As a tenant in my first flat I well remember my shock at coming out of the bathroom to find my landlord sat on the sofa. There are plenty of tenants who've had similar experiences. Thankfully times have changed and landlords letting themselves in uninvited isn't too common any more.
That said there are undoubtedly some landlords who believe they have the right to enter their property whenever they want. "I own it so I'll do what I like," seems to be the mentality. This is assuredly a very small minority of landlords. But entering a rental property without the tenant's permission is illegal.
All tenants have the right to ‘quiet enjoyment’. This means a right to privacy. Unreasonable demands for access from the landlord would undermine that right.
This means that even though the landlord owns the property they can't just let themselves in or enter the garden. The tenant must give their permission. Furthermore, the landlord must explain why they need to enter the property. And they must give at least 24 hours’ notice of any visit. The landlord (or their agents if their using a property management service) should also ensure that they visit at a time which won't inconvenience the tenant.
During any tenancy there are occasions when a landlord will need access to a property. It could be for a scheduled inspection or to service an appliance. Maybe there's some urgent repair or a carpet could need replacing. After all a landlord has a legal duty to make sure the property and its fittings are safe. They’ll need access to ensure this.
But there's another reason why a landlord may need access. If there's an emergency. A flood or electrical fault for example. In the event of an emergency the landlord can enter the property without the tenant's permission. But what actually constitutes an emergency is open to interpretation. So, landlords must think very carefully before entering a property uninvited no matter what the circumstances.
The tenant is within their rights to refuse the landlord access. But obviously it's within their interests to allow the landlord to enter the property to carry out repairs etc. Not allowing the landlord access in those circumstances would be foolish.
Towards the end of a tenancy the landlord will naturally want to show prospective new tenants around the property. The current tenant must allow this. However, the landlord must arrange viewings at a reasonable time and must give at least 24 hours’ notice.
As we've seen there are plenty of regulations around when and how a landlord can access a property. And the right of access can sometimes leadto disputes and ill-feeling. But a bit of give and take on each side can help things along. The landlord will need access to the property at certain times and as long as the landlord and tenant can compromise a little there needn't be too much inconvenience for either party.