Legal 101

Landlord rights in an emergency

Lorraine Dindi
·
October 7, 2021

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The focus of this article is what a landlord —or an agent working on their behalf— is entitled to do when there is an emergency in the rental property. Naturally, if you need the police, fire or ambulance services to immediately attend to a property, please call 999.

What is an emergency?

An emergency is a situation or maintenance issue which poses a risk to life or damage to the property and its contents. Here is a non-exhaustive list of potential emergencies:

  • Broken water line
  • Broken window or door after a break-in
  • Carbon monoxide detection
  • Door not locking
  • Electrical fault
  • Extended power outage
  • Fire
  • Flooding
  • Frozen pipe
  • Gas leak or broken gas line
  • Intruder in the property
  • No air-conditioning in extreme heat
  • No heat in winter
  • Only toilet blocked
  • Person stuck in lift
  • Roof leak
  • Sewer backup
  • Structural damage to property

 

What can a landlord do in an emergency?

In the event of an emergency, a landlord is entitled to:

  1. Access the property — Legally, a landlord must give a tenant at least 24 hours’ notice before entering the property. However, this rule may be disposed of when there is an emergency. The landlord can give a shorter notice or, if the emergency requires urgent attention, give no notice.
  2. Use an extra set of keys — One feature of exclusive possession, which is the key element of a lease, is that the landlord cannot use extra sets of keys as they please. However, in an emergency, the landlord has the right to use spare keys or other security devices within the property.
  3. Perform repairs — A landlord has the right to perform repairs where there is a risk of injury or serious damage to the property. A landlord can carry out these repairs without notice nor permission from the tenant if it is an urgent situation.
  4. Authorise a contractor to enter the property — While a landlord may sometimes need the tenant’s permission for an independent contractor to enter the property and carry out important inspections or repairs, when there is an emergency a landlord can appoint someone who is suitably qualified to attend to the emergency on their behalf.


Please note that if a tenant falls under the category of “clinically extremely vulnerable”, because they are at a high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, a landlord who enters the property must take significant precautions to prevent infection.


Further, if a landlord is entering a property without a tenant being present, it is advisable to have an independent witness who can attest in writing what the situation was. This can be very valuable if a dispute arises in the future.


How can a landlord prepare for an emergency?

  1. Create a tenancy agreement which stipulates the landlord’s rights in the event of an emergency. Tenancy agreements made on Legislate, for instance, include clauses about what a tenant must let the landlord or their agent do in case there is an imminent threat to people in the property or in its vicinity.
  2. Consider taking out appropriate landlord home insurance or ordinary landlord insurance which will cover things such as accidental damage to the property.
  3. Recommend the tenant take out insurance over their belongings if the landlord's insurance does not cover this.
  4. Inform tenants of what events or issues classify as emergencies for the purposes of renting.
  5. Compile a list of reliable vendors and emergency service providers who can assist with emergencies. This list should also include out-of-hours contractors.
  6. Share the aforementioned list of emergency service providers and vendors with the tenant.
  7. Ensure the tenants know the best way to reach the landlord in case of an emergency.

About Legislate

Legislate is a contracting platform where landlords and letting agents can create easy-to-understand and legally valid agreements on their own terms. You can read how to create your first Legislate agreements in our tutorial and watch a short demo. If you would like to try Legislate, please book an introductory call.

The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.

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