Landlord Property Inspection Guide

There are many aspects a landlord must consider if they are to maintain a stress free tenancy period. The tenant referencing process, taking a guarantor, even rent in advance are all measure a landlord can implement to ensure that their income and buy to let investment are protected for the foreseeable future. Few occupations lean so heavily into the trust based dynamic between the two parties of a tenancy agreement, with both the landlord and tenant having numerous legal responsibilities to uphold; maintaining a good relationship with your tenants and safeguarding your rental can both come with landlord property inspections.

What Do Landlords Check When Inspecting?

Of course the intricacies of inspections will vary between landlords and the property in question; however there are aspects of their rental property that must be observed closely in order to comply with current health and safety regulations.

To this end landlords must be aware of the signs of damp and mould. Typically occurring in areas of the property that encounter high amounts of moisture like the bathroom and cooking facilities, these can arise in obscure places so ensuring adequate ventilation sis available to these spaces is vital. With this is mind issues such as rot and damp often arise from an unsolved leak within the property. Of course leaks can be detrimental to the structure of the rental and must be urgently remedied if encountered during an inspection.

Whilst the gas and electrical appliances and outlets found throughout the property will be subject to their own safety assessments, property inspections provide landlords with the opportunity to ensure these are still functioning safely and if any appliances need to be replaced or repaired.  It is also essential that rental property owners regularly ensure the upkeep of safety measures found throughout their lets; working to maintain smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, alongside any extinguishers and fire blankets that may also be provided.

Why Would a Landlord Do an Inspection?

Whilst many landlords state that taking rent in advance from a tenant or simply requesting the maximum tenancy deposit from their occupants will be enough of an incentive for their property and is contents to be respected during the tenancy period. However, perhaps the most immediate benefit from a landlord carrying out an inspection of their rental property is to note any damage that has occurred.

With this in mind, the intent is not to hold the occupants of the property accountable for anything found, but to address any areas of the property that are in need of remedial work. It goes without saying that in most cases, if this damage goes ignored or unnoticed it will only get worse, leaving a larger bill for the associated costs of fixing the issue. Of course, it is the responsibility of the tenants to notify the landlord of any deterioration of the rental, its appliances or fixtures, but the tell-tale sign of issues that are indicative of a larger problem can often go unnoticed; or in the rarer cases of malicious damage simply go unreported.

Going somewhat hand in hand with this reasoning for an inspection, landlords should also be identifying the living conditions of the properties occupants and if they are in breach of any of the tenancy agreement’s terms. In these instances is the tenant subletting without your permission? Have they introduced a pet to the property without notifying you? Of course these are very particular circumstance and how they are handled is down to the discretion of the individual landlord. Depending on the significance of the breach a landlord may wish to move forward with a section 21 notice to evict the tenant, or simply to repossess the rental property at the close of the tenancy agreement.

Upon the signing of the tenancy agreement the landlord undertakes a particular duty of care to the tenants, with property inspections allowing them to assess anything that could infringe upon the habitability of the rental. Commonly issues of damp, mould and infestation are far easier to identify upon regular inspections as they tend to develop gradually.

Whilst this is uncommon the unfortunate reality is that a number of problem tenants can fly under the radar and rent the property with the intention of using it to conduct illegal activities. This can go largely unnoticed by landlords as on face value there appears to be no issues with the tenants as they pay rent on time, however, this alone isn’t justification to neglect properly safeguarding your rental property investment.

The value of maintaining a good relationship with your tenants is something that is heard often but is still underappreciated. Making a conscious effort to make the tenancy as smooth as possible for your tenants can establish trust and transparency, making the occupants of the property not only more likely to report any issues, but work with you where they may not be able to meet rental payments and other issues that may arise making for a longer term, reliable tenant; something every landlord reveres.

