In this article:
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Tenants have a right to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the property
- 3 Landlords and letting agents have a reasonable right of entry after using the correct notice
- 4 You can change the locks in your property and keep the keys to yourself
- 5 Negotiating landlord or letting agent access
- 6 Harassment
- 7 Where to go for help
- As a tenant the law guarantees you have a right to quiet enjoyment of your property.
- You’re free to live undisturbed and have privacy in your home.
- Anyone who wishes access, must first ask for your permission, including the landlord and the police (unless a court order grants them access).
- Your landlord or their representatives may be allowed reasonable access to carry out inspections or repairs, but must first get your permission.
- According to Section 11, from The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, your landlord needs to give you at least 24 hour notice before they come around and visit for any reason.
- Their visits must occur in reasonable times of the day.
- If you tenancy agreement says your landlord has full access to the property, then your landlord is trying to enforce an illegal clause.
- You can explicitly forbid access to your property.
- Anyone who enters without your permission is a trespasser and may be guilty of harassment.
It’s perfectly reasonable to believe that you have exclusive access to a property you rent (to live in). This is your home and by law you have a right to control who enters and when. It’s reasonable that your landlord or their representatives be allowed to access, but that has to be coordinated with you – the tenant.
The tenancy agreement that you sign with your landlord or letting agent, is a binding contract for both you and the landlord (or their representatives). The good ones will have information about under what circumstances your landlord can gain access to the property you rent.
When you rent a property and your landlord is a private person or a company, you will most likely sign an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement. This is the standard tenancy agreement that is implied by the law even if you don’t have a physical contract.
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Tenants have a right to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the property
Quiet enjoyment refers to the natural right to live peacefully and undisturbed in your home. This include how people access your home and what they do in direct conjunction of your home.
Example: People who raise a lot of noise during night time and interrupt your sleep and produce nuisance impair your quiet enjoyment of the property.
People who enter you home without permission by either you or the court, are trespassing and commit to a criminal offence.
Right of ‘quiet enjoyment’ is given to any legal occupant be he the freeholder of the property or a legal tenant. The holder of of the right for ‘quiet enjoyment’ has legal power to control other people’s access to the property, including people with a higher rank or title, official representatives of the government, and the police.
The only thing that can overrule the right for ‘quiet enjoyment’ is a relevant court order, allowing access to the property to a specific officer of the county court.
When you sign an Assured Shorthold tenancy agreement, the landlord agrees to surrender the possession of the property to you for the agreed fixed term. Along with the possession, the tenant also automatically gains the right of quiet enjoyment.
Tenants have control over who enters the property, when and under what circumstances, including the landlord, letting agent, repair crews, property inspectors and even the police, unless there is an issued court order allowing access.
Whenever somebody wants to come into your property, they must seek your permission. If it’s the landlord or letting agent, you must also notify you in advance, so you have a chance to arrange your presence, tidy the property and accommodate the visit.
The right can transfer even further down the chain. For example if you’re a subtenant , you inherit the right for quiet enjoyment. In this situation, both the original tenant (who is your legal landlord) and the property owner need to seek your permission to come into the property.
Landlords and letting agents have a reasonable right of entry after using the correct notice
While tenants hold the ultimate authority to control the access of their home, landlords also have a right to enter, as they need access to uphold their responsibilities for repairs and maintenance and scheduled inspections.
In a lease in which the lessor’s repairing covenant is implied there is also implied a covenant by the lessee that the lessor, or any person authorised by him in writing, may at reasonable times of the day and on giving 24 hours’ notice in writing to the occupier, enter the premises comprised in the lease for the purpose of viewing their condition and state of repair.
This means that unless your landlord or their letting agent has served you with at least 24h notice before they want to come visit, you’re under no obligation to accommodate their wishes and can arbitrarily sever their access to the property.
What is a correct notice for requesting access:
- It is served and accepted at least 24 hours before the time of entry
- The visit happens at a reasonable time of the day and allows the tenant to be present
- Contains details about who will enter the property and for what reason
- Respects the tenant’s right of quiet enjoyment of the property
What are legitimate reasons for your landlord’s entry
Move in / Move out inventory – Right at the beginning and right at the end of your tenancy, your landlord or letting agent will need to come in and benchmark the condition of the property. You can request a copy of each report and have a right to accompany the inspection or comment on the report’s statement.
Read more in our dedicated guide – The Tenancy Inventory Check
Requested or scheduled inspection of the property – Your landlord has a right to inspect the property on reasonable intervals throughout the tenancy. This gives them a chance to catch damage and deterioration before it turns into an expensive renovation project. Furthermore, when you request repairs to the property, the landlord must again enter to assess and confirm the issue and take on their repair responsibility.
Repairs and maintenance – Your landlord is responsible to maintain and repair the property after the tenant reports a problem, or an inspection has detected one. To do that however, the landlord will need to go inside the property.
