Landlords could easily be forgiven for being totally confused about the legal rulings on access. The law holds them responsible for safety and repairs and threatens them with hefty penalties for non-compliance. However, if they go to the property without the necessary permissions, they can be sued for trespass and for breaching the tenant’s right to ‘quiet enjoyment’.
Under common law tenants have a right to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the property. This is an implied term, or covenant, which has been expressed or implied in conveyances and leases of English land for centuries. This covenant means that the landlord has to allow the tenant to live in the property without undue interference, i.e. “without interruption of the possession”.
‘Quiet enjoyment’ is a term so often misunderstood. Going back to a case in 1888, Jenkins v Jackson, the judge stated that the word ‘quietly’ in the covenant; “does not mean undisturbed by noise. When a man is quietly in possession it has nothing whatever to do with noise … ‘Peaceably and quietly’ means without interference – without interruption of the possession”.
In short, it means that the tenant must be able to live in (or ‘enjoy’ as in the old-fashioned meaning of the word) the property in peace without any disturbance from the landlord or anyone acting on his behalf. This protects the tenants interests.
On the other hand tenants must provide access to landlords. Both The Housing Act 1988 and The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 state that there should be a term or covenant in every tenancy agreement that states that the tenant should give reasonable access for repairs to be carried out in the property.
Landlords will obviously need access to the property in order to carry out these repairs. In addition to access for repairs, the landlord also has a right to view the condition of a property. The landlord or someone acting for the landlord, as their agent, can gain access to the property at a “reasonable time of the day” but only after giving the tenant a minimum of 24 hours’ notice in writing.
Landlords should not assume any particular rights as to how often and when a property can be entered. Access to rented property is not straightforward; for a tenant it is their private home, whilst for a landlord it is a valuable asset that needs to be closely monitored. In order to make this work, there needs to be some form of agreement with the tenant. This is why it is not unusual to hear about landlords being accused of trespass of a rented property by unhappy tenants.
Getting the balance right
Generally speaking, there are two types of tenants, those who allow access to the property with ease and welcome having a proactive landlord that is maintaining the property. The other types are those that state that they need to be present for any visits for maintenance or inspection. As a landlord you need to evaluate which type of tenants you have and how to operate with them, as there is no ideal way. Essentially, you need to ensure you have a good working relationship with your tenants.
Balancing the rights of tenants and the legal obligations of landlords can be difficult but should be manageable if approached with mutual respect and pragmatism.
If you are experiencing any of the challenges we have touched on here, do get in touch as we are sure we can help.