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Police access to property - what are your rights?

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brick60000

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Evening everyone,

A question relating to something that happened over the weekend.

For anyone that hasn't seen the below news story, and to summarise, the student accommodation where a friend of mine lives was subject to national media attention due to a party being held by a group of students. It was very largely attended it would seem, and led to quite the commotion.

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/watch-revellers-appear-run-city-19686633

Watch revellers flee from city centre student block after police turn up to 50 strong party​


Officers led the law-flouting students out of Canalside apartments one by one after a 50-person gathering in breach of Covid rules


This is the moment laughing revellers flee a student block to escape police after a crackdown on a 50-person party.

A dozen people could be seen emerging from a doorway as they left Birmingham's Canalside apartments, the site where a gathering was broken up just after midnight.



A shocking clip, filmed by a party-goer themselves, appeared to show the party in full swing as revellers packed into someone's flat, dancing and singing beneath a disco ball.

Officers disrupting the party found revellers had travelled from as far as Newcastle and London to attend the University accomodation gathering in Lower Loveday Street.

Around 50 fines were handed out as they led party-goers - some of whom were hiding inside a cupboard - out of the flats one by one.


People gathered at Canalside student block, Birmingham after alleged Covid breach party
A neighbour, who filmed the clips above, said there were more than 30 people 'partying' at the block before police attended. His image captures clusters of people gathered in the courtyard.

More then took an opportunity to flee at 3am once police had left, the witness says.

The resident, who did not wish to be named, told BirminghamLive: "At least 30 people were in a block at Canalside accommodation caught partying after tougher fines were announced.



People 'fleeing' the student apartment after police were called to an alleged Covid breach party
"All tried fleeing to the fifth floor to attempt to escape police. Individuals were brought out one by one over the past two hours.

"Another video I have shows people fleeing after police had left the scene at 3am."


In the clip above, nine partygoers - some screaming - are first seen running away through the courtyard.

Three more then follow seconds later as the trainer-clad group head away from the student accomodation.

Only hours before, at around midnight, uniformed officers were filmed in the doorway as they attended reports of a party in breach of Covid-19 law.

West Midlands Police said they handed out 50 Fixed Penalty Notices at the party and that one officer was assaulted as a party-goer fled.

The blatant breach of Covid-19 rules came as new lockdown measures for the region are 'under discussion' and as exhausted medics battle to save dying patients.


Inside ICU at City Hospital Birmingham (Image: Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust)
Over 200 people are now in intensive care beds in the city and well over 1,200 more are in hospitals including City, the QE, Heartlands and Good Hope, with fears that number will continue to rise for some days yet.

The crisis has already far exceeded the impact of the first wave in April, with the highest number of deaths since the pandemic started recorded just days ago.

Infection rates are still 'too high' across Birmingham and the Black Country, Mayor Andy Street said - raising the spectre of urgent action as soon as next week if there is not a more dramatic fall.



The Mayor told BirminghamLive: "The R number has clearly come down so if you look at the curve (of infection rates) it was rising in the first week of lockdown, it then levelled and is coming down. It is not a big reduction yet (around 6%) but the shape of the curve is beginning to turn.

"If we don't see that fall, we will need to increase the restrictions.

"What I will be doing if this (a bigger decline) does not come to pass, I will be saying to the Government we have to be tightening the restrictions in specific areas."
The reason for posting is that in the aftermath of the police discovering the party, many of the attendees attempted to seek refuge in other flats within the accommodation, and some were succesful in doing so.

My friend has told me that the police's response to this was to search some of the flats in the property (he is unable to confirm whether all flats were searched). In the process, one of the following happened:
  • Either the property security team gave the police a master key, and the police then permitted themselves to enter my friend's flat, check the communal corridor and kitchen (which is shared by him & his five flatmates) to see if anyone was being hidden. The police did knock, but then proceeded to open the door and check without seeking permission.
  • Or, the security team walked around with, and let the police into the flat, as above.
Nobody was in the flat, nor would the police have had any reason to think there was anybody in that flat in particular.

