There will be occasions when landlords need to take pictures of their rental properties. But where do they stand when a tenant is occupying the property? Can they snap a few shots anyway, or are they required to get the tenant’s permission first?
Landlords absolutely cannot take pictures inside their tenant’s home without their permission. They have to announce that they will visit their home 24 hours in advance and ask for their consent. They are also required to explain why they need them, who will see them, and where they will use them.
They say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’, and pictures of a property are essential in helping to attract interest when advertising a property. Prospective tenants’ like to see pictures before arranging a viewing as it gives them an idea of the condition, layout and size of the property.
In this article we’ll explore the legalities of photographing tenants’ homes and what landlords should do to protect the tenants’ privacy whilst getting the best possible photos when needed.
As video advertising has become more popular in recent years, it’s also worth mentioning that the same principles apply when shooting and editing video footage.
Landlords have a legal obligation to protect their tenants from unreasonable intrusion into their private lives and must adhere to the Data Protection Act 2018 which sets out how personal data must be collected, processed and stored.
Therefore, landlords should only take photos which are relevant to the purpose for which they were taken.
On one hand, landlords need to protect their tenants’ privacy. On the other hand, landlords also need to be able to advertise and manage their properties effectively and keep a visual record of the condition of the property.
Tenants have a right to reasonable privacy, which is defined as “the degree of privacy to which an individual is entitled in his or her own home.” This means that landlords cannot just barge into their tenants’ home without their consent.
After all, the rental property is the tenants’ home, and not the landlord’s!
The right to reasonable privacy also means that landlords cannot photograph a tenant’s personal possessions, even if they are in plain view, or anything that is included in the tenancy agreement as part of the rental property without the tenant’s permission.
This includes items such as furniture and appliances, but it does not include fixtures and fittings such as light switches and doorknobs.
Common Reasons Why Landlords Take Pictures Of Their Rental Properties
Generally, there are six reasons why a landlord would want to take pictures of their rental property:
To display pictures online or in print to help attract viewings.
2. Create An Inventory
To compile a list of items such as furniture, cooker, fridge etc that may be included in the rental contract along with the condition of the items.
3. Tenant Check-In
To document the condition of the property the day a tenant moves in, to avoid any disputes about damages at the end of their tenancy.
4. Tenant Check-Out
To document the condition of the property when a tenant moves out, so that they can be held responsible for any damages they may have caused. Photographic evidence will help support a landlord’s claim to the Deposit Protection Scheme.
5. Periodic inspections
A means of visually recording the condition of the property before, during and after the tenant’s rental agreement. This could also include times where damage occurs, either through accident or general were and tear, and a tradesman is hired to fix something.
For the purpose of supporting a claim.
Best Practices When Photographing A Rental Property
Let’s start with photographing the exterior of the property.
Landlords, or in fact anyone, can take photos of the exterior of the property as they are in the public domain. Although it would be worth giving some consideration to any personal belongings that might be in view, such as children’s bikes or scooters for example.
It is still worth your while informing the tenant that you will be photographing the external of the property to prevent any chances of embarrassment if they have an unusual amount of rubbish piled up after hosting a dinner party.
It will give them a chance to tidy up if necessary, and besides, you will want your property looking it’s best if you are taking photos in preparation to advertise the property.
Photograph the front of your property on a sunny day if possible and also consider having professional photos taken.
Now let’s talk about photographing the interior of the property.
With the tenants’ permission you are free to snap away, within reason. Capturing images of each room and specific features that make your property unique is acceptable. Photographing the contents of your tenants jewellery box and wardrobe is clearly not acceptable!
My advice is to have the reason for taking photos at the forefront of your mind. So, if you are taking photos to advertise the property, it is best to use a wide angled lens and position the camera in a location that will capture the best features of each room.
If you are taking pictures to document any damages, or to assist with quotes to make improvements or repair the property, you will only need to take close up shots.
Whether you are taking wide angle shots or close up shots, ensure there is enough light to capture the details you need, and review each picture once taken to make sure you have what you need. This will prevent you from having to inconvenience the tenant, and possibly yourself, for a second time.
Either way, always be respectful of your tenant’s privacy and never take pictures of them or their personal belongings. Photographing items that are part of the tenant’s personal lives, such as family photos and keepsakes, would be considered an invasion of privacy.
Can A Landlord Take Pictures Of A Tenant’s Personal Belongings?
Landlords cannot take pictures of a tenant’s personal belongings without their permission, even if they are in plain view. This is because landlords have a duty to protect their tenants’ reasonable privacy. However, landlords can photograph the fixtures and fittings without needing permission.
Fixtures and fittings are items that are part of the building and cannot be easily removed such as skirting boards, light switches and doorknobs.
Now, you might be thinking, ‘Why would a landlord need to take pictures of a tenant’s personal belongings?’
The most common items of personal belongings which are likely to be captured in a photograph is furniture.
If the property is advertised as unfurnished, and the landlord does not have furniture to dress the property, it can be a real benefit to have furniture in the rooms when photographs are taken to help prospective tenants to get an idea of the size of the rooms before they arrange a viewing.
If the landlord is advertising the property furnished, it would also be beneficial for them to include the items of furniture in the photographs. This is much easier to do prior to the first tenant moving in as you can control or avoid the amount of clutter from newspapers, magazines etc.
I always keep a copy of my original photos as it’s much easier to photograph a property when there isn’t anyone living there. And if I need to advertise the property again, I have the photos stored in the cloud and ready to go.
Also, if letting the property furnished, and I have to replace a piece of broken furniture, I try to remember to take a picture once the new piece of furniture is in place. This has two benefits:
1. I have a photographic record of the condition and piece of furniture which I can then add to the inventory.
2. It saves me time in the future and I am only disturbing the sitting tenant once.
Can A Tenant Refuse To Have Photos Taken?
Tenants can refuse to have pictures taken of their personal belongings, but cannot refuse to have pictures taken of the fixtures and fittings. If you are a tenant and do not want your personal belongings photographed, be sure to discuss this with your landlord before they start taking pictures.
Landlords have a legal obligation to carry out periodic inspections of their properties to check that tenants are using it properly. This is because landlords have a duty of care to ensure the property is being well maintained in accordance with health and safety regulations.
It also allows the landlord to check that the tenant is not using the property for anything that would breach the mortgage and insurance terms and conditions or the tenancy agreement.
If the landlord has hired a letting agent to manage the property, taking photographs during inspection visits is a great way for the letting agent to report back to the landlord with evidence that they are fulfilling their duties.
Tenants who are concerned as to whether photographs will be taken of their personal belongings, should arrange a time for a visit when they are at home. Of course, tenants are within their rights to take photos of the landlord or letting agent who are taking photos within the property.
If a tenant feels that unnecessary photos where captured which invades their privacy, they will then have photographic evidence themselves to support a complaint to the Property Redress Scheme.