Maintenance Issues in Rentals: Handling Tenant Entry Refusals
Landlord's Housing Management Functions
A common question is what to do when a tenant refuses to allow a landlord or contractor entry for routine maintenance such as gas safety records or fire alarm testing.
We have several letters available, but ultimately, the only realistic way of resolving the problem is to keep a diary of attempts, send letters, serve a notice, and obtain a possession order from the court. On rare occasions, an injunction might be required. Possession is more of a problem if the maintenance timing is early into a tenancy, thus meaning the two months' notice isn't as available due to the expiry of the fixed term.
However, there may be assistance for landlords in a new piece of legislation called The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which has introduced an amendment to Ground 14 of Schedule 2, Housing Act 1988 for England only.
Section 98(2) of the Act adds to ground 14 the following:
The tenant or a person residing in or visiting the dwelling-house— … (aa) has been guilty of conduct causing or likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance to the landlord of the dwelling-house, or a person employed (whether or not by the landlord) in connection with the exercise of the landlord’s housing management functions, and that is directly or indirectly related to or affects those functions, …
This amendment took effect on 13 May 2014.
Therefore, it may be much more feasible for a landlord to seek possession after service of a section 8 notice under ground 14 after a tenant refuses entry for any maintenance, particularly those required by statutes such as gas safety records or routine fire alarm maintenance.
It should be noted that Ground 14 remains a discretionary ground, so even if the case is proven, the court does not have to order possession. As such, the section 21 notice will always be the better option where the timing is right for that notice.
Where the property is an HMO, the landlord has several other duties under the statute for which a tenant must "conduct himself in a way that will not hinder or frustrate the manager in the performance of duties." This amendment to ground 14 may be a valuable addition to some already existing powers (albeit rarely used or enforced).
Possession After Riot in the UK
Ground 14ZA The tenant or an adult residing in the dwelling-house has been convicted of an indictable offence which took place during, and at the scene of, a riot in the United Kingdom.
In this Ground—
“adult” means a person aged 18 or over;
“indictable offence” does not include an offence that is triable only summarily by virtue of section 22 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (either way offences where value involved is small);
“riot” is to be construed in accordance with section 1 of the Public Order Act 1986.
This Ground applies only in relation to dwelling-houses in England.
The indictable offence must have been committed on or after 13th May 2014 for the ground to operate. Although ground 14ZA technically applies to Wales, it is primarily concerned with England because it only applies to dwelling houses in England (see the bottom line of the ground). The riot, therefore, could take place in Wales and the ground used in England but not the other way round.
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A tenancy of someone's home, starting on or after 28 February 1997, will in most cases be an assured shorthold tenancy. Take advice early if there are any doubts about what type of tenancy is being terminated. The procedures for ending a tenancy are different, depending on the type of tenancy.
Tenants have a right to quiet enjoyment of their accommodation. Even if the landlord gives proper notice of a visit, the tenant may still legally refuse access. If a tenant refuses access, the landlord should try and find out why before resorting to legal action. It may simply be the timing of the appointment and the fact that the tenant is unable to get time off work - in which case you could arrange an evening or weekend appointment.
Landlords may impose reasonable obligations on the tenant that affect their behaviour (including anti-social behaviour) and their visitors through the tenancy agreement. In addition, occupiers of HMOs have specified legal obligations under the Management of HMO regulations referred to above, and every occupier mus