House and property inspections play a vital role in making sure your property is being maintained according to the terms in your tenancy agreement. They’re also a good way to build rapport with tenants which can help make long-term communication easier.
Here’s what to consider when you arrange a house inspection, including legal obligations towards your tenants as well as your rights as a landlord.
What is a house inspection?
The main reason for a house inspection is to assess the current state of your rental property both inside and outside. It’s an opportunity to make sure that everything is working as it should.
If you find a problem, catching it sooner rather than later can help prevent more serious issues later on. Property inspections are also a way to ensure that tenants are fulfilling their obligations as set out in their rental contract.
As a landlord, you have the right of reasonable access to inspect your property and evaluate its ‘condition and state of repair’. That said, there are laws in place that you’ll need to follow in order to respect your tenants’ rights.
How much notice do landlords need to give?
Under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, you must give tenants at least 24 hours’ notice if you want to carry out any sort of property inspection.
You must also ensure that the inspection takes place at a ‘reasonable’ time that suits both you and your tenant. In other words, it’s important to consider what’s convenient for your tenant – for example, if they work shifts.
Bear in mind that property inspections can seem formal and daunting to your tenants, so it’s recommended that you give them at least a week’s notice. This will give them time to tidy up and think about anything they need to discuss with you.
How should landlords ask for permission for a house inspection?
By law, you must request permission in writing, but this could be a note, email or even text message. When you make a request, you should include:
- The address of the property you will be inspecting.
- Who will carry out the inspection (whether it’s you or a representative).
- Day and time of the inspection.
Some tenancy agreements also have clauses that schedule in house inspections throughout the year but it’s good practice to follow this up with notice of exactly when you’d like to carry it out.
Can a landlord enter a property without permission?
You can only enter without permission in a genuine emergency, for instance if there was a gas leak or a burst water pipe. Otherwise, entering without permission could be seen as trespassing.
Can a landlord enter a property without the tenant present?
If you enter the property without your tenant, you must have their permission to do so. In reality, most tenants would prefer to be present if you’re carrying out a house inspection and it makes more sense in case you need to ask questions or discuss repairs.
What happens if a tenant refuses entry?
Most tenants won’t have a problem with a house inspection, as long as you’ve followed the rules and requested permission with reasonable notice. In a handful of cases, a tenant may simply refuse to give you access – which they’re entitled to do so it’s important to understand a landlords the right of entry.
If you’ve repeatedly asked for access but been turned down, it can be tricky and awkward. However, you have to respect that decision and can’t simply turn up demanding access. Remember – you can only enter without permission in an emergency.
If you’re concerned at the lack of cooperation, you could consider issuing a Section 21 eviction notice which was introduced as part of the Housing Act 1988.
The notice is a formal request that your tenants leave at the end of their fixed term. Again, there are certain procedures you’ll need to follow to ensure that the notice is issued correctly. If it isn’t, it could end up invalid. To find out more head to our guide on Section 21 notices.
How often should landlords carry out a home inspection?
There’s no right or wrong. A lot will depend on how long your tenants have been in the property and how well previous inspections have gone.
For example, if you’ve got tenants on a long lease and you’ve already carried out several house inspections without a problem, an inspection twice a year may be enough. Otherwise, as a general guide, you should aim to carry out an inspection every quarter (or three or four months). Of course, you may decide that after the first or second, you may not need another and simply wait until the check-out report at the end of the tenancy.
There’s nothing to stop you asking to inspect your property more often than once a quarter, but it could be considered harassment by the tenant. You might own the property but it’s your tenants home and legally they have the right to the ‘quiet enjoyment’ of it.
If a letting agent manages your rental, they may have their own schedule in place. If they also carry out inspections on your behalf, always discuss what your expectations are beforehand to avoid misunderstanding and disappointment.
What to do on a house inspection – a checklist for landlords
Needless to say, any house inspection needs to be thorough – it’s much easier and more cost effective to resolve a problem in its early stages. What you specifically look for will depend on a number of factors. For instance, if the building has a history of damp, you might want to keep an eye out for this.
It’s worth having a checklist that covers the external and internal areas of the property. If you’ve got more than one property, keeping records is also a good way to keep up to date with maintenance cycles. Points you may want to consider, include:
- Leaky gutters.
- Loose paving slabs.
- Broken or damaged fencing.
- Maintenance of outdoor space.
- Ensure excessive rubbish isn’t being left out which could attract rats.
- Outbuildings, in particular how secure they are. For example, check garage and shed doors can be locked.
- Damp and mould.
- Leaky taps or pipes.
- Ensure that smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are working.
- Condition of items you provide, such as electricals, and furniture.
- Condition of permanent fixtures like bathroom suites, carpets, flooring and light fittings.
Don’t forget that you should expect fair wear and tear, especially if you provide furniture or white goods. It’s reasonable that there’ll be scuff marks or the carpet will be more worn. It’s also fair to assume that after a while, electrical items will stop working and will need replacing.
If you do include a variety of contents in your rental, it’s also a good idea to have a comprehensive property inventory with photos. This makes it much easier to distinguish between wear and tear and damage – and also serves as evidence if you do need to claim for damages.
Protecting your assets with insurance you can trust
Being a landlord isn’t as simple as handing over the keys to a property, there are all sorts of legal obligations to stay on top of. At Alan Boswell Group, we understand this which is why we offer award-winning landlord insurance products that you can rely on.
Whatever your landlord needs, we can tailor a policy to suit you – from rent guarantee, legal expenses and home emergency cover to HMOs and Airbnb cover. We also offer a range of tenant referencing services for even greater peace of mind. For more information about how we can help you, call an expert advisor on 01603 218000.