Here is a question to the blog clinic from Simon who is a tenant
My wife and I are tenants in England renting through a letting agent. Today is to be the second 3-month inspection on the house we are living in. It was let as unfurnished.
I want to know: can I tell the letting agent not to take photos during the inspection?
At the first 3 month inspection, the letting agent started taking pictures.
I asked why, she said the landlord wants them. She took pictures from every corner of every room and every hallway, even some of the cupboard contents. She also went through every single cupboard including the fridge and the dirty linen basket. By the end of this 1½ hour inspection, I was really quite upset and angry, I felt really intruded upon. I did challenge a couple of times asking why all this was necessary but she said the landlord is entitled to evidence of how the property is being kept.
I have got quite anxious about this second inspection. It seems stupid, but I’ve been waking at night worrying about it. I don’t want some complete stranger being sent photos of my many computers, rather large CD collection, contents of book-cases, my wife’s clothes in the bedroom wardrobes, watches and jewellery left on the side in the bedroom. I feel vulnerable and intruded upon.
Is this photography of our possessions legal?
I don’t see how taking photographs tells the landlord anything useful about the state of the property as an unfurnished house. Surely the letting agent’s professional opinion is what is required? This is just spying on people and it’s sordid.
We are mature professional tenants. It sounds a bit pathetic from a grown-up bloke, but this is making me feel like I don’t want to live here any more.
There is nothing in the contract about the taking of pictures. And no, I have no problem with them being taken before we move in as a record. And, yes, I really am quite upset.
Landlords are entitled to carry out inspections of the property to ensure that it is in good condition and to check that the tenants are using it properly.
As a part of that, they are entitled to take photographs to prove what they find. For example
- To prove that the fire escapes are being blocked, or alternatively are being kept clear by the tenants
- To show any ill use of the property, for example, if the kitchen appliances are not being used properly
- To show the cleanliness of the property
- To show whether tenants are drying clothes indoors and not ventilating the property properly – as this can cause condensation
- To show any damage or repair work that needs doing so they can show this to their contractors and get a quote for any work needing to be done.
However, there should be some reason for the photographs. I can’t see why the landlord would want to have photos of your personal possessions – unless they relate to the condition of the property.
As in all things, it is a balance.
Landlords or their agents need to take photographs on the inspection visits but within reason. The photographs should be to record how the tenant is looking after the property. But the landlord does not need to know how many CDs you have or the contents of your laundry basket.
As a general rule, I don’t think landlords or agents should take photographs just of the tenant’s possessions unless they are impacting negatively on the property – for example, if the tenant is a ‘hoarder’ where excessive items can become a fire hazard.
What you could do
Write to the agents complaining and saying that although some photographs are acceptable, on this visit the photograph taking was exceptionally intrusive, many of the photographs were simply of your personal possessions which is nothing to do with the landlord, and that the agent’s actions breached your ‘covenant of quiet enjoyment’.
If it happens again, you could maybe take photographs yourself of the agent taking the photographs. In particular of them taking unnecessary photographs.
You could then use this as evidence to show that the photo taking was unnecessary – for example by bringing a complaint to the agents Property Redress Scheme.
However, you would need to show that the photo taking was actually excessive and unnecessary. Such that it became a breach of your ‘covenant of quiet enjoyment’
As it is important that agents and landlords take photographs – relevant photographs – on their inspection visits.
Finally, you will have notice of the inspection visits so you could prepare for them by putting some things, such as watches and jewellery, away so they cannot be photographed.