One of the most common topics on the Letting Training Centre’s advice line is the fact that tenants refuse access. The reasons for doing so may be considered trivial to the agent, however, the fact remains that the tenant, if s/he signed an AST, has the “Right to Exclude all Others” and has “Exclusive Possession” of the property. Often the need to gain access is because of the following reasons:- Interim Property Visits, Maintenance & Repairs, Valuations, Viewings for Sales or for a Prospective Tenant and of course, Gas Safety Renewals.
It is not uncommon for tenants to refuse access to Gas Safety engineers. The reason for access is valid and the agent often has trouble understanding why a tenant would put themselves and their family at risk. The recommendation from the Health and Safety Executive is to ensure ALL reasonable attempts have been made to access the property. The agent is required to keep an audit trail and to keep in regular contact with the tenant, re-arranging appointments with the Gas Safety engineer at every opportunity. This could go on for weeks, even months and causes both agent and landlord sleepless nights.
An option that many agents and landlords tend not to choose is using a Section 8 notice for breach of contract under Grounds 12, followed by court action. This would allow the landlord to appear in front of a judge and state his case.
Sovereign Housing Association took the 20-year-old to court after she repeatedly failed to respond to attempts to engage with her over an annual gas boiler service and a home safety check.
In this case, the injunction was granted by Oxford County Court in June 2013, along with costs of £600.
The order remains in force for as long as the woman remains a tenant at the property, and she risks being charged with contempt of court if she fails to comply.
Sovereign wrote to the tenant, attended her home in person and left messages on her mobile phone and that of her mother in an attempt to make an appointment.
However, each request was ignored. She also failed to respond to a letter sent by Sovereign’s solicitor more than five weeks after the initial attempt to access the property.
Sovereign’s head of operations for Oxfordshire, Richard Fitzhenry felt they were left no option:-
“It is a legal obligation for us as a landlord to carry out an annual test and inspection of gas appliances and installation pipe work in our properties, and this is something we take very seriously.
“Every time Sovereign takes court action, it costs us around £2,000. By changing the timeframe of the court order we are now covered each year when we need to access the property in question to carry out the gas safety check. We are delighted that the judge agreed with us and we shall be adopting this approach the next time we need to go to court.”
Obtaining a Gas Safety certificate on an annual basis is a Statutory requirement and our clients take this responsibility extremely seriously.
We welcome Sovereign’s decision to challenge the tenant.
Susie Crolla – 17th July 2013