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Man holding hand in "stop" gesture - Tenant Refusing Access?

Tenant Refusing Access?

Is your tenant refusing entry?

Whether a house is vacant or rented, they will always need repairs. When repairs pose a serious health risk, they can’t wait. When your property insurance requires two maintenance inspections per year, they must be done. When you’re selling the property, you need to let people in to see it. But what can you do for a tenant refusing access?  

Tales from the Trenches

A couple of years ago, there was a mystery leak in one of my rental property’s downstairs bedrooms. During the spring or after a downpour, tenants would report a small amount of water slowly pooling underneath the window on the floor, but there was no evidence of the window leaking. I brought in contractors to find the concealed leak and suggest a fix. The problem was that once they were available to check, it no longer leaked, and they never found it.

One particularly wet spring, a new tenant sent pictures of a small amount of black mould growing on the base of the wall, close to the floor, underneath the same bedroom window. Black mould can quickly become a serious problem, and I wanted it fixed ASAP.

This time I sent in three separate contractors. One very thorough contractor tried several methods to unearth the problem; filling up the window well with water was one. When that didn’t yield results, he removed the drywall, and found a web of tiny cracks in the foundation spidering across the wall underneath the window well.

During this development, the tenant told me he didn’t want anyone else coming into the house and wouldn’t  let my contractor in to fix the problem. It was a catch-22; he wanted the problem solved but was refusing access. I offered to alter the times and gifted pre-paid cards for dinner, but he wouldn’t budge. Luckily, he was on month five of a six-month fixed-term lease, and I told him I was not renewing his lease. After a lot of drama, he left, and I let my contractor in to repair the foundation.

What are your legal rights as a landlord for a tenant refusing access?

Access for Repairs

The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) sets out specific rules of entry to support the tenant’s right to “peaceful enjoyment” of the property. These rules state the landlord must;

  • Provide notice in writing, text, email, or posted to the door
  • State the date and time for entry
  • State the reason for entry of premises
  • Be signed and dated by the landlord or his/her agent
  • Be served on the tenant at least 24 hours in advance
  • Not enter on the tenant’s days of worship or a statutory holiday

The RTA also allows landlords entry without consent or notice under two conditions;

  • An emergency (fire, flood, furnace stops functioning in the winter and water pipes could burst etc.)
  • The tenant has abandoned the premises

In short, landlords have a right to access their rental properties with proper notice for repairs or no notice for emergencies.

Access for Showings

If a landlord is selling the property, they have a right to access the property with proper notice (24-hours written notice, and not on days of worship). Of course, the tenant has a right to move the date/time if it conflicts with their plans, but they must allow reasonable access.

Access for Maintenance Inspections

Lastly, as a landlord, most rental property insurance requires a set number of maintenance inspections per year to ensure the property is in good repair. If they don’t have a specified amount, it’s good practice to let your tenants know about how many times you will be conducting maintenance inspections and assure them you will provide them with 24-hours notice.

These rules usually work well to bypass a tenant refusing access – when you have a good relationship with sane tenants. But life isn’t perfect, and tenants do not always act rationally. Many a landlord has followed the protocol only to have a tenant refusing access.

Tenants refusing to allow you access to fix a severe issue, conduct a maintenance inspection, or market the property to prospective buyers constitutes a breach in the rental agreement. Tenants can be evicted for denying access. Eviction is one drastic answer, if you can negotiate, all the better, or if the tenant is nearing the end of their tenancy agreement, it may be wise to wait until they have vacated and skip the drama and legalities.  

In the end, the best way to avoid miscommunication and bypass issues with access is to document rules of access within the lease and review/discuss every lease item with the tenants before and after the tenants have signed each page of the lease agreement.

Have you had experience with a tenant who refuses access? I’d love to hear about it [email protected]

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