With new regulations and rules now in place for landlords, our in-house property experts outline their 10 essential safety requirements for new landlords managing rental properties.
The safety of tenants should always be the main focus for each and every landlord. This applies to both the private rented sector (PRS) as well as councils, short term lets like AirBnB, social housing and leisure industries that provide accommodation in hotels, hostels and holiday homes across the UK.
Sadly there are a few ‘rogue’ landlords and agents that flout the laws that are meant to safeguard tenants, however each landlord can make a difference by ensuring that their own property portfolio is fully compliant. And by looking after tenants, you are more likely to find quality longer term renters that will take care of the property.
So, what are the 10 essential requirements to a happy and safe rental experience?
Right to rent checks
The Home Office introduced Right to Rent checks with the aim of making the UK an inhospitable environment for people who try to live in the UK illegally. The penalties for anyone who provides rented accommodation to illegal non-EEA migrants will include: £1,000 fine per illegal migrant for a first offence a £3,000 fine per illegal migrant for a repeat offence and HMO landlords will lose their licences. This is a safety issue in regards to the potential loss to income and to ensure that the property isn’t being used for illegal purposes.
Fitness for Human Habitation
The Act came into force on 20 March 2019 and is designed to ensure that all rented accommodation is fit for human habitation and to strengthen tenants’ means of redress against the minority of landlords who do not fulfil their legal obligations to keep their properties safe. The main factors to consider are whether;
- the building has been neglected and is in a bad condition
- the building is unstable
- there’s a serious problem with damp
- it has an unsafe layout
- there’s not enough natural light
- there’s not enough ventilation
- there is a problem with the supply of hot and cold water
- there are problems with the drainage or the lavatories
- it’s difficult to prepare and cook food or wash up
The safety requirements are clear; the property has to be fit for use and for tenants to have quiet and safe enjoyment of the property in relation to the 29 hazards set out in the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005
For more information visit: gov.uk/FFHH
Gas Safety Record
Landlords letting a residential property have a legal duty to ensure the property is safe for the tenants. Required by law; a Gas Safe registered engineer must carry out an annual gas safety check on all gas appliances with the results of the checks recorded in the Landlord Gas Safety Record
As stated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE): “Landlords have a legal duty of care to their tenants which includes repair and maintenance of gas pipework, flues and to keep appliances in a safe condition’..
There is also an additional safety requirement in that although installation pipework is not covered by the annual safety check; both Gas Safe and the HSE recommend that when requesting a safety check, the Gas Safe registered engineer should be asked to:
- Test for tightness on the whole gas system, including installation pipework
- Visually examine the pipework (so far as is reasonably practicable)
For more information visit: GasSafe
Legionella Risk Assessments
The law is clear; if you are a landlord and rent out your property (or even a room within your own home) then you have legal responsibilities to ensure the health and safety of your tenant by keeping the property safe and free from health hazards.
The key legislation that applies are:
Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) Landlords, under Section 53 of HSWA are regarded as being self-employed and tenants fall into the class of “other persons (not being his employees)”. If a landlord rents out a property, they have legal responsibilities to ensure they conduct your undertaking in such a way that tenant(s) are not exposed to health and safety risks.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) provides a framework of actions to control the risk from a range of hazardous substances, including biological agents (eg Legionella) – to identify and assess the risk, and implement any necessary measures to control any risk.
Since the L8 Approved Code of Practice (3rd edition) (ACOP) was published in 2001, there has been a requirement for landlords of both domestic and business premises to assess the risks from exposure to Legionellato their tenants. This is further underpinned by the revised and republished L8 Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) in November 2013 and retained the guidance on the requirements of HSWA and COSHH for employers AND those with responsibilities for the control of premises including landlords (L8 ACOP, paragraphs 1 and 2).
For more information visit: HSE
Electrical Installation Condition Report
The Regulations came into force on 1 June 2020 and form part of the Department’s wider work to improve safety in all residential premises and particularly in the private rented sector.
Landlords of privately rented accommodation must:
- Ensure national standards for electrical safety are met. These are set out in the 18th edition of the ‘Wiring Regulations’, which are published as British Standard 7671.
