Landlords may be excused for being perplexed by the rules and legalities on access. The legislation makes them accountable for safety and maintenance and threatens them with severe fines if they do not comply. However, if they enter the property without authorisation, they can be sued for trespass and violating the tenant’s right to ‘quiet enjoyment.’ What does this mean?
Tenants have a right to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the property under common law. This is an implicit provision, or covenant, that has been stated or inferred in English property conveyances and leases for centuries. This clause requires the landlord to allow the tenant to dwell in the property without excessive interference, that is, “without interruption of possession”.
‘Quiet enjoyment’ is a phrase that is often misused. In Jenkins v Jackson, a case from 1888, the court declared that the phrase ‘quiet’ in the covenant “does not imply undisturbed by noise.” When a tenant is in possession peacefully, it has nothing to do with loudness… ‘Peacefully and quietly’ means without interference.
In a nutshell, it means that the renter must be allowed to live in (or ‘enjoy’ in the old-fashioned sense of the term) the property without interference from the landlord or anybody acting on his behalf. This safeguards the renters’ interests.
Tenants, however, must allow landlords access. Both the Housing Act of 1988 and the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985 require that every rental agreement include a condition or covenant stating that the tenant must provide reasonable access to the property for repairs to be carried out.
Landlords will, of course, want access to the property in order to do these repairs. In addition to access for repairs, the landlord has the right to inspect the property’s condition. The landlord or someone acting as the landlord’s agent may enter the property at any “reasonable time of day” but only after providing the tenant with at least 24 hours’ written notice.
Landlords should not claim any special privileges regarding how often and when a property may be accessed. Access to a leased property is difficult; for a renter, it is their private home, yet for a landlord, it is a precious asset that must be carefully managed. To make this work, some kind of agreement with the tenant is required. As a result, it’s not uncommon to hear of landlords being accused of trespassing on a leased property by disgruntled tenants.
Getting The Proper Balance
In general, there are two categories of tenants; those who give easy access to the property and appreciate having a proactive landlord who maintains the property and others who do not. The other categories stipulate that they must be present for any maintenance or inspection visits. As a landlord, you must assess the sort of renters you have and how to deal with them, as there is no perfect solution. Essentially, you must have a positive working relationship with your tenants.
Balancing tenants’ rights and landlords’ legal duties might be challenging, but it should be doable if addressed with mutual respect and practicality.