The Property Access Kit

Are your tenants refusing to allow you access for property inspections?

As a landlord, in order to comply with your legal and other obligations you will need access to inspect the property from time to time:

For example:

  • To carry out the annual gas safety inspections – required by law
  • To carry out regular electric inspections – also required by law
  • To update your energy performance certificate
  • To carry out regular property inspections to check its condition – most insurance policies now require this
  • To make sure your tenants are not breaking the law in some way (see below) – which could result in YOU suffering penalties
  • To carry out repair works – if not done this can result in the property condition deteriorating
  • To carry out works to improve the energy efficiency of the property – most landlords will need to do this

You may also need access to

  • Show the property to prospective tenants, or
  • Prospective purchasers
Saying no

The problem

Frequently tenants will refuse to allow landlords access - for a variety of reasons

They may dislike you and don't want you coming into their home

They may be suspicious

and think there is an ulterior motive

They may have an unauthorised occupier living at the property

which they don't want you to know about

They may have damaged the property

or done something else which they don't want you to know about

They may be carrying on criminal activities at the property

(such as converting it to a cannabis farm)

They may be 'bloody minded' or just plain stupid

(insofar as the gas safety checks are concerned)

Whatever their reason - if they say you can't go in, you can't go in.

If you enter against their wishes YOU will be breaking the law (and they may be able to claim against you for compensation).

 For example:

  • All tenancies contain what is called ‘the covenant of quiet enjoyment’ – this means that you must leave them to live in the property undisturbed by you, the landlord (its nothing to do with enjoying themselves!)
  • The Protection From Eviction Act 1977 also provides that landlords must not ‘harass’ residential occupiers (which will include going in without their consent) or evict them other than through the courts
  • This includes cutting off the gas or electric supply if they refuse to allow access for inspections.  Don’t do this!
  • If you enter the property without their consent they may also have a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997

If you harass them or enter without their consent

  • Tenants can bring a claim for compensation or
  • In some circumstances apply to the First Tier Tribunal for a Rent Repayment Order

Both of these could prove very expenses. You do not want to risk this.

But if you don't carry out property inspections this can result in big problems for you.

Let's take a look at some of them.

1.

There may be unauthorised occupiers living at the property

If so - this could turn your property into an HMO.

If your property has:

Three or more tenants, who form two or more households

HMO-2

It will automatically be an HMO – and subject to the HMO management regulations. It may also be liable for licensing if your Local Authority has a scheme.

 

Five or more tenants, who form two or more households

HMO-1

It will automatically be liable for mandatory HMO licensing.  Meaning that you will need to apply (and pay for) an HMO license – and do any required works – otherwise, you will be renting your property illegally. 

If you are found to be operating a licensable HMO which is not licensed

  • You could be prosecuted and fined
  • The Local Authority could serve a penalty charge notice on you for up to £30,000
  • Your tenants (or the Local Authority if rent is being paid by some form of benefit) can apply to the First Tier Tribunal for a rent repayment order for up to 12 months worth of rent
  • If you are prosecuted and convicted, the Local Authority can apply for a banning order.

Hopefully, none of these things will happen to you.  Probably they won’t.  But they could do.  You need to make sure that they don’t.

2.

The tenants may be preventing you from carrying out the annual Gas Safety Inspection

This is very common

 If you are able to show three ‘documented’ attempts to gain access, the Health and Safety Executive (who police the gas regulations) will not prosecute.

However

  • The HSE will expect you to carry on trying – particularly in a long term tenancy
  • The gas appliances at your property could be in a dangerous condition – this is why we have annual inspections in the first place!
  • This could cause injury to your tenants, and
  • In the case of an explosion, cause damage to your property and even
  • Damage neighbouring properties

This is unlikely but is not impossible.  Gas can be very dangerous.

Similar points could be made about landlords obligations to carry out regular electric inspections – now required by law.

3.

They may be carrying out illegal activities at your property

Don't think this won't happen to you! It can!

For example:

  • The tenants could have converted your property into a cannabis farm, or
  • Even if the whole property has not been converted, they could be growing just a few plants perhaps in the attic
  • They may be dealing in drugs
  • They may be ‘hotwiring’ the electricity supply – this can be a serious fire risk
  • They may be using the property for other illegal activities such as a brothel using trafficked people, or
  • A criminal call centre trying to scam people

All of these are examples of things criminals do in rented property.

Naturally the criminals will not want to give you access for a property inspection!