Read more in our dedicated guide – Repairs and Maintenance Of Rented Properties
Allow access to workers for repairs and maintenance – When the landlord needs professional work done in the property, he can authorise workers to come in and do the necessary repairs. They will need access to the property to do their work.
Annual gas safety check – Your landlord is required by law to renew the gas safety certificate by performing an annual check to the gas installation and appliances. The safety check needs to be done by a certified Gas Safe Register engineer. He will need to access the property to perform this check.
Read more in our dedicated guide – Gas Safety – Repair of Rented Properties
Arrange viewings near the agreed end of the tenancy – When you’ve arranged the end of your tenancy, they may want to begin marketing the property to prospective tenants in efforts to miss void months. They will need to access and show the property around. It’s reasonable to expect that the property is in tidy condition for the viewings.
Landlords have a right to enter the property in cases of emergency
In an emergency, your landlord or their representatives will need immediate access to your home. At such times, they do not need your permission to access the property. This is very rare and usually only happens when safety issues are at stake. For example:
- There is a fire in the property
- There is a smell of gas
- Flooding coming from the property
- There has been structural damage which urgently needs attention
- There is the suspicion of a violent or criminal incident
You can change the locks in your property and keep the keys to yourself
The first thing you want to do when you move into a new property is change the locks – all of them. You don’t know who has rented the property in the past and how many people have keys to your current locks.
Typically, since you gain possession of the property for a period of time, you have a right to change the locks on your own. The landlord cannot forbid you to so.
Furthermore, you’re not required to give your landlord a set of keys. Under common law, there is no obligation for the tenant to provide keys to the landlord.
The landlord may only have a right to own a set of keys, if they specifically added such a clause in your Assured Shorthold tenancy agreement. If there is similar wording in your tenancy agreement, you may owe your landlord a set of keys to your property.
While you may be technically breaking the terms of the agreement, your landlord will face a hard time to force their entry through the courts. As there is a strong argument for your right to protect your privacy and occupy the property exclusively, the dispute’s resolution will be at the mercy of the court. In any case, such a legal proceeding can take so much time that the tenancy may end well before the court takes a final decision.
Your landlord is likely to evict you faster than they win a court decision to a set of keys
Indeed the procedure for your legal and physical eviction, using the court bailiffs may turn out to be faster, cheaper and easier than to decide such complicated matter like right of quiet enjoyment vs right of access.
There is hardly any financial penalty you can suffer, if you’ve maintained the property well, there is no damage and proper cleaning has been done before moving out. This means that you may get evicted, but suffer little to no loss of your tenancy deposit, which is a separate matter to your possession of the property.
Once again, you’re protecting your legal right of privacy and quiet enjoyment – it includes your landlord too.
The Verdict: You can legally change the locks and successfully keep everybody out, including your landlord for the entire length of the day. Even if your landlord has a claim to a set of keys, it’s easier for them to evict you than force their access through the courts.
Negotiating landlord or letting agent access
Since tenants and landlords have conflicting rights in this matter, the only way to resolve is with successful negotiation and establishing boundaries that satisfy both sides.
Just because you have a right to shut everybody out of the property, doesn’t mean you should !
You should assist and provide access for repairs, maintenance and inspections as it helps your landlord keep your home safe and fit for living. Keep in mind that your landlord cannot be responsible for repairs they never did because you don’t allow them to enter the property.
If you completely shut the landlord off the property, it’s very likely that they see this as an anti-social act and look into eviction.
Be reasonable and try to cooperate for the benefits of both. Act respectfully and maintain a healthy tone in your communication.
If you have a difficulty attending to a 24 hour notice, propose your landlord to give you a week’s worth of notice next time, so you have time to accommodate their visit.
You can even negotiate that to be signed as an addition to the tenancy agreement and make part of the contract.
Most landlord visits are low-key and do not make for tension unless bad feeling already exists between you. Problems with landlord access arise when:
- A landlord visits often and unnecessarily
- A landlord regularly outstays their welcome
- A landlord makes surprise visits late at night or early in the morning
- A landlord visits while you are not home without your permission
Your landlord could be guilty of harassment if they enter your home without your permission or send builders in without notice or at unsocial hours. This should not happen unless there is an emergency repair required. A written letter asking your landlord to stop this form of harassment should stop these sorts of visits from occurring.
It is a criminal offence for landlords to make visits in order to make you feel uncomfortable or to act in a way to make you leave your home. Harassment can be caused by the landlord or one of their representatives, friends, or family members.
If this occurs, do not let them into the property, write a letter to the landlord asking them to stop this form of harassment, and request that all future communications are put in writing. Keep a record of any disputes as they occur by documenting times, dates and quotes in case the harassment continues and you decide to take action against your landlord.
Where to go for help
If a landlord is persistent they can be charged with harassment under the Housing Act 1988, face a fine and be ordered by the court to keep away from your home.
If you have written a letter to your landlord but the harassment does not cease, continue to gather evidence and contact Citizens Advice and ask them for a legal consultation on how you can defend your privacy and rights
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This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.
We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our All advice category.
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