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Gaining access for viewings

I talked last week about gaining access for periodic property inspections. That’s a very simple way to summarise it, because if you read the blog, you’ll know it’s not simple at all – rather, it’s more like a game of tennis with laws instead of rackets and laws instead of a ball and laws instead of a net and a court and umpire and tennis players or anything else at all to do with tennis.

The long and short of it was this: you, as the landlord, have the right to inspect your property regularly with regards to discharging your various repairing obligations. The tenant has the right to refuse you entry, but they’ll be in violation of their tenancy agreement if they do so; therefore, being civilised and reaching a compromise is the answer. Easy enough.

You might, though, have been asking: “How does this relate to property viewings?” If so, allow me to attempt to clarify matters for you.

Access for viewings and quiet enjoyment

Whilst the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (which I spoke about last week) gives a landlord the right to inspect his or her property for problems that might need attention, this doesn’t extend to access for viewings. This means that the right to enter your property to hold viewings is not held on a level pegging with the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment in the eyes of the law. In fact, in the eyes of the law, it’s not really a right at all.

You’re obliged to keep the property in good repair, but you aren’t obliged to fill the property as soon as your current tenant leaves. Even with written notice given 24 hours in advance of a viewing, your tenant can refuse entry without violating any implied laws.

An option is to insert a clause into your tenancy agreement along the lines of:

[The tenant consents, at] any time after the Landlord has served on the Tenant a notice under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 or the Tenant has served on the Landlord notice to quit, to permit prospective tenants or purchasers to view the Property at reasonable times...

Therefore, if your tenant refuses you entry, they’ll be in breach of their contract. However, you still can’t enter unpermitted, or you’ll potentially be guilty of harassment. There’s also a limit to how effective such a term can be when notice has already been given and, should the tenant challenge the term, there’s every chance that a court might find it unfair and unenforceable because it violates the ‘quiet enjoyment’ covenant.

The answer?

Much like the inspection quandary, the trick here is to communicate with your tenant and appeal to their sense of reason. They might not want people poking around their flat – especially if they’re in the middle of moving out – but your business will suffer if you aren’t able to let the property as soon as possible after they’ve left

A trick I’ve found to be quite handy is to let the tenants conduct initial viewings themselves. This allows them to show people around on their own terms and stop people snooping through their half-packed pants, and also saves you a job.

It does mean that you won’t be able to meet the tenants and exercise your ever-handy Landlord Sense, but once a few tenants have expressed interest, you can always conduct second viewings once the flat is vacant (or meet them at their current homes). You’ll still let the property more quickly than you would have if you’d only started marketing once it was vacant, and you neatly avoid having to intrude upon your old tenants.

Have you had any issues with gaining access for property viewings and, if so, how did you get around them? Share your insight in the comments section!

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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.