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Gaining access for periodic inspections

English law is fun, isn’t it? In much the same way as a gavel to the side of the head, I mean.

Contractual terms are binding. That is, until statute overrides them; but does that statute come from implied law, or legislation? Has that legislation been superseded by, or is it in conflict with, any other?

A classic example in landlord law crops up where property inspections are concerned. The tenant has a ‘right to quiet enjoyment’, but the landlord has the right to inspect the state of their own property. It becomes tricky when these two rights collide.

Where does the ‘right to quiet enjoyment’ come from?

This is not meant to be read literally. It doesn’t mean that if noisy neighbours disturb the tenant, the covenant is being violated. What it does mean is that the tenant has the right to live in peace without ‘substantial interference’ from you or someone acting on your behalf.

The covenant has its roots in Ye Olde Englishe law, and is read into every lease or tenancy; that is, any contractual arrangement involving:

  • At least one landlord
  • At least one tenant
  • A rent paid to the landlord(s) by the tenant(s)
  • Physical land of some description
  • A term of any length

This supersedes any contract, so if your agreement says that you can come or go when you please, the term will be unenforceable. Furthermore, the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 says that a landlord will be guilty of harassment if they interfere with their tenant’s quiet enjoyment of their property.

Where does the right to inspect your property come from?

This one’s easier to answer, at least if you’ve spent a while trawling through some bumf. Certain repairs are, by law, your responsibility, and cannot be your tenant’s. Because this is implied by statute (i.e. read into any and all rental contracts) no contractual terms can override it. Therefore, the law has to provide for you to be able to gain access to your property in order to assess what state it’s in.

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 does just that – gives any landlord with an implied ‘repairing covenant’ (or someone acting on their behalf) the right to inspect the property provided they give 24 hours’ written notice and do so at “reasonable times of the day”.

So far, so simple.

Where they clash

The above mentioned act gives you the right to inspect your property with the appropriate notice.

BUT

Because of the right to quiet enjoyment, you also need permission, which your tenant doesn’t have to give.

BUT

If they don’t give permission, they’ll be in violation of the tenancy agreement.

BUT

If you go in anyway, you’ll be guilty of harassment.

The answer

The answer to this slight headache is not to rely on statute and jargon, but to actually communicate with your tenant.

It’s not always convenient to receive visitors, especially at short notice – you should be able to appreciate your tenant’s privacy in this regard. However, your tenant should also appreciate that you have obligations to them and your business, and need to regularly check to make sure that you’re fulfilling them.

Compromise is always the answer – setting inspection dates far in advance and letting the other party know as soon as possible if a date won’t be convenient is a good way around this issue. You should also always make sure that your right to inspect your property is written into your tenancy agreement. It’s fair enough if your tenant withholds their permission to enter the property, but if it becomes an issue, they’ll be in breach of their contract – and you’ll be able to politely advise that, if they don’t allow you access, they might have to find somewhere else to live.

Click here to read about the importance of regular property inspections. To view a sample tenancy agreement you can use for your own tenancies, visit our forms and guidance section.

Have you encountered any tricksy pieces of conflicting legislation in your travels? How did you get around them? Share your stories below!

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Amelia Vargo is an online marketing executive for CT Capital. Amelia writes for Turnkey Mortgages, Turnkey Landlords, TurnKey Bridging, TurnKey Life and Commercial Trust.