The Property Ombudsman has issued new guidance concerning obtaining express consent from a tenant before accessing a property.
The change comes as a result of queries from agents about changes made to paragraph 8f of the TPO Lettings Code of Practice, which came into force on October 1.
Some agents interpreted the paragraph as suggesting that the explicit consent of a tenant must be obtained before entry - but TPO says this is incorrect.
Now the paragraph has been amended to make it clearer, and so reads:
'Access to a property may be required by you, or an authorised third party on behalf of the landlord (e.g. a surveyor, builder, tradesman etc) for the purpose of viewing the condition, state of repair and/or to fulfil related statutory obligations and/or to carry out repairs. Ifyou 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.'
TPO says that in practice this means an agent must provide written confirmation of their request to access the property to the tenant.
Within that written request, the tenant must be asked for their confirmation of whether or not access is acceptable. The request must be issued in good time to allow the tenant a reasonable period of time to respond – the minimum period being 24 hours.
The change was made to the TPO Lettings Code following a number of cases where agents were giving tenants the minimum 24 hours’ notice, often sent by text, before entering the property - sometimes to the surprise of the tenant.
"Whilst legal, this was clearly not good practice and not the manner in which we would expect agents, who had voluntarily chosen to follow the TPO Code, to behave" says TPO.