Viewings for re-let?

Question from Beatrice updated on 24th June 2013:

I gave a tenant a 90-day notice to vacate and the tenant acknowledged it. I would like to show the property to new prospective tenants with a view to re-let but the current tenant refuses to allow viewings. Can I legally request to be let in for that purpose before the termination date, and if so from what date can I start showing the property to others?

Our expert Juliet Robinson responded:

Your rights are detailed in the Residential Tenancies Act 1986. Section 48(3)(a) states that “With the prior consent of the tenant the landlord may enter the premises at any reasonable time for the purposes of showing the premises to prospective tenants”. That means that you must have the tenant’s consent first. However, subsection (3A) goes on to state that “the tenant may not withhold his or her consent unreasonably”. To back this up, subsection (4) makes the tenant’s failure to allow the landlord access for this purpose, without reasonable excuse, an “unlawful act”. There is no mention of the amount that a tenant can be fined; presumably that is a matter for the Tenancy Tribunal to work out in the particular circumstances. You will see that “reasonable” is used in this section three times! The best way of gaining access to show a prospective tenant is to negotiate specific viewing arrangements at times that are suitable to both. If you can’t agree, you have the Tenancy Tribunal process available to you. And how soon can you start showing prospective tenants through? You can start at any time. However, you don’t want to be showing people too early and committing them to a tenancy start after 90 days, only to find the tenants then give you 21-days notice and you finish up with a six to nine weeks’ vacancy between tenancies! As you have given 90-days notice, it is unlikely that you will find prospective tenants looking until about six-weeks before they are ready to move. This, of course, can vary depending on the circumstances and the property. As a rule of thumb, the last four to six weeks of a tenancy are reasonable times when you can rightly expect the existing tenant’s cooperation.

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