Commissioner's Blog: Nothing nice about surprise visits
Everyone has the right to privacy in their own homes, and those living in rental properties across Western Australia are certainly no exception.
Claims of private landlords and property managers arriving unannounced for inspections, maintenance and rent collection are fairly common issues reported to Consumer Protection – in the past two years, our team has fielded 177 enquiries and 36 complaints from tenants on this front.
Tenancy laws in WA have strict procedures around when landlords and agents can access the property for reasons such as collecting rent, in the case of an emergency (like for urgent repairs), or for routine inspections. A maximum of four routine inspections only can be carried out per year, including for landlords who live elsewhere and want to visit the property the next time they are in the area.
In between inspections, tenants are entitled to privacy and the quiet enjoyment of their rental home. This means landlords and property agents should not be keeping tabs on them through other means, like using surveillance cameras or driving-by the property.
To arrange a routine inspection, a tenant must be given seven to 14 days’ notice and be provided with a notification that sets out the mutually agreed day and time.
If this process is not carried out correctly, tenants are well within their rights to refuse entry, as it is a breach of the tenancy agreement.
Instead, tenants should state clearly that unannounced visits will not be tolerated and insist the proper process be carried out next time. There is a formal notice that tenants can issue to the owner or agent, stating a breach of the tenancy agreement has occurred as a result of the unannounced visit.
On the other hand, tenants should not unreasonably withhold permission for access to the property when proper notice has been provided, as this could put them in breach of their lease and create a risk of eviction.
It’s also worth remembering that when inspection day arrives, landlords and agents should only be checking for damage, or issues that could cause damage – tenants do not need to present a property that’s in the same condition as when they first moved in.
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