In order to help make the position regarding viewings and access to premises very clear, the Property Ombudsman (TPO) has recently made changes to its Lettings Code which became applicable on 1 October 2016. For letting agents who were in any doubt, it states:
“Access to a property may be required by you, or an authorized third party on behalf of the landlord (e.g. a surveyor, builder, tradesman etc.) for the purpose of viewing the condition, state or repair and/or to fulfill related statutory obligations and/or to carry out repairs. If you hold the key but are not able to accompany that person, the tenant must be given the appropriate minimum notice of 24 hours or that prescribed by law, of the appointment (unless agreed otherwise with the tenant beforehand), except in cases of genuine emergency. Notwithstanding providing the tenant with reasonable notice to access a property, express consent from the tenant to do so should be obtained.”
In clarification, TPO says that this means that an agent must:
- Provide written confirmation of their request to access the property to the tenant or occupier.
- Give the tenant or occupier a minimum period of 24 hours’ notice of any appointments, excluding emergencies.
- Ask for confirmation as to whether or not access is acceptable.
TPO went on to explain that in circumstances where the agent has not received a response to their request for access, provided that the tenant or occupier has been given the correct opportunity to respond, the agent is entitled to make the assumption that access is permitted.
TPO added: “The tenant must be given the opportunity to refuse access, if they so wish. It therefore follows that express consent should, rather than must, be obtained.”