The Court of Appeal has been asked to consider the extent to which a landlord is entitled to enter a tenant’s property for inspection purposes.
A landlord owned a farm in Wales which was let to a tenant on an agricultural tenancy. The tenancy contained a proviso allowing the landlord to enter the premises with agents and others for the purposes of inspecting the premises or for any other purpose connected with the landlord’s estate.
The landlord obtained outline planning permission for a large scale housing development and the landlord wanted to carry out surveys. The event that caused the tenant such concern was the landlord’s proposal to carry out an ecological survey relating to bats. The tenant complained about the landlord leaving bat detectors on the farm, and that the marking pins left in the field were dangerous to all humans, livestock and machinery.
The Court of Appeal noted that the right of entry was not a right to enter for the sake of it. The question for the court, therefore, was whether the purpose of entry was reasonable, and if so, what was reasonably necessary to achieve that purpose?
The Court of Appeal, upholding the decision of the High Court, decided that some activities the landlord proposed to carry out were permitted under the tenancy agreement, but others were not. The key point was that the right of entry did not have to be given the narrowest possible interpretation.
Whilst this case concerned an agricultural tenancy, landlords that have similarly worded rights of entry in leases of all types will welcome confirmation that courts will not apply an overly restrictive interpretation of rights of entry for inspection purposes.
Tenancies governed by the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 have implied into them additional right of entry allowing a landlord to enter the holding for certain purposes, such as the viewing of the state of the holding and for fulfilling the landlord’s responsibilities within the rules of good estate management, amongst others. This was not raised in these proceedings, but is an additional point to consider should a similar situation arise in an agricultural context in the future.