Clearly, this is a substantial breach of privacy.

My understanding is that no regulation or law permits the police to let themselves into somebody's rented accommodation, student or not?

Any thoughts would be appreciated!
 
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WelshBluebird

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Be careful assuming halls of residence are let under the same legal protections as other lettings. My understanding is that sometimes they are let as a license instead of as a tenancy and so the occupant has less legal rights than you might expect.
 
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The accommodation team are allowed in any time here for a broad range of circumstances, I'd imagine they can just let the police in whenever really.

We've been threatened with the police being called recently so it will be interesting to see what happens next time something is on.
 

MikeWM

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Be careful assuming halls of residence are let under the same legal protections as other lettings. My understanding is that sometimes they are let as a license instead of as a tenancy and so the occupant has less legal rights than you might expect.

Yes indeed. Way back when I was at university I had a proper tenancy contract in my first year; but in subsequent years it was a 'licence' with a third party company who were owned by the college via a complex chain of companies. I imagine the latter is more popular now than traditional tenancies, for exactly the reason you state.
 

brick60000

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thanks for the replies so far!

The company in question is Homes for Students. The document issued at the start of the year is a “assured shorthold tenancy agreement”.

Included within this is the line:

5.2. Except in the case of an emergency, or for reported repairs, or where the Landlord has reasonable cause for concern about the Tenant's welfare, or to investigate a suspected or persistent a serious breach of the Tenant's obligations, to give the Tenant at least 24 hours' notice prior to entering the Accommodation
This is an interesting one, as whilst the events were an emergency, I’d argue there was no emergency within the flat.

The maintenance team at said property are quite frequently entering flats without the notice stipulated in their contracts....

Any ideas on whether this clarifies the situation?
 

pdeaves

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As purely an outsider with no more information or interest than stated in this thread, I would say that any authorities could claim "to investigate a ... serious breach of the Tenant's obligations" in this case.
 

MikeWM

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The document issued at the start of the year is a “assured shorthold tenancy agreement”.

That sounds like a proper tenancy.
As purely an outsider with no more information or interest than stated in this thread, I would say that any authorities could claim "to investigate a ... serious breach of the Tenant's obligations" in this case.

Yes, but you've omitted the word 'suspected' - presumably there would have to be some grounds for suspicion that the specific tenant had done something wrong, rather than just relying on the fact there was stuff happening in the vicinity. I'm not sure there are sufficient grounds given the circumstances described.

I strongly suspect pursuing the issue wouldn't achieve anything, however.
 

brick60000

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I strongly suspect pursuing the issue wouldn't achieve anything, however.

I expect not. That’s what’s so frustrating. How far can we go now before we stop saying it won’t achieve anything to complain.

A year ago the idea of the police waltzing into your flat because of law breakers nearby would have been absurd! It’s now very sadly reality.
 

MikeWM

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Yes, I meant to delete just 'or persistent' but got carried away; sorry.

No apology needed; I just required the word 'suspected' back in order to make my point 8-) I agree that they would probably argue that this covers their actions (but I'm not at all sure it actually does).
 

Adam Williams

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The maintenance team at said property are quite frequently entering flats without the notice stipulated in their contracts....

This is not legal for an AST and shouldn't be tolerated. There should be at least 24 hours written notice in any non-emergency situation and there is no obligation on the part of the tenant to accept these visits in a non-emergency situation.

Anything else is a violation of the right to "quiet enjoyment".

In my experience (from when I rented one of these as a university student), the accommodation managing agents know damn well what the law is around this and the minute you mention "24 hours notice" or the phrase "quiet enjoyment" they tend to quite quickly cut the BS out.

In a lot of cases, these third party managing agents/accommodation providers know they can be reliant on a lot of University students not understanding UK housing law. You'll see it happen with deposit deductions too :(
 
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