Image of a tenant and landlord coming to an agreement.

You might be surprised to learn that when it comes to access, a tenant’s rights will override the landlord’s. If your tenant refuses you access, you won’t be allowed to enter the property. That being said, the rules are not simply black and white. Refusing you access could put them in breach of their tenancy agreement, so it’s important to know your stuff so that you can stay on the right side of the law.

If you’re being refused access, then there could be a valid reason behind it. Perhaps it’s not a good day or time and your tenant is happy to rearrange your visit. In other instances, you might have been persistently refused access and the relationship with your tenant has turned sour. What do you do then?

Here at CIA Landlords, as a trusted landlord insurance brokerage, we know plenty about the intricacies of landlord-tenant relationships. Let’s go more into a tenant’s rights to refuse entry to a landlord.

I own the property – why can a tenant refuse entry?

By law, when you agree to a tenancy you give the tenant the right to occupy your property as their home. That means that you are no longer allowed to enter without their permission. It’s called ‘the covenant for quiet enjoyment’ and it means that the tenant is entitled to not be unreasonably disturbed or harassed whilst living in the property. Once a landlord grants a tenancy, they cannot legally expect to treat the property as their own. To do so would be a ‘derogation of grant’.

Your tenant is also well within their rights to change the locks and not give you a key. In fact, changing the locks as soon as someone moves into a rental is often encouraged amongst tenants as there’s no way of knowing if previous tenants have kept keys. If you have a harmonious relationship with your tenant, they should ensure that you have a key or at least let you in when you need access. If you’re not keen on this idea, it’s worth putting a clause in your tenancy agreement.

So, what are a landlord’s rights?

Landlords need to access their rental property in order to carry out property inspections. You must give tenants 24 hours written notice or more before inspections, however, we advise giving them much longer than this; perhaps a few weeks. A tenant is more likely to give you access without problems if they’ve had long enough to prepare for it.

Right of reasonable access

To make things a bit more complicated, you as a landlord have the legal right of reasonable access, which allows you to enter the property to carry out any necessary repairs between reasonable hours. You also have the right to inspect and carry out your routine visits and you have the right to enter to provide services, such as home cleaning if this has been specified in your tenancy agreement.

Image of a key in a front door lock.

Once again though, it’s not as black and white. This is because the tenant’s rights to access the property override the landlords, so if they refuse, there’s not an awful lot that can be done at that moment. The only time this doesn’t apply is in an emergency; such as a fire, a flood, or if you suspect violent criminal activity is taking place inside or if there’s dangerous structural damage. In these circumstances, you are within your rights to enter the property without permission – day or night.

My tenant is refusing me access but I need to carry out repairs

If you’ve requested access and given at least 24 hours notice but your tenant is refusing, hopefully, they have a good reason. Try and negotiate with them and rearrange a time that suits them better. It might be that they are at work at the arranged time and they wish to be present when repairs are being undertaken. In many cases, it works in the landlord’s favour if the tenant is present during any repair work and inspections. That way they cannot accuse you or your repair staff of any theft or misconduct.

The main complication with your tenant not allowing you access when you need to carry out repairs is firstly that the issue will most likely persist and get worse which will cause more problems for you in the long run. Secondly, there’s the risk that something might happen to the tenant or the property as a result of the issue not being dealt with. For example, a leak might cause damp and in turn, mould which could lead to health problems for the tenant.

Image of repair tool kit.

With this in mind, contact the tenant in writing to let them know that they will be liable for any deterioration of the property if they do not allow you access for repairs, and also that you cannot be liable for an injury they might suffer because of a fault in the property that you’re not able to rectify. If they still continue to refuse you access, they won’t be able to claim against you for damages. If you are seriously worried about the effect the deterioration of the property due to you not being granted access will have on a tenant’s health, get in touch with the council and ask them to reach out to your tenant and explain that the repair work is necessary. Failing that, you could apply for a court order to enter the property and carry out any necessary repair works.

What can I do if I am being refused entry?

It’s always best to attempt to resolve the situation through continuous communication. Try and make sure that all negotiation is via email because that way, you’ll have a digital paper trail to fall back on should the issue escalate. Do your best to stay within the rules and not infringe on your tenant’s rights. This means never turning up at the property unannounced, never calling the tenant multiple times a day or entering the property without permission. Don’t give the tenant any leverage that could work in their favour should the matter go to court.

Image of refuse entry sign.

Seek legal advice if all else fails with tenants

If polite chit-chat is getting you nowhere and your tenant isn’t providing access at all, seek legal advice from a landlord association or a legal advisor. As mentioned, you could apply for an injunction to gain access to your property and in extreme cases consider eviction. However, you should remember that the proposed Renters Reform Bill will get rid of section 21 notices and require landlords to have stronger grounds to evict tenants.

No landlord wants to be refused access to their property if they feel it is at risk of falling into disrepair or prospective new tenants need to be shown around because the law favours a tenant’s rights to control access to the property. The most important thing to do in this situation is to follow the correct protocol so that the courts can do right by you if that’s what it comes to.

If you’ve got any more burning questions about landlord-tenant property access, visit our advice centre. We give support on a range of topics including financial, property damage, the tenant screening process and more.

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