Landlord property inspection
The main purpose of an inspection is to evaluate the overall condition of a rental property; specifically to check if everything is in good working order and reasonable state, both the interior and exterior. It’s also the perfect opportunity to ensure your tenants are behaving in an appropriate manner.
Inspections are typically conducted on a quarterly basis but often reduced to bi-yearly after frequent positive inspections are conducted for the same tenants.
While it’s important to make regular inspections, it’s equally as important not to make too many inspections as it could be deemed as harassment. In most cases, there isn’t a reason to make so many inspections, unless there are genuine repairs and maintenance issues that need attention.
How to give tenants notice for a property inspection
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 s11 gives the landlord the right to enter the premises to view the “condition and state of repair”.
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.
- The inspection must be conducted at “reasonable times of the day”
- The landlord/agent must give 24 hours written notice
- If someone other than the landlord or agent is going to do the inspection, then that person should be authorised in writing
Why inspections are necessary and required
- Opportunity to spot any repairs & maintenance issues
This is the primary objective, to spot any obvious cries for attention. But more crucially, it’s the perfect opportunity to repair any minor problems before they spiral out of control and transform into major repairs and money pits. It’s always easier and cheaper to repair problems at their early stages. Something simple as a small leak can transform into a catastrophic disaster if it’s neglected for a long period. Please note that relying on tenants alone to report potential problems can be a recipe for disaster because they often won’t. Granted, most tenants will report serious issues, but many won’t report the little ones until it’s too late… and expensive to repair. So annoying. Tenants can often be completely unaware of potential issues. For example, your tenant might be accustom to the smell of dampness, however, you might notice it as soon as you walk through the front door. A set of fresh eyes, ears and nose is extremely useful for picking out minor problems at their early stages.
- Assess tenants’ living conditions
While the condition of the property might be generally sound, it doesn’t necessarily mean your tenants are keeping the property in good order. If that’s the case, you may not have legal grounds to evict, but you may want to consider whether or not you wish to renew the tenancy when the fixed term comes to an end.
- Spot illegal activities
Some of the most destructive tenants are the best payers because they want to keep their landlord away from the property so they can conduct illegal activities.
- Helps build a relation with your tenants
A good tenant-landlord relationship can be the key to a profitable and stress-free relationship. There’s a lot to be said about a good tenant/landlord relationship- it makes everything easier, including the arrangement of inspections and repairs. Tenants are less likely to stay if they’re happy with their landlord, which ultimately equals to long-term, reliable tenants.
- New tenants & viewings
It’s common practice for landlords to conduct an inspection before they start viewings with prospective tenants before the current tenants are due to vacate. It makes sense, as the landlord wants to ensure the property is presentable.
What you should be looking for during inspections
- Dampness & mould
- General condition of fittings
- Condition of graden
- Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
- Lofts & attics
A common dilemma with inspections is that there is a fine line between ‘fair wear and tear’ and ‘damage’. Landlords can’t make tenants liable for fair wear and tear, but only damage. So it’s important to recognise the difference during your inspections, otherwise, you may end up making your tenants wrongfully responsible for certain repairs.
Inspections & inventory reports
The primary purpose of the inventory report is to help tenants and landlords restore the rental property to the original condition as when the tenancy began, while a routine inspection is to make sure the property is in good working order and the tenants are well-behaved.
Inspection clauses in Tenancy Agreements
Most tenancy agreements will have ‘inspection clauses’ specifying that the landlord has permission to access the premises to conduct an inspection.
12.2 The Landlord reserves the right to enter the Property at any reasonable time on giving not less than 24 hours’ prior notice to the Tenant:
12.2.1 to inspect the condition and state of repair of the Property;
12.2.2 to carry out the Landlord’s obligations under this agreement;
- keep the structure and exterior of the property in good repair, including drains, gutters and external pipes
- keep installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity and sanitation in good repair and proper working order
- keep installations for space heating and water heating in good repair and proper working order
In any case, the inspection clauses are usually in all tenancy agreements and I wouldn’t use one without them, just in case.
If the tenant refuses entry
An inspection can feel quite intrusive and often tenants don’t feel comfortable with strangers walking around their home. So it’s easy to understand why they might be reluctant to allow entry.
Under Common Law, all tenants are entitled to live in ‘quiet enjoyment’ which essentially means the landlord /agent must ask the tenant’s permission before entering the premises. But what if permission is asked and it is refused, even when the landlord/agent is willing to arrange for a suitable time for the tenant?
The landlord or the agent cannot enter the premises without permission- asking for it alone is not enough, the tenant must agree. If the landlord or agent enters without permission it could be deemed as trespassing or harassment. The only exception for ‘forceful entry’ is if there is an emergency. Section 11 states that if there is an emergency the landlord can enter without permission, i.e. a heavily leaking/burst water pipe or fire.
If the tenant refuses entry, and as a direct consequence the property is in worse repair at the end of the tenancy because the landlord wasn’t given access to assess the condition and state of repair, the landlord may be able to claim against the deposit.
Finally, if the tenant does unequivocally refuse access you may want to consider whether or not you wish to renew the tenancy when the fixed term comes to an end. You can serve a Section 21 notice so they have to vacate at the end of the tenancy,