Tenant away but refusing access for inspection/maintenance against AST terms
Forgive the details but I’m new to the RLA and to being a landlord, and am very confused by the fact that the AST terms apparently cannot be applied even though I thought it a legally binding document.
My tenant, with whom I have an AST ending 29 July 20017, said she denies access for all except a 3 month check. She refused 2 requests for access to do a safety check and threatened to get a trespass order if I went.
Tenant is in USAF (US Air force) stationed here, but currently away in Africa. She has been out of the country, and therefore not in occupancy of the premises, since (I believe) 7 November 2016 and I understand will be away for a period of 6 months total – but she will not tell me when she is coming back. She is paying her rent. She has a military clause which allows her to give 30 days’ notice if posted further away. However, her rent is covered by USAF and I believe her reason for maintaining the tenancy is that it would be more expensive for her to put her possessions in store.
My insurance company have informed me that my policy is now invalidated since she has been away now for 90 days, and I am only covered for fire, explosion and earthquake (The insurance company previously told me it was all OK as there was a tenancy in place, so I did not address this with the tenant before she went away).
According to the AST I believe it is her liability to look after the house and report to me any problems, which would obviously minimize any uninsured damages, though I expect an actual claim against her would be difficult to uphold, which is why I previously agreed to pay an agent to do these checks (agent not now in my employ).
- Q1: Should I tell her that she would be liable or uninsured losses and leave the safety/security checks for her to do?
The house was 2 years old when she moved in, in January 2016, and is under NHBC warranty. Some insulation work and many door repairs had been done by the builder under an NHBC complaint and I believed the problems to be resolved when I let it and so did not inform the tenant. However, the building was re-inspected by the NHBC last June and found to be still deficient in insulation, and the heating system inadequate (agreeing a new larger radiator in tenants bedroom, upstairs thermostat moving), and finally the French doors were ‘not fit for purpose’. The tenant had mentioned her difficulty in heating the bedroom, though had not actually made a complaint to me, she notified on 2 occasions that the boiler broke down, there was a leak from a radiator and the French doors failed to lock in July. I had all reported defects fixed immediately and reported the door problem to the NHBC, who finally got round to agreeing in December 2016 that both the French doors should be replaced.
The NHBC contractor came in December, at the agreement of the tenant, but they did not complete the insulation work and they failed to get a plumber to complete the work on the heating system, and the doors were not ordered.
Now the builders have informed me the doors are ready and I have asked them to give me a date when they can complete all the work. I think these are by definition ‘repairs’ and not improvements, so would come under section 11 of the , but of course the tenant has not actually made complaints about these things, and couldn’t care about them since she is not occupying the house (and for all I know has no intention of returning to the house). [She has also obviously found information that says I cannot enter unless she agrees and I believe her motivation is using this to blackmail me (though not explicitly stated) to take over the responsibility for maintaining the garden, though still maintaining her right to refuse entry].
I could add that the NHBC work is worth a considerable amount of money and I have been struggling for 3 years to get the work done, and have a complaint to them about the delays, so I don’t think it would work to hold them off until August, after the end of the tenancy.
- Q2: Can I claim the work is for repairs, under section 11 even though nothing is currently actually broken (but I am should not have to wait for another emergency to come up)?. Also re the insulation – the house actually currently fails to comply with the EPC rating given by the builder, so invalidates the document I gave her!
Can I claim right of access for these repairs under the terms of our AST? Ie is this enforceable?
I am prepared to go to court for an injunction for access if necessary, but no point in relying on this if it would be likely to be rejected, as RLA have suggested, and anyway how long would it take, and she is out of the country. CAB just said that I do have right of entry. … Help!
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