Most residential leases contain a standard covenant which requires tenants to give their landlords access to their homes for reasonable purposes, including repair and maintenance. As a matter of good manners, tenants are often asked to confirm that the date and time of such visits are convenient for them but, as a recent case reviewed by our litigation expert David Watson showed, such politeness can have unforeseen legal consequences.
Pursuant to one such covenant, the landlord of a residential property twice wrote to the tenant, requiring access to the property on a particular date at a particular time. The tenant was invited to confirm that such access would be given at the appointed hour. The landlord took the view that his failure to respond to either letter amounted to a breach of the covenant and sought a declaration from the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) to that effect.
In ruling on the matter, the FTT noted that, for practical reasons and in order to foster good relations, landlords frequently communicate with tenants in order to ascertain whether the proposed date and time of a visit is convenient. However, such an approach was not a pre-condition for enforcement of the covenant, which required the tenant to allow the landlord access, for proper purposes, on 48 hours’ notice. There was no requirement that his permission be obtained.
In rejecting the landlord’s arguments, the FTT noted the tenants’ evidence that he had never refused to afford reasonable access to the landlord. The landlord had made no actual attempt to enter the property pursuant to either letter. The tenant’s lack of response to the letters did not amount to a refusal to afford access and he had thus not breached the covenant. The Upper Tribunal dismissed the landlord’s appeal against that decision, having detected no legal flaw in the FTT’s reasoning.