In the instances where the occupants of the rental property do not wish to renew the agreement and move onto another property, the landlord will naturally want the transitional period to be as seamless as possible. It goes without saying that a key aspect of this is ensuring the property is an a good, habitable condition prior to the handover, and an inspection could prevent any last minute surprises for both the landlord and a tenant in regards to their tenancy deposit. However, it is worth noting that when a final property inspection is being conducted by the landlord, both parties will be able to refer to the provided inventory report curated at the outset of the tenancy. This will provide an undeniable report of the condition of the rental property and its contents when the tenancy period was initiated, allow the landlord to see if the tenant has upheld their obligation to return the let in a similar condition, whilst accounting for any fair wear and tear.  

How Often Should a Landlord Inspect a Property?

Traditionally landlords will schedule the first inspection of their rental property for the new tenancy, around three months after the tenants have moved in. This will give landlords an invaluable and undiluted insight into how the new tenants are abiding by their agreement and if the property is being respected. Of course, as the tenancy period progresses, or if it a long term tenancy then the landlord may feel they can be more relaxed regarding regularly inspecting the property, although this is highly subject to the relationship held between both parties.

Quiet Enjoyment and Landlords’ Rights of Access

Upon the signing of the tenancy agreement possession of the property is lawfully transferred to the tenant, and with this they can enjoy certain liberties and rights; most appropriately the right to quiet enjoyment of a property. This means that any account that is deemed either unreasonable or unnecessary and causes significant interference with the tenant’s use of the property.  

With this in mind a landlord is legally obliged to provide any residents of their rental properties with a minimum of 24 hours’ notice before they intended to enter the property. It is also worth noting that this responsibility, whilst held by the landlord, is not exclusively applied to them as any third parties such as letting agents and tradesman must also adhere to this notice. The landlord must also be weary of carry out any work to the structure of the property and its contents without first notifying the tenants, particularly if they are reluctant to grant the owner access. In these circumstances the tenants may see this as the landlord physically interfering with the property if any accidental damage occurs during these remedial efforts.

However, this does not mean the landlord is unable to effectively safeguard their rental investment. Whilst the tenants do enjoy the control over who ultimately enters the property and when, The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 does empower the landlords in these events. Specifically the act that’s 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.”

Essentially this means that a landlord or property is able to enter the rental property providing they have provided the residents of the rental with adequate notice, however, simply giving 24 hours’ notice of your intentions doesn’t overrule a tenants right to quiet enjoyment and access can still be refused. Additionally, it is outlined that any property inspections must occur during a reasonable time of the day to facilitate the tenant being present during the assessment of the rentals condition. When offering the occupants with this notice it is also essential to detail which parties will be entering the rental property and their purpose for doing so, with this becoming particularly important when arranging for any repair work following an inspection.

It is also worth noting that a landlord is able to enter a rental property, regardless of if tenants are present, in the case of an emergency. In such cases the landlord, letting agents or repair workers are able to grant themselves immediate access to the rental, regardless of any inconvenience or disruption to the tenant. These events typically comprise; if there is a fire in the property, if there are reports or suspicions of a gas leak, any burst pipes or faults that have led to internal flooding of the property, anything that has caused significant damage to the rental properties structure, and is the landlord or lettings agent suspects there to be a serious incident taking place within the property.

Can Tenants Refuse Access to the Property?

As can be appreciated, landlord inspections can be seen as inconvenient or perhaps even disruptive to a tenant’s routine and it isn’t uncommon for the occupants of a rental property to refuse access to their landlord. Whilst this could be put down to the time and date of the inspection being inopportune, consistent refusal to allow the landlord to enter the premises could be an attempt to hide disrepair or a breach of the tenancy agreement.

In such circumstance in can be difficult for landlords to know where they stand as it is the occupants of the property themselves that are preventing you from enacting your duty of care towards them. However, in these instances the landlord should continue to try and establish open communication with the tenant in an effort to reach a compromise or mutually convenient time to enter the property. If no response is received from the tenant, or access to the rental is still withheld the landlord should notify the residents that they will be held accountable for any damages or other deterioration of the rental property and its contents. Additionally landlords can find peace of mind in knowing that they cannot be held legally liable for any damages that were not brought to their attention by the tenants.

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