Helpful Tips Victoria Barker 12/05/2021

Where to start with: Gaining access

As a landlord, there are several occasions where you will need to access the property during a tenancy. Probably the most common reason is for repairs, or to inspect whether something needs repairing.

Many people are aware that you need to give written notice to gain access to your property-but how much notice should you give? And what counts as written notice?

In this blog we take a closer look at where to start with gaining access to your property lawfully, what to do (and not do) if permission is refused and guidelines around gaining access as the coronavirus lockdown eases.

NRLA members can access guidance on gaining access over on our website, as well as free expert advice via our landlord advice line and exclusive discounts on services for landlords that could save you money and time. Sound good? Join us today!

The first thing to note when it comes to gaining access is that once you let a property to someone, they have the right to decide who comes into the property, even the landlord.

Entering a property without the tenants’ permission is classed as trespass, which carries some pretty serious consequences.

The tenant could take action to claim damages or an injunction to prevent entry by the landlord/the agent. So, it’s vital to get the correct permission you need from the tenant.

Usually, a tenancy agreement will set out when the tenant should grant you permission to enter. This will always include granting access for repairs, but it might also include things like performing viewings.

As a landlord you need to give the tenant at least 24 hours’ notice in writing if you want to enter the rental property, for example to carry out a repair.

Even if you know your tenant well, or perhaps think you’ll only be ‘popping in’ for a few minutes, you absolutely must give written notice and get permission from your tenant ahead of your visit.

Written notice could include a letter posted through the front door, or a message on WhatsApp or by SMS. A quick chat on the phone with the tenant wouldn’t count though-you need to have it in writing.

Also be aware that 24 hours’ notice is the minimum that you’ll need to give. You may need to give a tenant more notice though, it all depends on what is stated in the tenancy agreement.

When don’t you need to give notice?

So, we’ve established that you’ll need to give advance notice and gain the tenants’ permission to access the property for inspections, repairs, viewings, and such.

But are there any occasions where this is not required?

If you have a HMO and all tenants are on a room only contract-you can access the communal areas of the HMO without needing the tenant’s permission. In these situations the tenant shares access to the communal parts with you; they can only refuse access to the room they have the tenancy agreement for.

These arrangements are common in HMO properties as property managers require access to the common parts to ensure they can perform their HMO management duties. Failure to comply with these duties can lead to a civil penalty of up to £30,000, therefore being able to access the property relatively easily is a key concern for HMO managers.

Regardless of this though, it’s still best practice to communicate with your tenants to inform them that you will be attending the property after all, it is their home. And you will also need their permission to enter the specific room they rent from you so it is sensible to try and gain permission.

What should you do if a tenant refuses access?

There are a few reasons why a tenant may refuse to give you permission to enter the property.

It could be simply they want to be present while you are at the property-but they won’t be in at the time you’ve suggested. Or perhaps they’re unwell and would prefer to postpone the visit.

A tenant has the right to refuse access.

If they do this, you should not enter without their permission as this could even be considered a criminal offence. What you could do is explain to the tenant of the importance of your visit, and you should make sure you record all attempts to gain permission to access the property or rearrange your visit. You should take care though to not breach a tenants’ right to quiet enjoyment* while doing this, as this could constitute as harassment.  * Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

If you are in the situation where you are dealing with an issue around entry rights, NRLA members can access TDS Resolution, a FREE conciliation/ mediation service owned and operated by The Dispute Service Limited. The service aims to facilitate a satisfactory resolution between landlords and tenants to help sustain tenancies and avoid the need for formal legal action. To get started, NRLA members can simply contact the NRLA advice line or Complete our Resolution Referral Form. Learn more about this service for members here.

Coronavirus and gaining access

The pandemic hasn’t changed landlords’ obligations or responsibilities around keeping the property in good repair, but landlords have been required to find the balance right between keeping up with their obligations and also giving consideration as to whether it is appropriate for them to be entering a property at all during the lockdown.

The latest government guidance on this states that as of April 12, routine inspections and other repairs can take place provided everyone is following the latest Government guidance on working in people's homes.

It’s a no-no to enter the property if a tenant has symptoms of coronavirus. If a tenant is clinically extremely vulnerable or self-isolating, then you should consider whether entry to the property is necessary. Talk with your tenant to find a suitable solution, for example could the inspection or repair be arranged while the tenant is excising outside?

It’s a good idea to contact your tenants ahead of time to outline the social distancing measures that need to be followed during your visit. You should also remind them about these practices upon arrival.

  • This article covers the basics of what you need to know when it comes to accessing your property. To learn more, please read our guidance.
  • To read more articles in this series, click here
  • NRLA members can access one-to-one advice on tenancy-related matters including renewing a tenancy, six days week and a suite of useful documents and guides including tenancy agreements. Join us today.
Victoria Barker

Victoria Barker Communications Officer

Victoria is the Communications Officer for the NRLA.

She is responsible for producing articles for our news centre, the weekly e-newsletter, and manages and creates content for the association’s social media channels. She also contributes to our members magazine, Property.

See all articles by Victoria Barker