The importance of regular property visits
I am never particularly surprised when a landlord says that they haven’t checked their rental property in a number of years. Not because I am assuming they are a bad landlord, but because it can be time consuming and intrusive. Many landlords don’t want their tenants to feel like they are checking up on them. I get that.
You can sense it coming…. Here it comes… BUT you should! Why?
The law says we should
In 2018 a new piece of legislation came into force called the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act. This amended the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and made it clear that if any of the following were problematic then a property would be unfit to live in.
freedom from damp,
drainage and sanitary conveniences,
facilities for preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water.
This new (ish) act goes hand in hand with Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 and subsequent Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005. What this all means, is that as a landlord you are ultimately responsible for ensuring your property is safe and healthy at all times.
And if you don’t then you could find yourself in receipt of an enforcement notice from the Local Authority. This will affect your ability to serve notice to get your property back. You could also face a claim from your tenant for disrepair.
Moving away from the worst case scenario let’s look at some of the other reasons why it is sensible to carry out a regular visit
Insurance or Licence Conditions
Check your Landlords Insurance policy as very often there will be a condition which tells you how often you should carry out a property visit. You don’t want to invalidate your insurance.
If you own a licensable House In Multiple Occupation, then the licence is likely to have a condition for you to inspect at certain points.
Protecting your asset
Making sure you are on top of maintenance means that you don’t devalue the property value. One small job left unresolved can lead to a deterioration over time.
Your tenant will like you for it
Explain to your tenants that this is a visit to check on maintenance issues, not to see how they are living or if they are vacuuming regularly. Please don’t call them inspections!
Your tenant will be pleased that you are looking after the property and nipping any issues in the bud early. A happy tenant pays their rent and will often stay long term. It’s a win win situation for you both.
If you are on top of repairs and maintenance then when it comes to carrying out your statutory safety checks (gas and electric) you are less likely to have problems. This also includes your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, so make sure you test these when you are doing your visit. Ensure there are no sleeping children or dogs in the house first!
As well as assessing the condition you can also take the opportunity to make sure there are no breaches of the tenancy. This could include evidence of smoking, pets that have appeared, more people living in the house than on the tenancy, damage, overgrown gardens and so on. I once discovered a cannabis farm but that’s a whole other story.
Make sure you have a good look around the property so that you can be certain you are not missing any possible issues. This includes the garden. A court case in 2019 held that the landlord was liable for an injury sustained by the tenant as a result of a defective drain cover in the garden (Rogerson v Bolsover District Council).
Here are some other recommendations to consider when planning your property visit.
The law says that you must give at least 24 hours notice in writing (Section 11(6) Landlord and Tenant Act 1985). However, it is best practice to give your tenant as much notice as possible of your intended visit. They can then decide to be in or go out for the appointment.
Occasionally the date you suggest is not convenient for the tenant. Where that happens you should look to reschedule, as you must not enter the property without their consent. This would be a breach of their right to ‘quiet enjoyment’.
Write it up
It is sensible to make a written record of the visit including any photographs that you have taken. This will be useful should you need to make a claim on the deposit at the end of the tenancy, particularly for pet damage.
If a deposit claim is disputed then you will need to submit evidence to the Alternative Dispute Resolution. Along with the inventory the adjudicators like to see evidence of condition during the tenancy to give an idea of when the damage occured. For example, if there is damage caused by a pet but the tenant claims there was no dog at the property, your written report will be useful in proving your case.
Written documents are also useful if ever need to defend yourself against a claim.
Once you have carried out your visit, if there are any areas that you feel the tenants should address then you should write to them asking to do so. Where this happens on our visits, we will then carry out a follow up appointment.
On the flip side, if you are pleased with the way the tenant is keeping the property, let them know!
If you would like to know more about what happens during a property visit, or would like some help carrying out yours, please do get in touch.
Please note the date this article was published as the law or the essence may have changed since it was posted. You should always seek independent legal advice if you are intending to rely on any of the contents. Unless stated otherwise this article only reflects the position for the Private Rented Sector in England and therefore may not apply to other countries within the United Kingdom.
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