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to think my letting agent cannot suddenly implement monthly property inspections, 6 months into a contract?

(54 Posts)
ElectricMonkBelievesInSanta Thu 17-Jan-13 15:11:48

We've been living in this property for nearly 4 years, and sign a new 12 month contract each year. Until now, the agreement has been that an agent can let himself into the property for quarterly inspections, viewings for new potential tenants (if we aren't able to show them around), repairs and in emergencies. Today, I received an updated version of the usual letter giving notice of an upcoming quarterly inspection - tacked onto the end of it is the sentence "We will also be carrying out the monthly safety check on the property." This sentence has never been included in the past, monthly safety checks have never happened before and certainly aren't in our contract.

The new arrangement would upset me for two reasons. I regularly study through the night and sleep late into the day when my workload is heavy because it's the only way I have enough quiet time to focus, so somebody letting themselves in once a month to potter round every room in the flat would be extremely intrusive and inconvenient. Also, my husband or I have always ensured that one or other of us is home to supervise inspections and viewings because an agent from the firm previously left the front door to our previous property ajar after an unsupervised viewing, facing straight onto a busy road in a less than salubrious area. We can manage that a few times per year, but definitely not on short notice every single month.

Furthermore, I really don't see any justification for it - we have been very good tenants! We cause minimal wear and tear, report problems as soon as they occur, always pay rent on time, and gave 7 months notice of our intention to move at the end of this contract period. We've been on at the agent for months about the fact that an electrical fault has stopped half of our lights from working properly, and they prevaricate for months when we tell them we need a proper electrician rather than another visit from their handyman - I don't see how monthly checks are going to help when they won't even address long-standing problems like that adequately.

I therefore feel that this is an unjustifiable invasion of our privacy, and will encroach on our right to quiet enjoyment of the property. AIBU to expect the agency to agree to go back to quarterly inspections?

ElectricMonkBelievesInSanta Thu 17-Jan-13 15:12:58

(Off to change my Xmas name back to ElectricMonk, so my responses henceforth shall be more in-keeping with the season!)

flatpackhamster Thu 17-Jan-13 15:37:44

If it's not in the contract, they can't do it. I'd go and visit the agent and talk directly to them and explain that you're not being difficult but a contract is a contract and you're not prepared to accept monthly inspections.

Not unreasonable in my view.

ElectricMonk Thu 17-Jan-13 15:41:32

That's good to know, thank you - I was going to do it by e-mail, but I'll pop in to see them this week instead.

LadyMercy Thu 17-Jan-13 17:03:07

Monk, a tenancy is usually considered to be exclusive possession of a property for a term in exchange for a consideration i.e you live in the house for the year in exchange for paying the rent.

Exclusive possession means that for the year, as long as you are paying the rent (and abiding by the terms of the contract) the house is yours. This agent cannot let himself in whenever he pleases!

Another useful phrase is 'quiet enjoyment', you are entitled to quiet enjoyment of the property and monthly inspections would disrupt this.

If you are intending to move out in 7 months, nip this in the bud now, otherwise you will be showing people round at all hours and the agent will be doing the same when you are not there.

ElectricMonk Thu 17-Jan-13 23:51:19

Thank you for your reply, Lady Mercy - you've highlighted my precise concerns.

Unfortunately I've just looked through the contract and it seems that I'm on a bit of a sticky wicket. It says that we are required to allow the landlord and his agents access to the property for viewings, inspections and safety checks but it does not state the regularity with which inspections or safety checks will occur. Until now (and we have been renting from this agency for 7 years), inspections have been quarterly and safety checks have been annual so that set the precedent as far as were concerned. (Believe me, I did push for some variations on the contract but none of the lettings agents in the area would agree to do them so we thought it best to settle for the devil we knew.)

I'm still inclined to challenge this - as you say, we are entitled to 'quiet enjoyment of the property without interruption' according to our contract, and I believe that any reasonable person would agree that monthly visits would infringe considerably on that right. Given that the contract does not stipulate the frequency of inspections and safety checks, the agent could argue that daily visits fall within the terms of the contract but nobody would consider that compatible with 'quiet enjoyment of the property without interruption'!

Do you think I would be successful in contesting this? I only ask because I don't want to make enemies of the agents if this is only likely to create bad feeling - it's a small office and their general inertia makes it very hard to get repairs done quickly as it is, despite the fact that we've always taken good care of the place and been very cooperative.

manicbmc Thu 17-Jan-13 23:54:45

Safety inspections are yearly. I live in a council property and they have to abide by the law and are quite strict about those things.

Also they are supposed to give you notice if they require access. They can't just turn up and let themselves in.

ComposHat Fri 18-Jan-13 01:31:55

it's a small office and their general inertia makes it very hard to get repairs done quickly as it is, despite the fact that we've always taken good care of the place and been very cooperative.

Well if they are doing fuck all now then you've got nothing to lose by stomping your feet a bit. A monthly inspection and wanting to do unannounced visits is not on.

