreement, they should exercise these  in co-operation with tenants  and respect their tenants rights, for example under the covenant of quiet enjoyment.

Tenants unhappy about allowing access for inspections should bear in mind that repair inspections are also for their benefit and it may not be in their best interests to refuse the landlord access long term.

Buffer

Important note. If you are reading an old post, remember that the law may have changed since it was written.




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2 Responses to I is for Inspections

  1. I’m not a solicitor but when asked for advice on the subject I work on the basis that in view of statute (inc s16 HA1988)and any contractual terms, the tenant has already given permission for such an inspection so it could go ahead whether the tenant specifically grants permission or not (irrespective of tenants presence). If tenant specifically withdraws that agreement (can they withdraw a permission set in statute?) then the landlord would need to obtain a court order for access. I have never heard of the latter being done but I presume it would be enforced by bailiffs & the tenant would very likely be ordered to pay for the costs of obtaining / enforcing the order.

    Your opinions Tessa?

  2. It is a bit of a tricky one and different people have different views.

    If the tenant fails to respond to the written notice of the inspection then it is arguable that can be deemed to be consent.

    However if the tenant specifically refuses consent then the only legal way to enter would be after an injunction has been obtained.

    I am not aware of any cases on this either – have any readers any experience of this?




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About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. She runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 12th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google



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