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Agents rights to inspect tenanted property without notice

Record keepingHere is a fairly short but fundamental question to the Blog Clinic from Gavin who is a tenant

Can the agency I rent from just turn up to my house with out notice being given?

The simple answer to this is ‘no’.

However lets look at a few issues that this raises.

The covenant of quiet enjoyment

Under the ‘covenant for quiet enjoyment’ (which is part of all tenancies whether it is specifically set out in the tenancy agreement or not) you have the right to exclude everyone from the property – with a few exceptions.

The exceptions being things like

  • Police Officers with search warrants,
  • Local authority officers acting under one of their powers (I can’t remember off hand what these are, but no doubt Ben can enlighten us in the comments) and
  • The landlord (or his agent) in case of real emergency – for example if the property is on fire.

There are others.  But they do not include the landlord or his agent turning up to do a routine inspection.

Here they may be entitled to enter but not if the tenant says ‘no’.  Saying ‘no’ may put the tenant in breach of his tenancy agreement, but it is his right to refuse entry if he wants.

Although it is not a good idea, long term, to refuse access to the landlord or his agent if they want access for a lawful reason.

Right of access on written notice

Under the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 s11(6)

In a lease in which the lessor’s repairing covenant is implied there is also implied a covenant by the lessee that the lessor, or any person authorised by him in writing, may at reasonable times of the day and on giving 24 hours’ notice in writing to the occupier, enter the premises comprised in the lease for the purpose of viewing their condition and state of repair.

So they must provide the written notice.  It is generally accepted that at least 24 hours written notice must also be provided any other authorised visits to the property.

However before reporting the agency to the Local Authority for harassment, you might want to just check that they have not given notice already.

Check your tenancy agreement

For example some tenancy agreements set out dates when the landlord or his agent will inspect the property, or they may have given notice a while ago and you have forgotten about it.

Note also that the visit must be for something authorised under either statute (eg the right of inspection under s11(6) or your tenancy agreement.

Many tenancy agreements for example provide for landlords (or their agents) to be able to show prospective tenants round in the last month of the tenancy (upon giving written notice).

So you need to check your tenancy agreement and see what it says.

Proper notice

I have heard of landlords or agents writing and saying something along the lines of  that they reserve the right to come round any time they want during the next few weeks (without giving a specific time) and then claim that this is ‘written notice’.

It isn’t.

But if they have given notice, proper notice, for a visit for something authorised by statute or the tenancy agreement, then you are in breach of your tenancy agreement if you don’t let them in.

But not (to answer the question) if they have not.

(See also the comments area below and >> click here to read our terms of use and comments policy)

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

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12 Responses to Agents rights to inspect tenanted property without notice

  1. I would say, in all honesty, in 25 years of being a council TRO, complaints of landlords and agents demanding entry must rank as #1. Hardly a day goes by without at least one complaint.

    As for council powers of entry. Well TROs dont have any but Environmental Health do if they have reason for instance to suspect a property of being an unlicensed HMO. Of course they cant force entry if the occupier refuses but they can get warrants and prosecute for obstruction.

    Planning and building control have to give 24 hours notice before turning up but like EHOs they can get warrants if refused.

    As we are on the subject it is worth noting that Electricity and Gas revenue protection officers can also get warrants of entry if they believe the property is using a dangerous or illegal supply.

    All of the above are independent of the Section 11 clause as their powers devolve under different legislation.

  2. With written notices, we tend to regard this as via letter and/or e-mail. We believe the practice whereby some agents and landlords do this by text, is not a fair and legal notification.

    We also feel that in a shared house where the notice is sent to only one tenant (often the lead tenant), that this is also unfair as it presumes duty upon this tenant to inform their housemates, when surely it is the legal duty of the agent.landlord to notify all tenants named on the tenancy at the same time.

  3. I think a very important point to add, is that if an agent/landlord is ‘pushing the boundaries’ on the required notice, as a tenant always be aware that it is often in your interests to do your best to accommodate or re-arrange any visit.

    Any outright refusals could put your tenancy at risk when it is due for renewal!

  4. I always interpreted and intervened on the basis that the 24 hrs notice is a trigger for the right to apply if necessary for a Court order but not an absolute right to enter at the given time.