However if you ‘turn a blind eye’ YOU can be held liable yourself in some circumstances.

4.

You may need access to do repair and improvement works

Failure to carry out works in a timely manner can cause you to suffer loss

For example

  • If repairs are not carried out promptly the problem will get worse and will probably mean a much more expensive repair bill when you finally get access
  • Most landlords will need to upgrade their properties to improve the energy efficiency rating to C within the next few years – to allow the UK to meet its climate targets
  • Grant aid is often available but to claim it you may need to carry out the works within a specific timescale.  Which will be impossible if your tenant is refusing access.

5.

Failure to carry out inspections may invalidating your insurance

Many insurers now require landlords to carry out regular inspections

You need to check this with your insurers.

But most landlord insurance policies will now require landlords to carry out regular inspections (normally at least every six months) and keep records.

Worst case scenario:

It is not unknown for landlords to find, on recovering their property at the end of the tenancy, that it has been converted to a cannabis farm.  Inevitably there will have been massive damage done to your property.

However

  • If you have failed to carry out any inspections, and also if
  • You have failed to properly reference those tenants before they went in

Your insurer will be justified in refusing to accept the claim.  

This will almost certainly cost you a lot of money.  Landlords have had to pay upwards of £80,000 (or more) to repair the damage done in this situation in the past.

There is not a lot of point on paying for insurance if you are not going to be able to make a claim!

For these and for other reasons, it is important that you are given access where necessary.

So if your tenants refuse - what can you do?

Developing a solution - the Property Access Kit

I’m Tessa Shepperson, a specialist landlord & tenant lawyer.  For many years I ran my own solicitors firm and now I provide training and information services to landlords and letting agents.

I have been aware of this issue for years and have often advised landlords struggling to gain access.  Several years ago I, together with housing barrister Robert Brown, developed a Kit specifically for access for gas safety inspections (called the Gas Access Kit).

However, this is now out of date and I felt that a more general solution was needed to help landlords.  Access for gas inspections is just one of several situations where landlords experience problems.

Having discussed the matter with Robert, we decided to upgrade our Kit to cover all of the common situations (as discussed above) where landlords require tenants to provide access.

So the kit now covers the following:

  • Guidance on access for gas safety inspections, electricity inspections, property inspections, access for works and access to show the property to prospective tenants and purchasers.
  • An explanation of the law – both generally and for the different access situations
  • Tactics you can use to persuade tenants without court proceedings 
  • A step by step guide on obtaining an injunction for access for gas safety inspections (which is the main situation where injunctions are used)
  • General guidance on possession proceedings where access has been refused

In most cases this should be enough to let you deal with the situation. 

In short, the kit:

  • Explains the law and your legal rights
  • Gives you a plan to follow
  • Provides draft letters for you to use
  • Recommends organisations which may be able to help
  • Gives detailed guidance on court paperwork including possession notices and the court forms for obtaining an injunction (and for some types of possession claim)
  • Provides clarity and makes the whole thing easier to manage

What the kit contains

Here is an outline of the main content:

PART 1

  • An outline of the problem, including
  • An explanation of tenants rights
  • An explanation of the penalties for unlawful access
  • A list of the situations where you will need to carry out inspections with an explanation, for each of these, of the law which applies

PART 2

  • Guidance on how to persuade tenants without having to go to court, including
  • Keeping records (with some forms to help you)
  • Draft letters to use
  • Organisations that may be able to assist
  • Possession notices, including covering letters
  • Access for repair works

PART 3

  • General guidance on court proceedings and injunction claims
  • Detailed guidance (drafted by Robert Brown) on obtaining an injunction to allow access for gas safety inspections, including
  • Completing the forms (including witness statements)
  • Issuing your claim and
  • The court hearing

PART 4

  • Considering possession proceedings generally
  • Abandonment
  • Bringing claims using grounds 6 and 12 
  • Basic notes on the court paperwork, and
  • Issuing proceedings and bringing a claim

    Note that Part 4 is less detailed than Part 3 although we do include draft particulars (drafted by Robert) for failure to allow access for a gas safety inspection.

    The court claim precedents are focused on claims relating to gas safety inspections as these tend to be the cases which are most problematic – and where landlords are most likely to succeed at court (as gas can be so dangerous).

    As well as the kit content, we also provide links to other services, articles, and free ebooks which can help.

