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A guide to landlord right of entry

A guide to landlord right of entry

Entering a house without permission, UK

Introduction to landlord right of entry

Other than in emergencies such as a fire or flood, a landlord can only enter a rented property with their tenants’ permission and after explaining why they need access. Reasons for access might include conducting a property inspection or gas safety check, or to install a new washing machine or other appliance.

That said, some buy-to-let owners and tenants have misconceptions about a landlord’s right of entry. In this article, we look in detail at the circumstances in which a landlord can access a property and explain what rights tenants, landlords, and letting agents have. We also look at whether tenants are allowed to change locks without permission, as well as less common situations when a landlord wants access, including when squatters take over a property.

Tenants’ rights

What are tenants’ rights?

As a tenant, you have the right to the ‘quiet enjoyment’ of your home. In other words, your landlord can’t simply turn up unannounced and demand to come in. This can be considered landlord harassment. Crucially, this also extends to your landlord’s representatives, such as lettings agents.


Can a landlord enter the property without permission?

Normally, no. However, a landlord is entitled to enter the property at short or no notice if there’s an emergency. Emergencies are classed as issues that pose a risk to life or could cause imminent damage to the property or contents. Examples include fire, a gas leak, detection of carbon monoxide, frozen pipes, flooding, or an intruder in the property. In such instances, a landlord is allowed to use their own keys to access the property, perform repairs or authorise a contractor to make repairs.

In certain circumstances, a landlord can enter your home if they have a court order (called a ‘possession order’). This is part of the eviction process (see below).


Can a landlord show up unannounced?

No. If they have a legitimate reason to visit your home, they must give you 24 hours’ notice. You can also ask them to visit at a more convenient time. If a landlord repeatedly shows up unannounced, this can be considered harassment.

What is the correct notice for a landlord when requesting access?

Landlords are allowed reasonable right of entry to rented properties but, under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, they must give you 24 hours’ notice in writing. This can be by letter, email, or even text message. Unless there is an emergency, they should agree to visit at a reasonable time that is convenient to you.


How often can a landlord inspect a property?

Some landlords will inspect a property after the first month to reassure themselves it is in safe hands. After that, landlords shouldn’t inspect a property more often than every three months.


How much notice does a landlord have to give to enter property, UK?

In Scotland, tenants with a private residential tenancy (which came into force on the 1st December 2017) must be given at least 48 hours’ notice before the landlord can access the property. The exception to this is where you have a short assured or assured tenancy, in which case the requirement is 24 hours’ notice.

In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland the notice period is 24 hours.


A tenant’s right to refuse access

If you are a tenant, you have the right to refuse access to your home even if you are given notice. However, your landlord may have rights of access that are detailed in your tenancy contract. These might include the right to carry out improvements. If you then refuse access, you could be in breach of contract and the landlord could sue for damages. However, the landlord still can’t access the property without your consent as this may be considered a criminal act.

In the long run, it’s best to allow your landlord access to the property for legitimate reasons such as repairs, inspections, or safety checks.


Landlords’ and lettings agents’ rights

What rights do landlords and lettings agents have?

In summary, landlords and their chosen lettings agents can access a rental property for specific reasons such as to conduct inspections, make repairs, and undertake safety checks. A rental contract may also give a landlord the right to enter the property to make improvements. However, unless there is an emergency, the tenant must be given at least 24 hours’ notice in writing.


Can tenants refuse a landlord’s right of entry?

Yes. However, as stated above, this may put your tenants in breach of contract. You must not enter the property if a tenant refuses as this may be considered a criminal offence.


What happens if tenants refuse access?

If a tenant refuses access and you believe it puts them in breach of contract, you should write to them and make this clear. You should also tell them you have the right to sue for damages.

If the tenant still refuses to give you access, then you may be able to enforce the rental contract via an injunction or start proceedings to repossess the property.

Landlords should keep record of all communication they have had with their tenant in relation to accessing the property as this will strengthen any case brought to the courts and would also be required by your insurer if you were to make a legal expenses claim.


Legitimate reasons for entry

There are many legitimate reasons for a landlord to request access to a property. These include:

  • Move in / move out inventory checks – usually done at the start and the end of the tenancy agreement. Your tenant can also ask for a copy of the property inventory and they can also be present when checks are carried out.
  • Property inspections – you’re allowed to carry out property inspections throughout the tenancy, but they’ll need to be scheduled in advance and you’ll have to follow the usual rules about access (24 hours’ notice in writing). You shouldn’t inspect the property more often than every three months.
  • Repairs, maintenance, and safety checks – it’s up to you to make sure the property is in a good state of repair. Carrying out an annual gas safety check is also one of your key landlord responsibilities. As such, your tenant is expected to give you reasonable access to do this.
  • Property viewings – as tenancy agreements come to an end it’s reasonable to request access so you can show potential new tenants around the property.