    This allows the tenant to refuse, on reasonable grounds, eg a medical appointment; having guests or at meal times; request to enter late at night; the regular and repeated requests to enter despite having done so perhaps a few days before and having no reason to return. Unnecessary repeated visits could be considered harassment.

    If a tenant however continued to refuse to negotiate a convenient time, that would be prima facie grounds to support an application to the court.

  5. My understanding, though is that the right to quiet enjoyment is not absolute and depends on what is agreed in the lease.
    Therefore, a landlord acting accordingly and reasonably will not be in breach of quiet enjoyment.

    In addition, regarding emergency I think that what statutes say is that the landlord does not have to serve at least 24 hour notice and has an immediate right of entry.

    Finally, is there any case law tat states whether a SMS text is not in writing?
    In this day and age, I have a feeling that courts will tend to consider them to be in writing.
    In that area I saw that HMRC was trialling acknowledging receipt of tax credit claims by SMS texts.

  6. “We also feel that in a shared house where the notice is sent to only one tenant (often the lead tenant), that this is also unfair as it presumes duty upon this tenant to inform their housemates”

    I would agree if, but I assume you would just write one letter addressed to them all at the same address, not send an individual letter to each joint tenant?

  7. Regarding text messages, I think in some cases it is perfectly acceptable, especially if you’re the sort of agent who already communicates a lot via text messages.

    I wouldn’t like to rely on it for something more serious though. The main difficulty being able to prove the content and that you actually sent it. You can’t easily send your mobile off to the courts…

    I shamelessly copied this from the internet somewhere:

    Referring to service of notice in writing at a tribunal case, His Honour Judge Hand QC said:

    “I include within the concept of written notice modern methods of communication such as the SMS text message, internet based so-called instant messaging and email. Here the email was used as a medium to convey an electronic version of the letter of dismissal, which was attached but, no doubt, any of these methods could be used to convey the notice itself.” Wang v University of Keele… UKEAT/0223/10/CEA

  8. Absolutely Jamie, a letter addressed to ‘the Tenants’ will suffice.

    Also, if there is a ‘personal agreement ‘tween the L/L and tenant to use texts, this could be acceptable, but quite honestly it is far better for all concerned to use a letter or e-mail as texts may not always be received depending on several factors like reception and if you happen to have gone to a different country (Int students or on holiday for example).

    I believe there is a Maritime case where a Judge made a judgement that e-mails were correctly acceptable as forms of modern notice.

    Simply put, with a letter, this can be proven via recorded delivery, while an e-mail can be easily printed as proof of sending. with an e-mail, all tenants can also easily be copied in to this…and is dated, timed, can be printed and is free!

  9. Sorry, should have added, that depending on the tenant, e-mails may not be checked often (or texts for that matter). Younger tenants will usually have their ‘funky’ phones set up to receive e-mails.

    So the possible age of the tenant could also be a factor in sending notices. I think the old fashion ‘snail-mail’ will always stand up against most things.

    But remember, while 24 hrs is the minimum notice required, it is sooooo important and a matter of simple respect and courtesy to give much more if possible. It is someone’s home after all not just a house or property in a portfolio (as in the case of the L/L).

  10. There is no doubt that emails are accepted in general.

    I see that SMS texts are also legally in writing, so an acceptable mean to give notice of inspection.
    Arguably SMS texts are the best way to get ‘young people”s attention, though one may want to back it up with a letter.

    If I had to prove that I sent a text, and its contents, I would ask a solicitor or whomever can usually witness documents, to check my phone and to make a witness statement.
    Arguably that should prove more than producing a proof of postage from the Post Office.

  11. Electronic service is an interesting point.

    Way back in the 1990s I served a section 7 notice on a letting agent by Fax, only to have him defend on the basis that ti wasn’t properly served but the judge wouldn’t have it, saying “We have to take into account modern technology”.

    However I now have to work under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) which has very strong views on digital evidence, which I wont bore you with.

    RIPA wouldnt apply to entry notices at the point they are served but if it later becomes a matter in a criminal case such as harassment, then under RIPA it would wash at all.

    I’m with NRM. Snail mail is the best.



About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer and specialises in creating products and services which help landlords and letting agents learn and understand landlord & tenant law. For example, she runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 14th 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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