    WalesIf your property is based in Wales – note that new laws will come into force after 15 July 2022 which are not covered in this kit.  In particular, the court paperwork may not be suitable for the Welsh courts after 15 July 2022 and you should take legal advice from Welsh solicitors before using them.  

    About the authors

    Robert Brown

    Robert Brown

    Robert is a specialist housing barrister, having been recommended for property litigation and social housing in the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners. He was called to the Bar in 2008 and joined Selborne Chambers in 2018 . He has authored and edited several standard legal texts. He also sits as a part time Deputy District Judge.

    Tessa Shepperson

    Tessa has been a solicitor since 1990 and has specialised in landlord and tenant law for many years, She ran her own law firm between 1994 and 2013 but now focuses on her online service Landlord Law and developing training and other other information products for landlords and others in the private rented sector.

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    The only parts of the kits which are perhaps best dealt with on a laptop or desktop computer are the forms. However, the kit can easily be accessed, for example on your smart-phone, while travelling or waiting in a queue.

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    Our guarantee to you

    If you find the kit is unsuitable for you in any way – all you need to do is email us requesting a cancellation not later than 30 days after purchase, giving your reason why.

    We will then cancel your purchase (and your access) and refund your money within 14 days.

    Bundle Offer for our Property Inspection Kit

    The Property Inspection Kit (which gives step by step guidance on how to prepare for and deal with a property inspection visit) is one of the most popular kits we have ever done.

    If you do not already own this, or are not a Landlord Law Business Level member (when you will get free access) you have the opportunity to buy the +Plus version at a 50% discount when you buy the Property Access Kit.

    Just select the bundle deal option below when buying.

    You can find out more about the Property Inspection Kit here (the link will open in a new tab or window).

    Your questions answered:

    Q: How do I get this – is it sent to me by post?

    A: No, the kit is an online kit, although you are provided with a pdf version which you can print out if you prefer to read offline.  Nothing is sent to you by post.

    Q: What if I can’t access the kit or if it does not work on my computer?

    A: We have sold kits using this software before and users appear to have no problems.  However, if you have issues, you can always cancel under our guarantee and get your money back.

    Q: I am based in  Wales, can I use the kit?

    A:  Yes, but note that Welsh housing law is due to change dramatically in July 2022 when the Renting Homes (Wales) Act comes into force.  Parts of the kit may be of limited value after that (although it will still be useful).  You should also take advice before using any of the court precedent documents.

    Q: I am based in Scotland, can I use the kit?

    A: Scotland has a different legal system, as does Northern Ireland.  However, the kit may still be useful on a practical level so long as you are aware that some of the specific legal points will not necessarily apply to you.

    Q: How long do I get access?

    A:  You get ‘lifetime’ access  – this means that you will be able to use the kit as long as the kit is available on this site and this site is up and running (ie for the lifetime of this website). Although we only guarantee 12 months access – so if the site gets taken down for any reason during the first 12 months after purchase, you can claim a refund of a proportionate part of your purchase price.

    Q: I am a Landlord Law member – do I need to buy the kit?

    A: Yes, as it is not included with Landlord Law membership. 

    Q: I am a Landlord Law member – do I get any discounts?

    Yes, if you are a Business Level member you will get an automatic discount of 20%.  If you are a Basic Level member you will get an automatic discount of 10% – so long as you are logged in at the time of purchase.  You can offset your points when purchasing – although note that points cannot be combined with a coupon, so if you have a coupon you will need to chose whether to use the coupon or offset your points.

    Q: Can I ask you questions about my particular issues?

    A: The kit does not include any ‘one to one’ advice element.  However, you can put your questions in our feedback form and it may be chosen to feature in the final version.  If you are a Landlord Law member you will be able to ask questions via our members’ forum.

    Q: I prefer not to pay online – can I pay by BACS or cheque?

    A: No.  We only accept payment via our online system.  However, you can elect to pay by either credit / debit card or pay pal.

    Q: If I get the kit alone but then decide I would like the bundle deal with the Property Inspection Kit, can I change over?

    A: No, the bundle deal is only available at first purchase.

    Q: If I have technical problems how can I get support?

    A: You will see a green button at the bottom right of the screen.  Click this and it will open up the messenger service used for support.  We have a help page here.

    How to buy the Property Access Kit:

    If you are a Landlord Law member or if you have bought anything else from us in the past – e.g. one of our kits or training courses – you should   log into the site first (all links will open in a new tab or window).

    Use your email as your username and if you can’t remember your password, click the lost password link to get a new one.

