Access for inspections and repairs
If you are to keep a property in repair (see Day 21), you need to be able to go and take a look at it every now and again, to see whether there is anything which needs repairing. Also, you can’t always rely on tenants to tell you things, and if repairs are not done quickly they can get out of hand and become a lot more expensive.
Section 11 (6) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, therefore, allows for this:
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.
Although this is implied into all tenancy agreements to which s11 applies, it is considered good practice to include a clause on access for inspections in your tenancy agreements.
Make sure you include the landlord’s obligation to give at least 24 hours notice in writing, or it will be unfair.
Note also that the right is only for access under s11 to do inspections for repairs. It does not allow access for anything else. So make sure you include specific clauses authorising you to have access (with not less than 24 hours notice) for access to show round tenants and prospective purchasers. If this is not in your tenancy agreement, you won’t have any right to do this at all.
Note though that even though this is a legal right, the tenants’ right to keep everyone out of his property will override it, and if he does not want to let you in, you will be trespassing if you use your keys to go in anyway. The only time you are entitled to go in without specific consent is in a case of emergency (and that means something serious, such as a fire).
Tenants do sometimes get upset about landlords coming round to look at their property and consider it to be an invasion of their privacy. You, therefore, need to be careful to be polite and not intrude too much.
The frequency of inspection visits can be an issue. How often should you go round?
- Yearly is not really enough
- Weekly is usually too often (although some HMOs may need weekly inspections)
- Quarterly is probably about right, with perhaps monthly visits if there are problems at the property which you need to keep an eye on.
Be aware though that criminals can convert a property into a cannabis farm and get in two crops in about six months – so don’t leave things too long, particularly with new tenants.
Setting the days
Some landlords have told me that they write the inspection days into the tenancy agreement so that there will be no argument.
However, if the tenant decides that he doesn’t want you there and asks for the visits to be cancelled, it still won’t entitle you to use your keys and go in when he is not there.
The covenant of quiet enjoyment
I should probably mention here that this is a term or concept which is implied into all tenancy agreements. It does not mean that tenants have to be quiet or enjoy themselves (!) it just means that the landlord should leave tenants to live in the property in peace.
Generally, tenancy agreements will have a specific clause for this, but it will still apply even if the clause is missing. For example, a tenancy agreement clause saying that the landlord can enter the property whenever he likes will be unfair and therefore void.
Inspections and keys
Talking about keys, it is a good idea to provide in the tenancy agreement that you are entitled to have and hold keys to the property. I generally add in my tenancy agreements that the landlord shall not use them to enter the property without the tenants’ permission (which is just stating the law).
However, if the tenant decides that he does not want you interfering and changes the locks, there is not much you can do about this, other than perhaps charge him for new locks at checkout.
Technically removing the locks may be criminal damage. However, if the reason the tenant has changed the locks is because you have been using your keys to enter the property without asking permission first after having been asked to stop (which will be in breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment), then he will, so long as the claim is heard in the Small Claims Court (and not the deposit adjudications), be entitled to defend any such claims and may even be able to claim compensation himself from the landlord.
Adjudicators do not have the jurisdiction to deal with this sort of case, however, which is why tenants in this position need to insist on any claim being held in the Small Claims Court.
Note that the landlord’s right to enter to carry out inspections v. the tenants right to refuse access is a hotly contested topic, witness the number of comments in my former post on this here.
NB Find out more about my Tenancy Agreement Service on Landlord Law
All Landlord Law tenancy agreements have suitable clauses regarding inspections and keys.