Can Your Tenant Deny You Access to Your Property?
We’re joined by landlord legal rights expert Paul Shamplina to learn more about landlord rights of access and what to do about tenant damage.
When it comes to getting landlord legal rights in place, there is nobody that understands the importance more than Landlord Action’s Paul Shamplina.
Paul has joined us again to tackle some of the questions you have been asking via our private landlord Facebook community, Mashroom Landlord Community Facebook. There are over 7,000 landlords in the community, and we are regularly joined on the page by industry experts and Mashroom team members, to answer questions live, so it’s a great place to air your thoughts and get some advice.
Can a tenant deny a landlord access?
One of our landlords has a tenant who is not allowing them access to carry out an annual inspection. What are the rules around this, as they want to make sure they can gain access and check their property?
‘As a landlord, you have to carry out an annual inspection’, stressed Paul. ‘You really have to do inspections, and the whole point of an annual inspection normally is to see that the property is in a good state, and that the tenant is looking after it.’
It should also be used with regards to lines of communication with the tenant – are they happy? The name of the game is that you want your tenant, who’s your customer and is paying more rent than ever before, to feel comfortable in their home. The more they see it as their home, the longer they’re going to stay there.
‘So, inspections and gaining access can be difficult. Make sure it’s very clear, whether it’s an email or WhatsApp, to say that I want to come and do my annual inspection. Give at least 24 hours’ notice and say ‘I’ll be coming here at six o’clock on Thursday, the 27th for blah blah blah. Can you confirm that you’ll be here?’ Because as a landlord, you should not be letting yourself into a property without the tenant’s consent, or the tenant not being there because they can make lots of accusations. So once the tenant consents, ideally put something in writing.’
The market is getting very tight for tenants as landlords leave the sector and rental stock decreases. Putting ourselves in our tenant’s shoes for a moment, it is easy to understand why they have the heebie-jeebies about their landlord rocking up, seemingly out of the blue – is there anything you can say to them to allay their fears?
‘It’s very easy for people to make money out of a property, explained Paul. ‘Make sure your rent’s paid on time, the property has been looked after, and there’s no complaints.’
‘I have a famous saying that ‘no news is good news’ as a landlord. If your rent’s being paid, but the tenants are not giving you access and you’ve been asking and making loads of requests, then that is a red flag. Why would they not let you go to the property if everything is okay; you’re their landlord? You, as a landlord, need to make sure everything is up to speed, but you can’t find out if you can’t go to the property. Maybe they might have done some damage, or you know, they are renting out a spare room. I think most genuine tenants will let you come in and do an inspection, but of course, you’ve also got to look at the tenant’s point of view’.
‘The tenant wants to stay in the property as long as possible. They like that property, rent is going up elsewhere, landlords are leaving the sector and unfortunately, the tenant chooses the property, they don’t choose the landlord. If a landlord for whatever reason is looking to exit the market, then unfortunately, the good tenant is served notice and they must leave, so I think also it’s important for the tenant to build a rapport up and a trust a working relationship with the landlord because of course, happy landlord should be happy tenant’.
What happens if a tenant delays reporting a maintenance issue and causes further damage?
Inspections are also key, of course, to check for any unreported damage. One of our community landlords has raised a question around just that.
They have recently had a situation where a tenant has failed to inform them of a water leak in an upstairs bedroom, which has caused subsequent damage to the walls and skirting boards downstairs. Who is responsible for rectifying this damage?
‘If there’s damage to the property, it depends – is it malicious damage, or is it obviously genuinely accidental damage?’ questioned Paul. ‘The problem is, the landlord can’t assess the damage unless you’ve been told about the damage, they’re not going to know there’s a leak unless the tenant tells him!
‘Undoubtedly the landlord will have landlord insurance and home insurance that will cover for floods, burst pipes and leakages, but the tenant has an obligation to tell the landlord and tell them sooner rather than later, because if this issue festers, then it becomes a bigger flood’.
The duty of care is the landlord to carry out the repairs, but the tenant should be telling the landlord of the leak and telling him early.
‘If that was my tenant, and I found out the leak was six weeks ago, and they’ve only just told me about it, I’d be fuming because why haven’t you told me?! It’s getting worse, you’re causing damage to my property! It may not have been your fault, but because you haven’t told me for six weeks, it is now!’
Do you think people have a fear of reporting issues like this for fear of being issued with a Section 21 notice even when the leak wasn’t initially their fault?
‘It could potentially become so bad that you might have to move that tenant out of the flat, and that would potentially be grounds for actually evicting somebody,’ mused Paul. ‘It is going to be weak grounds, but is it so bad that you need to get vacant possession? This is down to common sense of communication, in educating the tenant realising that you’ve got to work on business relationships, and that’s what it is, this is a business’.
It’s possible that people may feel a little more comfortable in reporting maintenance issues when Section 21 has been abolished. As you say, it’s a weak ground for eviction under Section 8, so with Section 21 gone, there would be little risk of eviction for reporting something like this.
‘We know that Section 21 is going to be changing at some point this year, the reforms are coming in and the grounds of Section 8 have to be updated,’ explained Paul. ‘The 17 grounds will be increased and made much stronger, with more mandatory grounds’.
I think Section 21 will be banned and abolished within a couple of years. You’ve got to put a bill together and then you’ve got to get it through parliament, and you know how busy politicians are, but it’s on the roadmap, it is going to be abolished, but I think it’ll be a couple of years