    Then come back to this page and proceed as follows:

    • Click one of the buy now buttons.  You can either buy the kit alone or together with our Property Inspection Kit.
    • This will take you to the purchase page.  Click to add to the ‘basket’.  Then click to go to checkout.
    • If you are a logged in Landlord Law member you will be able to offset your Landlord Law points here. (Not sure what points are?  See our info page here.)  However note that points cannot be used in combination with a coupon – so if you have a coupon you will have to decide whether to use the coupon or claim your points.
    • You need to input your payment and other details.  You can pay either by pay pal or by credit / debt card (the page just says credit card but you can use your debit card too)
    • Make sure you click the terms and conditions button and then click the ‘Place Order’ button.  Tip – you may need to wait a while for your order to process.  Please be patient.
    • Once the payment goes through you will be granted immediate access to the kit.
    • You should also receive several emails – one will be a receipt for your payment, another will provide a link to access your kit later.  Tip – if you don’t see them in your email in box – check your spam folder.

    If you have any problems with purchasing you will find guidance via the green button at the bottom right of every page or you can use this to send us a message.

    All kits are sold subject to our standard terms and conditions.

    Please now select one of the two options below:

    The Property Access Kit

    The Property Access Kit includes the following:

    • Part 1 – An explanation of the law (including guidance on tenants rights, penalties for unlawful access, and information on the various situations where access will be required) 
    • Part 2 – Tactics you can use to persuade tenants without court proceedings (including record keeping, letters, organisations which may be able to assist, possession notices with covering letters and access for repair works).
    • Part 3 – A step by step guide on obtaining an injunction  (to include court paperwork and attendance at court.  The guidance is for obtaining an injunction for access for a gas safety inspection which is the type most likely to succeed).
    • Part 4 – General guidance on possession proceedings in these circumstances (inuding advice on dealing with abandonment, bringing claims using grunds 6 and 12, notes on the paperwork 
    • Links to supplementary material 
    • PDF versions of all four parts.

    Cost is £240 (£200 + VAT)

    The Property Access Kit and Property Inspection Kit Bundle

    ** Do not select this option if you are a Landlord Law Business Level member as the Property Inspection kit is already included in your membership **

    With this option, you will get the Property Access Kit (as described above) and the +Plus version of the Property Inspection Kit which includes the following:

    • A guidance section on how to use the kit
    • Why inspections are necessary
    • Preparing for your inspection visit – discussing all that you need to do with forms to help you
    • The Inspection visit – including dealing with tenant negative attitudes and taking photographs
    • Following up, which includes standard letters to send tenants
    • Finally, we look at what to do if tenants won’t let you in, with some standard letters you can use in this situation

    The Plus forms are

    • The ‘Right to Rent’ checklist (not necessary for tenants in Wales)
    • The Pets form
    • The Diary Sheet

    The normal kit price (+ Plus version) is £60 but with this bundle deal you can get it for an extra £30 – ie 50% discount!

    Feedback from purchasers of the Property Access Kit

    "Very good layout and easy to follow"
    Michael
    Landlord
    "A great source of information. It would have been very helpful If I'd had it a few years ago, and I would certainly find it useful if having to deal with similar issues in the future."
    Iain
    Landlord
    "It has given me the confidence to undertake litigation if necessary, if negotiation proves fruitless"
    Andrew
    Landlord

    Feedback from purchasers of the Property Inspection Kit

    In our survey of our initial Property Inspection Kit users (85 responses) 77% said the kit had changed their views on inspections and how they would carry them out in future.

    " Once again, Ms Shepperson has produced a clear and highly informative kit to assist both the new landlord and professionals. Her clear narrative is easy to understand and she covers the topics to the highest level as always"
    Tracey Fisher,
    Letting Agent
    " Clear and simple structure to follow but backed up by sound legal advice. Will now make doing the inspections an easy task instead of something to be concerned about. Thank you"
    Alison Smith,
    Landlord
    " An easy to follow guide to do inspections and protect the Landlord"
    B A Mathon,
    Landlord
    " A great little toolkit written in plain English to put an easy to follow process around a necessary aspect of being a landlord. The standard letters are particularly useful"
    Vicky Farmer,
    Landlord
    " Simple yet comprehensive and I doubt there are many, if any, landlords who can't gain something from this kit."
    Martin Lloyd,
    Landlord
    "The kit is well laid out and informative in a much neglected area of housing."
    Stephen Wilson,
    Housing Adviser