None of these reasons would, ordinarily, constitute an ‘emergency’, therefore tenants must be given at least 24 hours’ notice in writing if you need to access a property for any of these reasons.


Can landlords gain entry to a property without 24 hours’ notice?

Yes, but only in an emergency. An emergency is when there’s a real risk to life or imminent damage to a property or its contents. If possible, always ask the tenant’s permission. However, if you need to access the property without the tenant being present, make sure you have an independent witness who can back up in writing the reasons why you entered the property.


Entry in case of emergency

Examples of emergencies include:

  • Broken / frozen water pipes
  • Gas leak
  • Electrical faults
  • Broken windows / doors as a result of a break-in
  • An intruder in the property
  • Non-locking security doors
  • Fire / flooding
  • Leaking roof
  • Sewer backup
  • Structural damage
  • Heating failure in winter
  • Carbon monoxide detection

This list is not exhaustive, but it illustrates that there must be an urgent reason for access.


Can I evict a tenant for refusing access?

Potentially, yes, though we would always recommend taking legal advice first if you have problems with your tenants. Currently there are two options open to you under the Housing Act 1988.


Section 21 eviction notice

At the moment, you can still serve a Section 21 eviction notice, although these are due to be scrapped during the 2022/23 parliamentary session.

A Section 21 notice is simply a formal way of asking your tenants to leave the property at the end of their tenancy (not before). It’s also known as a ‘no-fault eviction’. If tenants don’t leave at the end of the agreed period the notice will act as the first step in the eviction process.


Section 8 eviction notice

If you want to evict tenants before the end of their tenancy agreement you can do so with a Section 8 eviction notice, but one of the grounds for eviction will need to apply. There are 17 grounds in total, divided into mandatory grounds and discretionary grounds for evicting a tenant. Technically, there isn’t a ground that specifies the non-granting of access, although one reason set out for eviction is if ‘any obligation of the tenancy has been broken, other than payment of rent.’ In this instance, you could argue that your tenant has broken contractual obligations by refusing you reasonable access.


Recovering costs when a tenant refuses entry

If a tenant refuses to allow entry and you believe they are in breach of their rental contract, you may be able to ask the courts to grant you an injunction that gives you access to the property. In theory, you could claim back costs from the tenant, but you have to decide whether they have the means or the willingness to pay. If they don’t, this could become a protracted and expensive course of action.


Landlord legal expenses insurance

One way of covering yourself against legal costs incurred by applying for an injunction or during the eviction process is to take out landlord legal expenses insurance. This could cover you for up to £100,000 of costs in case of any legal dispute with your tenants. Problems with tenants are often unpredictable, so this cover will help give you peace of mind. This policy also gives you 24/7 access to a legal advice helpline, which can provide assistance with all manner of landlord related matters.


Helpful information for both tenants and landlords

What happens if the locks have been changed?

Sometimes a tenant or landlord will want to change the locks to a rental property. For example, a tenant may want to improve the security of their home. On the other hand, a landlord may find an unoccupied property has been taken over by squatters who have changed the locks. Let’s take a closer look at some of these scenarios.


Can the lock be changed?

There is often confusion about whether a tenant can change the locks on a rental property as there isn’t any legislation that specifically permits or prohibits it.

However, in general, tenants do not have the right to change the locks. Most tenancy agreements prohibit the tenant from making ‘material changes’ to the property; changing the locks without a valid reason and not allowing a landlord access to the property to complete their obligations (such as doing an annual gas safety check) could be deemed a breach of the tenancy agreement. If the tenant does change the lock, perhaps because they have lost a set of keys and are worried about security, they should provide the landlord with copies.

In the vast majority of cases, it is illegal for landlords to change locks without the permission of their tenant and without giving reasonable notice. However, if you have squatters in your property, you are allowed to enter the property and change the locks provided none of the squatters are in the building. If a squatter is in the building and refuses to leave, you will need a court order to enter. For more information, see our guide to evicting squatters.


Managing your rights and responsibilities

Laws are in place to protect both landlords and tenants, but it’s mutually beneficial for both to try and find common ground to ensure tenancies run smoothly.

For tenants, that means carrying out their responsibilities which includes giving landlords reasonable access. For landlords, it means respecting tenants’ rights to enjoy their home without harassment.

Nevertheless, events don’t always go to plan, but that’s where we can help. At Alan Boswell Group, we provide award-winning landlord insurance that can mitigate your financial losses. To find out more about what we offer, head to our landlord insurance hub or call a member of the team direct on 01603 216399.