Suppose you have a new tenant who after signing a contract with you, is given the keys to their new home. The structure of the property belongs to you but the home belongs to the one who is paying the rent. But you want to know what goes on inside your property because you want to protect it and avoid repair expenses. What are your rights? Are you entitled to enter the property at will without the knowledge or consent of your tenant? You would say ‘no’, but in reality many landlords hold a tenant to ransom and let them know that they will enter the property for work maintenance or check that there’s a fire because they heard the fire alarm or any other excuse. Your tenant is unhappy with the situation but you’re bold enough to convince them that if they refuse to let you in, you have the keys to the property and are legally and morally entitled to enter what is actually your property, right? Well… not really. You are effectively liable and could find yourself in litigation with your tenant, and your tenant will definitely seek compensation. So think carefully.
Here is a scenario: a landlord’s daughter moved into the upstairs flat of a detached house which has been converted into two flats. The downstairs flat has a new tenant. Your tenant has never agreed to your daughter having a copy of the key to their flat. Your daughter lives with her partner so her partner helps out with any DIY in both flats – he has full access to the keys that allow him to enter your tenant’s property. The question is: did you enter a clause in the contract that discloses who has the key to the property? If you haven’t specified in the contract that your daughter and her boyfriend hold a copy of the keys to your tenant’s property, then you are definitely liable and your tenant will definitely succeed in seeking compensation. You could be liable for negligence and trespassing. If your tenant further claims that money or possessions have gone missing, then the litigation process can get seriously messy and no part of it will be in your favour.
Legal Advice Before Tenancy
Getting legal advice before entering a contractual relationship with a tenant or landlord will avoid litigation processes that may even cost you your property. A landlord may hold master copies of keys to the premises but they loose certain rights and definitely loose the right to enter the property at will. There are certain conditions by which a landlord may enter the property but never without prior notice. If a landlord does not protect the keys to the rented premises and someone else is known to hold the keys, such as the landlord’s daughter or boyfriend, then the landlord will be held liable by the tenant on grounds of negligence. If they enter the property, then that’s trespassing, regardless of the motives.
Safety is the Key
Be shrewd and know yours and your tenant’s rights. The keys to your tenant’s property is of serious consideration and a handshake isn’t enough to protect you or your tenant. Your tenancy agreement has to disclose every detail in relation to the property’s keys – every single key. And once your tenant leaves the property and hands over the keys, it is your responsibility to make sure the property is safe for your next tenant. For any advice on your rights as a landlord or a tenant, please give us a call – your first consultation is free. By Sandra Garcao
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