Despite the fact that landlords continue to officially own a property when it is let out to a tenant, it is actually illegal for a landlord to enter that property without the renter’s agreement whilst the lease is still within its term. This is because renters have a right to live in the property undisturbed – this is a statutory right and cannot be excluded from a tenancy agreement. If your tenancy agreement states that the landlord can enter the property at any time without agreement from the tenant this is not a legal clause and even though it is written in the agreement and you have signed it will not be valid. If you have a clause in your lease that sounds similar to this, the Office of Fair Trading has provided some guidance on the kind of clause that is likely to be unacceptable (oft356):
3.32 “We would object to a provision giving the landlord an excessive right to enter the rented property. Under any kind of lease or tenancy, a landlord is required by common law to allow his tenants ‘exclusive possession’ and ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the premises during the tenancy. In other words, tenants must be free from unwarranted intrusion by anyone, including the landlord. Landlords are unfairly disregarding that basic obligation if they reserve a right to enter the property without giving reasonable notice or getting the tenant’s consent, except for good reason.”
What right does a landlord have to enter a property?
A landlord can enter a property to carry out reasonable repairs for which they are responsible, either under the tenancy agreement or by law. However, this right can only be exercised by a landlord who has given a tenant 24 hours notice. Most renters will also have the right to prevent the landlord from entering the property unless the tenant has given specific permission.
What happens if the landlord does not get permission?
A landlord that enters a property without permission could be prosecuted for harassment. The law in this area is defined by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, which states that :
The landlord of a residential occupier or an agent of the landlord shall be guilty of an offence if—
(a) he does acts likely to interfere with the peace or comfort of the residential occupier or members of his household, or
(b) he persistently withdraws or withholds services reasonably required for the occupation of the premises in question as a residence,
and (in either case) he knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, that that conduct is likely to cause the residential occupier to give up the occupation of the whole or part of the premises or to refrain from exercising any right or pursuing any remedy in respect of the whole or part of the premises.
A happy working relationship
Many landlords simply don’t understand that, by turning up unannounced for whatever reason, they are effectively harassing a tenant – usually they are just trying to help. At TTV we have heard numerous horror stories, including landlords letting themselves in just as a tenant is stepping out of the shower or even in the middle of the night.
If your landlord is continuously doing this then the first step is simply to ask them whether they realise you have a right of quiet enjoyment of the property that is designed to ensure you feel like it is your home whilst you are paying rent there. TTV would recommend that you keep the conversation fairly casual and try to illustrate how it might feel for the landlord if someone who is essentially a stranger turns up at their home unannounced.
If the landlord either refuses to acknowledge your right to live undisturbed or continues to simply do as they please then you can complain and take action. In general, local authorities handle cases of harassment and that should be your first port of call. If you decide to make a civil claim against the landlord then this will be on the basis of a breach of your right to quiet enjoyment of the property and you will usually make a claim for damages.