Inspections of a property may be intrusive for the tenant which is why it’s vital a landlord learns to conduct them in the right way. It is important to remember that you are entering a tenant;’s home and they may not necessarily be happy with you entering to do an inspection for whatever reason.
In this article, it guides you through how to remain calm, know the legislation that is in place to protect you as a landlord and enter the property as and when you need to conduct the necessary maintenance without harassing tenants. Especially if you are operating as a solo landlord without a letting agent or property manager.
From what exactly a property inspection is to the access you need in order to do one, this article covers the topic from head to toe so you can issue a landlord inspection notice effectively.
What is a landlord property inspection notice?
When a tenant has settled into a property owned by the landlord it is vital that the landlord makes them aware of their responsibilities and ensures that the rules of the tenancy agreement are being followed. As well as this there may be other reasons for requesting access to a property such as the need to carry out repairs or conduct a safety inspection.
Either way, there are a range of valid reasons that a landlord may need to access a property and this can be done by giving the tenant an inspection notice 24 hours before they enter the property.
If the tenant thinks this is unfair, they can bring this to court and complain. However, if the notice was written well in advance in the tenancy agreement and there is a legitimate reason given then usually this isn’t an issue.
Can a landlord access a property for inspection?
Yes, a landlord can access a property for inspection and there are a few reasons for doing so which are outlined below. In all cases, apart from in an emergency, a landlord must provide sufficient notice and make sure they communicate this with the tenant before entering.
Access to maintain the property
First of all, perhaps the most common reason for entering a property is to conduct repairs and maintenance related to planned maintenance that must be done by law. Examples include gas safety checks done by a qualified gas safety engineer, electrical safety checks done by an electrician and energy performance certificates that must be issued by an energy performance assessor.
Under the legislation, a gas safety check must be done every year. So the chances are quite high that a tenant will have to be served a landlord inspection notice at some point. If they have been living in the property for a long time they may also be served a landlord inspection notice for an Electrical Installation Conditions Report to be conducted which has to be done every five years.
In rare cases, where tenants have been living in the property for decades, they may also have to be served a notice for an energy performance certificate to be issued every 10 years. This is where the energy efficiency and the insulation of the property are assessed and given a score from A to G.
Under new legislation that sets out for landlords to only let out properties that have an EPC rating of C or higher by 2025, it may be increasingly more common for landlord inspection notices to be served to tenants for conducting an EPC as a result as changes have to take place.
In order to conduct any of these repairs, a landlord must give at least 24 hours’ notice to gain access to a property. However, professional landlords will usually give more.
If a tenant isn’t home when a certificate is being issued and they are needed in order to gain access to the property, the landlord will have to prove this has happened three times before they are able to show that a tenant is in breach of their tenancy agreement for refusing access to the property for repairs.
Repairs under section 11
Section 11 states that a landlord is obliged to carry out basic repairs in a property no matter how much it costs them under the obligation that all tenants have the right to live in a safe home that is structurally intact.
However, there are exceptions to this as any tenancy agreement that is longer than seven years automatically has the rights of repairs handed over to the tenant.
Examples of where section 11 may be needed are if there are plumbing works that may be needed in the property or if there are roof repairs that need doing that are resulting in leaks in the property. A lot of the time, because of the extent of the damage to a property, a tenant will welcome a landlord into a property if there is any kind of structural damage because it will be affecting their livelihood.
Therefore, section 11 is never that hard to issue and the landlord just has to give twenty four hours before the landlord inspection notice allows them access to the property by law. This has to be issued through the tenants’ property via mail and the 24 hours start after this has been sent.
However, to speed things up, it is quite common for a tenant to communicate with their landlord via email or text in order to do checks like this sooner given the tenant agrees.
Access by giving notice
Sometimes, a landlord would like to have a general check on a property. This has to be written in the tenancy agreement that this may happen throughout the tenancy. Otherwise, they are breaking the covenant for a quiet environment which is a rule that landlords have to follow under both the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985 and the Housing Act of 1988.