Is there any other type of letting agents? Every single one of them are lying, lazy, morons whose only thought is to how much money they can screw out of a tenant for the absolute bare minimum of effort. I'm no fan of landlords, but the letting agent is the shitstain on the toilet bowl of landlordom

janey68 Fri 18-Jan-13 06:23:36

Isn't there some new regulation or guidelines about more frequent safety inspections? Just that I know other people who have had similar notification recently

Anyway those saying the landlord cant inspect that freqjuentlu are giving out incorrect advice. Providing proper notice is given, yes the LL can carry out a monthy inspection.

TheFallenNinja Fri 18-Jan-13 06:29:28

This will be a knee jerk reaction by some over zealous junior manager, however, as it is a clause in an unsigned contract it is negotiable. So that's what you should do.

I would start along the lines of I preferred the old arrangement and go from there, I spent a few years renting recently and although on my last place in the 3 months up until I left they wanted to come in every month and "inspect" it did mean that my deposit was returned in less than 2 days so it had it's benefits.

Jengnr Fri 18-Jan-13 07:00:17

You are required to give them access. That does not mean they are allowed to let themselves into your home without prior agreement. It means they contact you and arrange a mutually convenient time.

janey68 Fri 18-Jan-13 07:03:59

Ps- not having seen the contract or letter it's difficult to comment on the OPs specific case. But my point is that as a general rule a LL could certainly do monthly checks if they follow procedure properly. And the tenant does not need to 'sign' to agree it. The LL has to notify in writing with a minimum amount of notice but they certainly don't need the tenant to have signed anything for it

I just feel its important to get the facts straight because there are some posters who are so venomously anti LL that they give out really bad advice which could backfire on the tenant and make it hard for them to get future tenancies

Clytaemnestra Fri 18-Jan-13 09:17:09

In my experience, letting agents like frequent checks, not because they like to keep an eye on the property, but because they charge the landlord for them. Despite being in the property for nearly 5 years we get 3 monthly checks, and I know that it's an excuse to have a 5 minute pootle around the property and a chat (usually about babies) and they charge loads for it. Good work.

Tell them you'd like to be there when you come round, so what day/time is good for them?

CasperGutman Fri 18-Jan-13 09:18:29

The contract states you need to allow them access for inspections. As it doesn't state the frequency of the inspections, this is a matter for them to agree with you. Monthly inspections are not reasonable and are not highly unusual in my experience. They are certainly not standard across the lettings industry.

Crucially, as Jengnr states above, you are required to give them access but this does not mean they are allowed to let themselves into your home without prior agreement. In all rented properties I've lived in, I have been contacted politely when the landlord or his representative has wanted access, and they have arranged a mutually convenient time when I can be there to let them in and keep an eye on them while they wander around. This has happened at most every six months.

It's all very well for them to let themselves in for inspections if you agree. You need to make sure they know you do not agree to this, so write and tell them. Say you are happy to accommodate inspections at a reasonable frequency by prior appointment, and they should contact you to arrange mutually convenient times.

LadyMercy Fri 18-Jan-13 11:54:07

It's a difficult balancing act between wanting quiet enjoyment of your property and not wanting to annoy the agent/landlord. Obviously if you need a reference from your landlord/agent you might err on the side of caution.

Do you know your landlord? If you have a good relationship with them, maybe bypassing the agent would get around the keeness of the agent to inspect if they are able to charge for it as was pointed out above.

Otherwise I would ask the agent why they feel it is necessary to inspect so frequently now. The agent may have had some other tenants trash their property prior to leaving which then gives everyone a bad name.

bamboobutton Fri 18-Jan-13 12:05:27

<puts on tenants rights cap>

The law doesn't give a monkey's bollock about what's in your contract, the right to quiet enjoyment supercedes all that. You can refuse every inspection and they can't just let themselves in, which they might try to tell you otherwise, you can refuse all viewing too. If they let themselves in its trespassing(gas/water emergencies excepted)

We have had fallings out with many landlords and letting agents and have never had any trouble renting new places, most they care about is if you pass the credit check

janey68 Fri 18-Jan-13 13:12:08

You're quite right- as a tenant you can be as uncooperative as you like about access. But don't be surprised if the LL serves notice which means youll have all the hassle and expense of finding and moving elsewhere .

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 18-Jan-13 13:35:30

bamboo is right.

I wouldn't go in all guns blazing.

I'd just write back and explain you appreciate their concern for your safety, but unfortunately one-monthly inspections will not be convenient for you because your work pattern means you need uninterrupted sleep during the day. You could mention you're good tenants and haven't had problems with inspections previously.

If you are lucky and they're nice, they may well be ok with that. It may be that this is a form letter they've sent out to all their tenants, and if so, they may well not mind a polite explanation of why you'd rather not.

If you put your foot down, you do have the law on your side, but as janey says, they could decide to get nasty and serve notice.

bamboobutton Fri 18-Jan-13 14:04:12

I'm sure monk said in her op that they have given notice to leave already.

Monk - Don't let the LA, who is probably a young, spotty arrogant twit who ties his ties with a stupidly huge knot, push you about.
As lrd says, no need to go all guns blazing, unless they get nasty first.

