We had the White Paper published last week, and I see that there are new proposals for grounds for possession. However, I wonder whether there should also be a new ground for unreasonably refusing a landlord’s inspection?
Now I know many tenants will object to this as they think inspections are just landlords being nosey parkers. And many landlords don’t want the hassle of inspections and find them embarrassing and so often neglect them. However, they are very important.
Consider the following situations.
Refusal to allow gas inspections
This is of course, ‘the big one’, and most court proceedings about refusal to allow access today are in the context of tenants unreasonably refusing to allow gas safety inspections. Generally, the proceedings are for ‘gas injunctions’ and are brought by social landlords.
However, private landlords also have this problem, and it is a very worrying one. Gas can, after all, be very dangerous. It is possible for explosions to damage not only the rented property but neighbouring properties too.
It might help to persuade reluctant tenants if the landlord could say that if they refuse they will be giving the landlord a ground for possession.
These are probably more common than many people realise. They will obviously not want landlords to carry out inspections.
If a landlord has criminal tenants, for example, if they are converting his property to a cannabis farm or are carrying out other illegal activities there, landlords clearly should be wary about entering – criminal tenants have been known to ‘booby trap’ properties to keep out rival gangs. Suspicions should be reported to the police.
The police, however, are concerned about catching criminals. They are not concerned with helping landlords recover possession of their property.
Although there is a possession ground, based on criminal behaviour, this specifically refers to convicted criminals. What are landlords supposed to do in the meantime? A ground allowing them possession based on failure to allow inspections could be a useful option for landlords needing to recover possession quickly in this situation.
The government and local authorities are quite rightly clamping down on illegal HMOs – but often, these are created by the tenants, not by the landlords. For example, by tenants taking in unauthorized lodgers.
For a landlord to be able to deal with an unauthorised HMO he needs to be able to find out about it first, which means he will need to inspect the property regularly.
Tenants have the right to exclude landlords from the property by virtue of their covenant of quiet enjoyment – which is the rule which says they can keep everyone including the landlord from entering without their permission.
If landlords had a legal right to carry out inspections enforceable by a ground for possession, then this will help them deal with this problem.
Most landlord insurance policies today will have a condition requiring landlords to carry out property inspections not less than once every six months.
If landlords are unable to do this due to tenant obstruction, then this could invalidate their insurance. Which could have serious consequences for them.
It is important that landlords are able to carry out regular inspections of rented properties – not to spy on their tenants (!) but to check its condition (so they can carry out any necessary repair works) and make sure that all is well. And that there is no illegal activity going on.
I suggest it would be helpful for landlords in the management of this duty if it could be backed up by a ground for possession of unreasonably refusing the landlord access for inspections. A discretionary ground would be sufficient and would help give landlords the necessary authority when requesting access.
No doubt there are points I have missed on this topic, so if you have any thoughts, please add your comments below.