Reasons for this could be to make sure that the property isn’t being used for illegal activity and the tenant is using the property how they said they would and taking care of it. Having said this, if a landlord has evidence from the police there is an illegal activity they do not need to provide landlord inspection notice as it is an emergency.
The reason for the check doesn’t have to be stated in the tenancy agreement, it just has to be made clear that the landlord will enter the property at some point in the tenancy within reason (usually halfway through a fixed term) in order to have a general check.
Sometimes, there may be good reasons for a tenant to allow this too, like if the landlord found problems with the tenant’s living conditions like mould or dampness in the property or they noticed they could add some furniture to the property as some of the furniture in there isn’t suitable.
Ultimately, if a tenant is able to communicate well with their landlord and they have a good relationship there shouldn’t be many issues and this can be a great way to maintain a relationship with a tenant too.
It would be common as part of tenant management for a landlord to ask about if they want anything to change with the property, what the future plans are like for the tenant and if they’ve found anything unexpected about their new home during a visit. A friendly polite encounter is what is expected in a general check given a tenant is home and it shouldn’t be seen as at all intimidating.
Emergency access is the only reason why a landlord should be able to enter a property without a landlord inspection notice. Examples of where an emergency has occurred include:
- A gas safety leak that is found in the property
- The death of a tenant
- The structure of the property failing
- Evidence of criminal activity in the property (must be confirmed by police)
- A fire in the property
If any of these things have happened it is both allowed and understandable for a tenant to provide access to a property to check things out themself or allow other professionals into the home such as undertakers, firefighters, local authorities and potentially surveyors.
This is something a landlord doesn’t usually plan on happening nor expect to ever occur. Nonetheless, making sure you are prepared as a landlord and know these situations warrant you being able to enter a property is important.
Also, knowing where keys are kept so you can quickly gain access to a property is also crucial if a situation like this occurs so it is vital to remain organised and rehearse how you can access a property in an emergency in this way
Viewings for new tenants
If a tenant states they want to move out of a property, a landlord may want to bring around new tenants to the premises to check it out and see if new tenants like the property so they can find a suitable tenant once the old tenant moves out.
However, the rules surrounding if a tenant should allow a landlord access to the property are quite vague because unless there is specifically a term written in the tenancy agreement that a tenant should allow viewings prior to them moving out, a tenant is under no legal obligation to provide viewings.
In addition to this, if a landlord is able to get a clause like this in writing that permits them to bring new prospective tenants into a property in a viewing and the current tenant refuses, there is little a landlord can do.
Also, even if a tenant allows access to the property for viewings unless you are able to communicate this with the tenant it is unlikely the tenant will leave the property in the right standard that will present the property in the best way so new tenants find the property appealing.
Things like having furniture in the wrong places, general clutter that hides the space of the rooms and the house smelling or looking unsanitary can all be reasons new tenants don’t find a property appealing.
Hence, the best thing a landlord can do is put the clause in the tenancy agreement and maintain a good relationship with tenants so if it is asked for, the tenant is able to clean up the property in time and they respect the wishes of the landlord to let out the property again as soon as their tenancy ends.
What is the covenant of “quiet enjoyment”?
A covenant of “quiet enjoyment” is an older term of tenant rights that are protected by the law. It states that a tenant has the right to remain peaceful and undisturbed in their home.
This is why it is hard to enter a property without good reason and you must have a landlord inspection notice. For more on this, read the how to let guide from the government here as it talks about it in detail.
How to give tenants proper notice before entering a property
The first thing you should do to give a tenant a landlord inspection notice is considered if you are within your rights to do so. Either for general maintenance, section 11 or a general checkup that must be stated will happen in the tenancy agreement.
Next, a landlord can fill out a landlord inspection notice template such as this one from the National Residential Landlords Association and post it through the tenant’s letter box alongside a digital reminder either through email or text at least 24 hours before.
In order to improve your chances of a tenant granting access to a property if you need them to be there, it would be a good idea for a landlord to give longer than a day so you can arrange an inspection in advance.
On the day of the inspection notice or perhaps a day before, you could also call the tenant living in the property to check if they will be there. This is not necessary but is polite in case they have anything private going on or you don’t want to catch the tenant by surprise as they may have forgotten.
