Once a property is occupied by a tenant, your rights to enter that property are very restricted. You cannot enter without the prior consent of your tenant unless you need access in an emergency.
Most tenancy agreements specify a tenant's right to peaceful or quiet enjoyment of the rented property. The Human Rights Act states that people are entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of their property.
Quiet or peaceful enjoyment means that the tenant can live normally in the property without suffering any unnecessary interruptions from the landlord. You should always get your tenants' consent before you enter their home.
Agreeing rights of access
Your tenancy agreement should contain a clause dealing with rights of access. If it doesn't it is generally accepted that you should contact your tenants at least 24 hours before you intend entering the property and ask for their permission to do so. The tenant can refuse you access to the property.
Under Article 12 of the Private Tenancies (NI) Order (2006) your tenants should allow you access to carry out repairs which you have been tasked by the council to carry out, as long as they have been given reasonable notice. If the tenant is refusing to allow you access when you are trying to carry out repairs which you are under a duty to complete, you can apply to the courts for an order allowing you access.
If you have contracted someone to carry out work in the property, you must let you tenants know when the workers will be coming and how long they are likely to stay.
If you are unable to raise your tenants and you must enter the property due to a gas leak or similar emergency, you should always knock before entering.
Arranging viewings of an occupied property
If your current tenant is planning to move out, you will want to get the property let again as quickly as possible. This may mean that the property is on the rental market while still occupied. If this is the case you should consult with your current tenant to establish a suitable time to arrange viewings of this property.
Check if your tenancy agreement mentions property viewings. You should be reasonable when organising viewings and hold these at a time that suits the tenant and always give the tenant advance notice of when they are going to happen.
If you habitually enter the tenant's home without first gaining consent, your tenant may interpret this as harassment and report you to the local council. Harassment of a tenant by a landlord is an offence. If convicted of this offence, you could be subject to a significant fine.
Disputes over access
While the tenant is legally occupying the property, you do not usually have an automatic right to enter, unless you are inspecting the property or carrying out repairs. Under Article 12 of the Private Tenancies (NI) Order (2006) your tenants should allow you access to inspect the property and to carry out repairs, as long as they have been given reasonable notice and the visit is at a reasonable time of day. If the tenant is refusing to allow you access when you are trying to carry out repairs which you are under a duty to complete, you can apply to the courts for an order allowing you access.
If you have a good relationship with your tenant, only visit the property when necessary and remember to give the required legal notice you shouldn't experience any problems with access.
If a dispute arises and you feel the tenant is unreasonably refusing you access to the property, you should first try to negotiate with the tenant. Write to the tenant, outlining the reasons that you need to visit the property, suggesting a range of dates and times that suit and giving the tenant a date by which you would like a response. Keep a copy of all correspondence,
If the tenant continues to refuse you access you will have to obtain a court order to enter the property. If the tenant has broken the tenancy agreement or, in the case of a periodic tenant, you no longer wish to rent the property to this person, you have a right to seek possession of your property.