There are a number of legal obligations and expectations on landlords when renting properties; this page provides a summary of the key safety things you need to know.
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Landlords are legally responsible for ensuring a gas safety check is carried out annually by a Gas Safe Registered engineer. You must keep a record of the safety check for two years and ensure a copy is issued to each existing tenant within 28 days of the check being completed and a copy is issued to any new tenants before they move in. Failure to hold a valid certificate, provide a copy to your tenants and to your agent generates a legal risk.
There is no legal requirement for a landlord to obtain a landlord safety certificate for oil fired equipment installed within a let property. However, BS 5410: Part 1 requires oil fired appliances and equipment to be serviced periodically in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Therefore, if this does not happen and there is a problem then you would have little defence.
Given this you should have an annual safety check and boiler service by an OFTEC Registered Engineer.
This reports the condition of the circuits in the property, i.e. the wires and sockets in the walls, the ‘fuse board’ etc., to ensure everything is safe to use (i.e. it meets the requirements of BS7671). Completed reports are registered centrally, along with any faults identified. Before any property is sold the buyer usually expects a current EICR.
Any new tenancy created from 1 July 2020 requires an EICR which is no older than 5 years. From 1 April 2021 all domestic rental properties require an EICR completed within the last 5 years.
The EICR will give details of the works which are immediate legal obligations, plus the suggested works to meet the highest standards of safety. Any obligatory issues identified must be properly addressed and any subsequent significant electrical installations carried out by a qualified electrician, who would provide an appropriate certificate as an addition to any EICR.
Failure to provide a current EICR or act on any obligatory works identified can lead to a fine of up to £30,000.
Additionally, where there are changes of tenants between EICRs there should be a visual check for obvious problems (broken sockets and light fittings), which we complete if we manage your property.
PORTABLE APPLIANCE TEST (PAT)
Any appliance with an electrical plug is considered ‘portable’ (even a fridge). A PAT tests the electrical integrity of any appliance to ensure it is safe to use. It should include a visual check of the cable and plug. Once tested a label is put on the plug or appliance to show when it was tested. The Regulations do not specify what needs to be done, by whom or how frequently. There are different suggested frequencies for different appliances essentially based on risk. Appliances used by more people and appliances which use more energy (usually those generating heat) tend to need more frequent testing. As the appliances a landlord usually provides to a property will be fridges/washing machines etc. it is good practice to test appliances no less than every 2 years.
Domestic water systems in rental properties need to be checked to minimise the chance the system encourages the growth of harmful organisms, particularly Legionella. There is no legal mandate about how this should be done, as there is with annual gas safety certificates. There are also some who believe this work is not needed and that people can do it themselves.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) produced a clear code of practice in November 2013. Any landlord failing to follow this code would have little defence against any claim or prosecution. The HSE code makes it very clear that landlords need to:
Ensure there is a risk assessment which;
If the risk assessment shows work is required, this needs to be addressed. The timescale will depend on the scale of the risk.
If the assessment shows, there may be an issue then the water may need laboratory testing for the presence of Legionella bacteria. This is very rare in domestic properties.
Review the risk assessment regularly (currently assessed to be every 2 years).
Ensure the water system is regularly maintained. This includes landlords being responsible for ensuring the system is free from limescale.
A key issue is whether there are water storage tanks on the property, as this is usually flagged as a potential risk area. Therefore, it is often more cost effective to have the tanks cleaned and treated when the risk assessment is completed, as this avoids a return visit.
It is important to note that letting agents have an obligation to ensure landlords can show their water systems are safe where they manage your property.
From 1 October 2015 Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 require smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted in residential rental properties. The Regulations say:
A smoke alarm must be provided on each storey of the premises on which there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation.
A carbon monoxide alarm must be provided in any room of the premises which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.
Alarms need to be checked and in proper working order at the start of each tenancy. The only guidance about the type of alarms is in the explanatory booklet supporting the Regulations We have set out below information to help you make this decision.
Many local councils have their own best practice guidelines for landlords, all of which tend to be similar. These have usually been set in conjunction with the local fire and rescue service. The Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue service website says the best protection is to have alarms in every room, to have mains powered, interlinked alarms, and to mix both ionisation and optical alarms. Most of our landlords of normal family homes with related occupants fit, as a minimum, smoke alarms meeting British Standard 5446 Part 1, showing a British or European approval mark, such as a Kitemark. When asked to fit alarms the minimum we fit is 5 year warranty battery powered ionisation smoke alarms. We want the test button to test the ability to detect smoke as well as the battery power and sounder. Otherwise you will need to smoke test the alarm to prove it works at the beginning of the tenancy. However if you have a house with a number of unrelated occupants renting rooms this is moving toward or may meet the definition of a House in Multiple Occupancy (HMO), so you would be expected to have greater protection than supplied to a small house with a single family. In this case we recommend following local HMO guidelines to ensure you can be seen to follow best practice. This is likely to mean mains powered interlinked alarms, possibly linked to a central station.
The 2015 Regulations limit the alarms to rooms with solid fuel appliances. The guidance notes say encourage reputable landlords to ensure that working carbon monoxide alarms are installed wherever fuel is burnt, which matches the advice of all agencies (HSE, NHS, local councils, fire service). Alarms should meet British Standard EN 50291, showing a British or European approval mark, such as a Kitemark. When asked to fit alarms the minimum we fit is 10 year warranty battery powered audible carbon monoxide alarms. It is important that the test button tests the ability to detect carbon monoxide as well as the battery power and sounder. Otherwise you will need to gas test the alarm to prove it works at the beginning of the tenancy. It is possible to get combined smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Most alarms are also available with either replaceable batteries or sealed a guaranteed 10 year life. Whilst the latter are more expensive they need less maintenance.
The Government is currently reviewing whether to make it compulsory to fit Carbon Monoxide alarms wherever fuel is burnt.
Landlords must make sure that all furniture is fire resistant and complies with current Regulations. Even items stored in a shed, garage or cordoned-off section of the loft must still adhere to the Regulations. Also any items sold to the tenant will have to comply. This applies to any soft furnishing (sofas, their covers, cushions) as well as the furniture, including garden furniture that can be used indoors. It does not apply to curtains.
Any fuel burning appliance installed after October 2010 must comply with appropriate Building Regulations. This means that any such appliance must either have been installed by a HETAS approved engineer, who would provide a compliance certificate, or specific Building Regulation consent should have been obtained. Thereafter the chimney will need regular sweeping. We recommend this is done using a HETAS approved contractor, who will provide a certificate to show they have checked the safety of the device and chimney. We advise landlords should have chimneys swept at the start of each tenancy (but not more frequently than annually). Thereafter where tenants use the chimney, we expect them to sweep the chimney regularly.
All landlords must follow fire safety regulations. For individual, single family homes that means ensuring tenants always have access to escape routes. Therefore, if there is only one door to the property it is important to ensure the windows can be opened, as they would be the escape route if needed.
Where your property is in a block of flats the block should have been built with safe escape routes protected by fire-resisting walls and fire doors, which help to give all occupants time to exit their homes to safety. You will need to make sure that these exit routes are kept clear by whoever manages the exit areas for the block. You should also check that a fire risk assessment has been completed for the block.
Where your property is a House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) there are extra legal obligations to provide a safe means of escape. These will alter dependent upon each building.