However, if they aren’t home it usually isn’t an issue as the landlord should have their own set of keys. If they do not have their own set of keys then it may be the case the landlord has to wait for the tenant to be home so they can let them in.
This may be inconvenient for a landlord, especially if there needs to be maintenance done in the property because this warrants the need for other people to be at the property such as a gas safety engineer if the landlord is doing a gas safety check. This means you may have other professionals waiting around too and delay them.
This could cause additional costs and potentially you having to still pay the gas safety engineer for their time despite them not entering the property. This is common in the building industry because it takes a long time for professionals to move between jobs. Hence, having your own set of keys as a landlord is your best bet when serving a landlord inspection notice.
Should you bring a surveyor with you when doing a periodic inspection?
Sometimes, especially if you are concerned with the structural integrity of a property during a section 11 notice (a type of landlord inspection notice) or you want to check the general integrity of the property anyway, bringing in a surveyor to the property would be a good idea.
This will prevent you from having to go in yourself first, check if there is the need for a surveyor, realise there is and then bring the surveyor at a separate time and issue another landlord inspection notice.
This minimises the disruption to a tenant and it may save you time in the long run. However, it is understandable that this may result in additional costs if the surveyor was never needed in the first place.
What happens if you are refused access to a property?
If you have issued a landlord inspection notice and you need the tenant to be there, you have to give a minimum of three notices before the tenant is able to be evicted for a breach of their tenancy agreement under section 8.
However, because there may be a reasonable cause for the tenant to refuse access like if they were ill or they are at work, the case will still need a court order first and the tenant can not be evicted straight away.
Cases, where a tenant refuses access to a property, are quite complicated because there could be a genuine reason. It also isn’t in the best interest of the landlord to evict a tenant either as they would be unlikely to be able to fill the property again that quickly with a new tenant.
As a result, it is recommended landlords try their best to negotiate with the tenant. For example, asking the tenant for access to the property while they are not there, asking to pick up the keys from the tenant so they can access the property when needed or even adjusting the time in which the landlord inspection notice was planned to suit the schedule of the tenant are all methods that could be used.
What are the benefits of periodic inspections?
Aside from the mandatory periodic inspections, a landlord must do under building safety regulations, are there any other reasons for providing a landlord inspection notice?
Mitigate property damage
First on the list is spotting damage and repairs early in a property. This can prevent the property from getting worse in quality and to prevent costly repairs in the future if a landlord sports it early. This is especially true if a tenant isn’t well experienced in spotting issues like this themself and would overlook potential damages.
Damage from damp
In the winter months especially, it is common for properties to experience mould and dampness on the inside walls or ceiling of the exterior walls. This is bad because not only can it cause physical damage to the plaster and paint of the property but it is also a severe health hazard for tenants when this gets bad.
This can result in lung infections, asthma attacks, skin irritation and allergic reactions.
Depending on the type of property, a property may have had a history of leaks. As a result, it is reasonable for a landlord to want to visit a property to see if they have reappeared or if they are likely to soon. Especially when leaks can cause so much damage to the property in general.
If it is not written in the tenancy agreement for a tenant to maintain the outdoor space of the property, a landlord may want to come into a property to cut grass and trim hedges in order to prevent it from overgrowing and causing long-term damage to the property or growth that is hard to remove.
If, a tenancy agreement states a landlord doesn’t want to allow subletting, having a general check about halfway into a fixed term of a tenancy can be great to prevent tenants from trying their luck or you to catch a tenant before the subletter becomes settles in the property.
On top of this, illegal activities in the property, in general, can be avoided with a general check.
Overall, the topic of providing a landlord inspection notice is extremely complex. Not only are there a lot of reasons for providing one but there are instances where it is hard to gain access to a property anyway, even if it is written in a tenancy agreement like if a landlord needs access to a property to conduct viewings.
The good news is all landlord inspection notices must be given with 24 hours’ notice which makes things simple for landlords who need access to a property quickly. Nonetheless, it is always a wise idea to plan in advance and respect a tenant’s space as they may be able to take you to court if it is proven you have abused your right to issue a landlord inspection notice.