A question I was asked this week by one of my clients is whether or not a landlord can enter property without permission from the tenant? Specifically, my client was interested in what happens in circumstances where the tenant wanted to change the codes on the home alarm system and the locks on the front door.
As experienced landlord and contributor to our blog Mary Latham explains in her article on how to gain access to a tenanted property, it is an important reminder to landlords to remember that as soon as you’ve handed over the keys to tenant, you’ve agreed to allow them peaceful or quiet enjoyment in the property for the term of the tenancy.
Therefore, your rights to enter that property/garden are restricted.
Can a landlord enter property without permission to carry out maintenance or repairs?
It is an implied term of every assured tenancy that the landlord or his agent shall have the legal right to enter the property to carry out the repairs that the landlord is entitled to execute and to inspect the condition and state of repair of the property.
In law, the landlord is obliged to give his tenant 24 hours notice and enter at reasonable times of the day only with the tenant’s explicit permission.
It is a good idea to set out the arrangements for access and procedures for getting repairs done in the tenancy agreement.
The repairing obligations will include those items defined by s11(6) of the Housing Act 1985 (structure of the property, and services for supply of water, electricity and other utilities etc.) and any further obligations included in or implied by the agreement.
Whilst the tenant is obligated under the tenancy agreement to permit access to inspect the property, you should not enter their home if the tenant refuses.
Can a landlord or agent keep a spare set of keys?
Yes. A landlord or agent can keep a spare set of keys should they need to enter the property to deal with maintenance issues or to conduct a management inspection.
Again 24 hour prior written permission must be attained although immediate access may be possible in emergencies.
On the subject of keys, landlords are often faced with the frustrating situation of tenants leaving without returning keys to the property.
I recommend that a ‘key clause’ in the tenancy agreement can help encourage the tenants to return the keys, and also allow the landlord to recover any reasonable costs (normally from the deposit) where the tenant fails to do so.
Can a tenant change the locks or alarm codes?
As far as I am aware (and I have researched this thoroughly) there is no written legislation regarding as to whether or not a tenant is legally entitled to change the locks to the property without obtaining consent from the landlord.
Therefore, for the avoidance of doubt, our tenancy agreements (a service included in our Guaranteed Rent and Rent on Time packages) include a clause to help prevent ‘unauthorised’ change of locks as follows:
The tenant is not to change, alter, add to or otherwise damage any locks or bolts on the Property (except in the case of an emergency) without the prior written consent of the Landlord or his Agent. Such consent will not be unreasonably withheld. Where any new or additional locks or bolts are fitted to the Property, to promptly provide the Landlord or his Agent with an appropriate set of keys.
If any lock or bolt is installed or changed on or in the Property without the prior written consent of the Landlord or his Agent to remove them if so required by the Landlord or his Agent and be responsible for the fair costs of making good any resultant damage to the Property or spoilage of decoration.
“It should be noted in the AST that a tenant is to obtain written consent from the landlord to change the locks in the rental property.
If consent is granted, the tenant is obliged to give a copy of these keys to the landlord as well as all sets of keys to be returned back to the landlord at the end of the tenancy.
Although it’s likely a landlord will not be aware that locks have been changed by a tenant if they have not asked for consent, if a tenant changes the locks without the landlords permission, this is seen to be breach of contract.”
Some rental properties have an added benefit of a security alarm. This makes the tenant feel safe and secure and could be a good selling point when trying to look for a new tenant.
The tenant should not change any codes on the alarm system without your prior consent but once they do, they do not necessarily need to inform you of the new code.
As Mary summarises, the important thing that we must all remember is that the tenant is in a very powerful position once they have been granted a tenancy.
No landlord wants to end up in Court accused of Harassment or Illegal Eviction as a result of a landlord not showing respect for the tenants legal rights and doing something which would “interfere with the peace or comfort of the occupier” such as entering the property without permission.