- Ensure the electrical installations in their rented properties are inspected and tested by a qualified and competent person at least every 5 years.
- Obtain a report from the person conducting the inspection and test which gives the results and sets a date for the next inspection and test.
- Supply a copy of this report to the existing tenant within 28 days of the inspection and test.
- Supply a copy of this report to a new tenant before they occupy the premises.
- Supply a copy of this report to any prospective tenant within 28 days of receiving a request for the report.
- Supply the local authority with a copy of this report within 7 days of receiving a request for a copy.
- Retain a copy of the report to give to the inspector and tester who will undertake the next inspection and test.
- Where the report shows that remedial or further investigative work is necessary, complete this work within 28 days or any shorter period if specified as necessary in the report.
- Supply written confirmation of the completion of the remedial works from the electrician to the tenant and the local authority within 28 days of completion of the works.
Apart from the clear physical and safety requirements; landlords who do not carry out these reports risk fines of up to £30,00 from local authorities if found to be in breach of their duties.
For more information visit: gov.uk/EICR
Energy Performance Certificate
An Energy Performance Certificate is required for properties when constructed, sold or let. An EPC gives a property an energy efficiency rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) and is valid for 10 years.
Although not a requirement under health and safety; an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is needed whenever a property is built, sold or rented and landlords can be fined if an EPC is not provided when it is required for potential buyers and tenants before the property can be marketed in order to sell or rent.
For more information visit: gov.uk/EPC
Smoke and Carbon monoxide alarms
From the 1st October 2015 private sector landlords have been required to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (eg a coal fire, wood burning stove). After that, the landlord must make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy.
The regulations require private rented sector landlords, from 1 October 2015, to have:
- at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their rental property which is used as living accommodation, and
- a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used as living accommodation where solid fuel is used – after that, the landlord must make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy.
Again, apart from the glaringly obvious health and safety elements of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms; local authorities enforce and can impose a fine of up to £5,000 where a landlord fails to comply with a remedial notice issued.
For more information visit: gov.uk
Inventory and Check Out Reports
When letting out a property the key to a successful tenancy is not just about the tenancy agreement, referencing and deposit protection but also the documents that underpin the process.
The safety requirement of an inventory report should be in the sections that showcase the testing of the alarms at point of check in, the list of documents like gas safety, EICR reports, EPC’s and that the property is indeed fit for human habitation.
Equally, the checkout should showcase the changes to the property and act as a maintenance document. This should highlight whether key reports need to be carried out such as commissioning new Gas Safety Records or Legionella Risk Assessments as well as changing smoke alarm batteries or checking that the property is clean and fit for use.
Another key risk to a landlord is that without an inventory, the landlord may not be able to prove, on the balance of probability, that he or she has a legitimate claim against the deposit. The adjudicator cannot then correctly assess the evidence or apportion liability which may then lead to an unfair outcome.
This is especially poignant now that tenant fees are banned and that the cost and onus is squarely on the shoulders of the landlord and indeed the letting agent.
For more information on inventory reports and training visit: Inventorybase Academy
These are vital not just so that checks can be made as to whether the property is being well maintained throughout the tenancy, but to ensure that the property remains compliant with EICR, Gas safety and smoke / carbon monoxide alarms safety requirements as well as identifying potential safety issues caused by the tenants’ use of the property.
Checks should be made and include whether there are:
- unauthorised pets
- unauthorised tenants / over-occupancy
- evidence of smoking
- abuse of the property
- faulty plumbing or electrics
- damp and or condensation
- faulty smoke detectors and or tampering of the alarms
- anti social behaviour
- broken windows, doors or external issues that comprise the safety of the tenants and or occupants
The risks for not carrying out the above 10 essential safety requirements can be far-reaching but can also be easily managed and mitigated by outsourcing to qualified professionals such as Gas Safety Engineers, EPC Assessors, Electricians and Inventory Clerks all of whom will help new landlords keep on top of their responsibilities and ensures that profit does not come before safety.