As a landlord, you need to manage your property. Even if the law didn’t say so (which it does), that’s just plain common sense. Unfortunately, your tenants won’t necessarily see it that way and this is where the law can get very interesting.
The law in brief
Your tenant has the right to enjoy the property for which they are paying. They should let you in for reasonable purposes, but if they don’t you have to respect their refusal unless it is an emergency.
Legally, the only way out of this predicament is either to apply for an injunction to get access to your property or to evict your tenant.
At least it is at present. If the government (as seems likely) proceeds with its manifesto promise to abolish Section 21 (“no faults”) evictions, you may find it difficult or even impossible to evict your tenant.
The law versus common sense
So much for the law. It may not be sensible, let alone helpful, but it is what it is and for the present at least landlords just have to deal with it. Now let’s look at common sense.
Common sense says that your tenants either don’t understand that you need access (to do something which will benefit them) rather than just wanting access (because you want to check up on them) or they have a specific reason for not wanting you to enter.
Common sense says that before heading to a lawyer, you should try communicating with your tenants. Apart from anything else, it’s massively more affordable.
The skill of negotiation
As anyone familiar with sales will know, you start by selling the appointment rather than the product. In this context that means you start by approaching your tenant, explaining why you need access and why it will benefit them to give you access and then ask when you can speak to them to discuss an appropriate time for you to do whatever it is you need to do.
At this point try the carrot rather than the stick. Forget about threatening “the law”, explain how whatever you intend to do will benefit your tenant.
Be aware that your tenant may have a legitimate reason for not being keen on allowing you entry to your property, at least not at the time you originally wanted.
Remember that not everyone works “office hours”. Try to work to their timetable. This is a strong argument for making sure that you stay on top of your schedule so you have time on your side rather than having to rush to meet a legal deadline.
If negotiation doesn’t help open formal communication and document it
If verbal negotiation doesn’t help, you need to start putting everything in writing and documenting it. It’s fine to start with email, but snail mail can do more to convince people that you’re serious, especially if you send it recorded delivery.
Make your local council aware, especially if you need to be licenced. They may be able to talk to the tenant on your behalf and if they’re not they will still be aware that you tried and that the problem lay with the tenant, not you.
If none of this works, then you may have to resort to legal action, but it usually makes sense to try everything you possibly can first.