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 18-Jan-13 14:07:13

So she did.

Might as well not worry, then. If nothing else, she could just keep telling them it's not convenient.

My LA went through a period of scheduling lots of visits, because they let to a lot of students and were getting some problems (very understandable). I just kept explaining politely why I couldn't do such-and-such date and would need to reschedule (I tutor at home so it is a real problem). And they were actually fine with it. I think sometimes they just need reminding that you're not necessarily going to have a major row, you're not concealing anything or doing anything wrong, you're just a person with a life who needs their home to be reasonably interruption-free.

Hissy Fri 18-Jan-13 14:43:59

Agree. Calmly state that you will NOT be consenting to monthly inspections as they are unreasonable and that they will interfere with your quiet enjoyment of the property.

State that you will consent to quarterly inspections, by arrangement. REmind them that NO access to your home is allowed without your express permission, unless in the event of an emergency.

ElectricMonk Fri 18-Jan-13 18:26:17

Hi all, thank you for your replies - I've just finished reading them!

Some details:

- We're not able to contact the landlord directly, everything has to be done through the lettings agents (who check with the landlord after much pestering, and eventually get back to us after even further pestering).

- They generally give us 24 hours notice in the form of a letter (although sometimes an agent has popped it through the door at 17:00 and then shown up unexpectedly at 10:00 the next day). They won't arrange mutually convenient times for visits - they just say that they'll be coming on X date between 09:00 and 17:00, and they will use their keys if nobody answers the door. I've challenged this in the past, but it's the only way they operate. I had to insist that we do viewings instead of them (and implied that I'd deliberately cover the place with clutter if they objected), otherwise we wouldn't even be able to arrange time off to supervise those. They also got very pissy about us insisting on arranging for tradesmen to come when we are actually in - they even wanted to give our keys to "a guy" the landlord had used before, and have him drop by when he was free! Are they actually allowed to be so uncooperative? I've never been able to find a definite answer.

- We won't be renting again after this so I'm not worried about references, only issues with the deposit or being required to leave before the end of April. (The tenancy expires at the end of June but we don't really need the place after April.)

- The agency only lets to students, which I think is a big part of the problem. My husband and I are both final year postgrads so we don't have the flexibility of a house full of undergraduates, and things have become particularly difficult because the agency has become more intrusive at the same time as our schedules have become more rigid. When we first moved in, inspections were annual, then biannual, then quarterly, and now monthly!

I'm definitely going to challenge the monthly inspections, but before I do I'd really like to be clear on what the contract actually permits. I mean, technically they could insist on daily inspections and safety checks as long as they always gave us 24 hours notice but that would definitely be in conflict with our right to "quiet enjoyment of the property without interruption by the landlord and his agents" (quoted exactly as written in the contract). So where are they permitted to draw the line?

I know they will be difficult about this. When we first moved in, they allowed a slow leak from upstairs (another apartment owned by the same landlord) to ruin an entire ceiling over the course of a month, despite daily phone calls and office visits from us. Our bathroom and kitchen lights have only worked occasionally for the past four months because they keep sending a handyman rather than an electrician, despite the fact that we have no windows and therefore no other light in those rooms. The contract requires them to give us a fire blanket for the kitchen, and they refused to do it even though I pointed that out to them... We went 9 months without a washing machine because the landlord insisted on using a cheap, cowboy plumber rather than a proper one, and trying to make a crappy no-brand machine last 5 years (then tried to palm the bill for the whole thing off on us). Ugh. I'd love to move, or at least take them to small claims, but all of the agents round here are the same and our courses and tutoring take up all of our bloody time as it is.

I'm sorry for the rant, I'm just so frustrated - I'm a very assertive person and have always got my own way with them eventually, but there's so much else going on in my work and family life right now that I just want to put a stop to this fast. Lady Mercy has very kindly linked me to something that will hopefully help me find the answer, but if anybody knows of some clear cut rules/guidelines regarding what constitutes reasonable access to the property I'd be so grateful. Generally, the agents only back down when I have some kind of independent verification of what I've already spent months telling them...

ElectricMonk Fri 18-Jan-13 18:28:28

Wow, that was a long post! Also, one thing - if I just put the chain on the door on the day when they're scheduled to come round, they'll send me a £25 fine through the post (and then another every month, along with a "reminder"). Will I have to pay it, if I've told them by e-mail that I don't consent to the monthly safety checks?

bamboobutton Fri 18-Jan-13 18:35:32

Reasonable access is a gas/water emergency.

24hours notice is a "can i come round?" NOT "I'm coming in whether you like it or not"

you do not have to let them in, period. If they let themselves in with keys without your express consent they are breaking the law.
Would banks be allowed to go into random mortgage payers houses? No. So it's the same for tenants.

Tell them if they enter your home without consent you will be reporting them to the police for trespassing.

Cor, they sound like right fuckers, my blood is boiling on your behalf.

bamboobutton Fri 18-Jan-13 18:37:53

25 quid for what?????

You wouldn't have to pay their bullshit "fines" either. fine for what exactly i would be asking.

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