You’d be forgiven for thinking you can enter your buy-to-let property when you want, it’s your property after all, right? Unfortunately, this is not the case. Whilst it’s frustrating for a tenant to deny you access - whether for a legal obligation or to carry out a viewing - it’s a tenant’s right to deny you access to the property whilst they reside there.
Tenants have what is known as the right to quiet enjoyment. This means there are legally entitled to live in the property without interference from the landlord, or anyone who is representing them. Essentially, although you own the property, you cannot treat it this way once a tenancy is granted. The Protection from Eviction Act 1977 also protects tenants from harassment and eviction, so be careful about how you approach your tenants for access.
If a tenant has previously allowed you access to the property, or stipulated certain conditions such as time of day or for them to be present, you could assume that you can gain entry on that basis. But why take the risk? Although only a minimum of 24 hours written notice is required, it’s best to give your tenant’s as much notice as possible and to work around their schedule. The most important aspect of gaining access is maintaining an open line of communication. If you use a letting agent, make sure they are respecting your tenant in the same manner.
A tenant could deny access for inspections, viewings, a maintenance issue or a gas safety check. For legal requirements, like the gas safety check, a tenant denying access if very serious. For this scenario, you should explain that it’s a legal requirement and is for their own protection. If this falls on deaf ears, you’ll need to contact your local authority who will be able to serve an order on your tenant to allow access. For inspections and viewings, it’s a little more tricky. Many tenancy agreements contain clauses allowing for access for these, but they’ll likely not be upheld if your tenant has expressly denied consent to access the property. Make sure to keep copies of all correspondence- highlighting the need for written communications with tenants.
The most important thing to remember about access is that whilst to you this is your buy-to-let property, to a tenant it’s their home. Think how you would feel if someone wanted to access your property to carry out an inspection or bring viewers round? Be respectful, communicate and be flexible when arranging access. Explain why you need access and don’t assume that you can enter whenever you please, you must have the tenant’s confirmation to avoid any tricky legal situations.