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Tenant Access and COVID-19

As most long-term landlords are aware, you need permission to access your buy to let property when there is a tenant in it.  

At least 24 hours’ notice is standard (and, in fact, law). But what is the situation now that many tenants will do doubt be self-isolating as a response to coronavirus and lockdown.  

They may not want you entering the property for risk of passing on the virus. And, because of that, they may even refuse entry. Are they allowed to do that? Well, at Property Loop, we attempt to answer that – and other questions – right here: 

What Are My Rights as a Landlord During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

As a landlord you obviously want to take care of your property so will need the right to access if, for instance, you wanted to: 

  • Make an essential repair (eg burst water pipe) 
  • Understand a quarterly inspection 
  • Get an annual gas check completed 
  • Get on with planned maintenance 
  • Let an electrician in to do a PAT test and other electrical checks 
  • Paint the flat or put up new curtains etc 

In the case of an emergency repair it’s fine to give less than 24 hours’ notice. You’d hope the tenant would want it fixed right away anyhow! 

It’s a good idea to schedule a time for visiting that’s good for your tenant ie when they are at work rather than relaxing at night (unless, of course, they work night shifts). 

If Your Tenant Refuses Access

You can neither force your way into the property, nor harass the tenant to let you in if they decide they don’t want to grant you, their landlord, access. Both of these scenarios may see you end up in court. 

What you can do though, is try to reach an amicable outcome by continuing to communicate with your tenant. Try to find out why they don’t want to let you in. Is it because, for instance, they feel guilty because they are late with the rent? Or does the flat need tidying? Maybe it’s because they simply don’t feel you have the right to enter their home. 

Tell them the maintenance checks are essential and that you are doing them for the tenant’s sake as well as your own peace of mind. Explain the legal side of it too ie you would be breaching your landlord obligations if you didn’t get them done. Point out too that in the case of a maintenance issue, the problem may deteriorate and you won’t be held responsible for their health if it does. Just make sure you’ve kept all (email) corresponding relating to the access issue in case you need to go to court to have the tenant evicted. 

If you are getting nowhere then threaten legal action. If they don’t oblige at this point then serve a Section 21 eviction order (although this may not be possible in coronavirus times when evictions are put on hold). 

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The COVID-19 Refusal Reason 

So long as the tenant isn’t self-isolating, they shouldn’t legally be able to stop you entering your buy to let property. You must, however, keep in mind social distancing and PPE guidelines. 

If the tenant is self-isolating then scheduled checks can be delayed for 14 days until that period is over. If the tenant is classed as ‘vulnerable’ then there is a time discrepancy for checks as far as the government is concerned – provided that you, the landlord, have taken “all reasonable steps to comply.” 

As to how your tenant will react, hopefully they have been in long enough for you to have stuck up good communication with them and they feel comfortable sharing their concerns with you. 

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