Landlord Focus – Lettings Safety Standards; Raising the Bar

Last time on the blog, Tom talked about MEES and landlords facing mandatory force to improve the energy efficiency of their rental properties. Since then, the Government has announced they’re not stopping there. Last week, the Ministry for Housing announced that they are going to carry out a private rental sector health and safety review* in order to bring standards up within the industry further. Current Health and Safety Regulations for the private rental sector have not been updated in twelve years and the current thinking within the Ministry of Housing is that they require a review in order to protect tenants.

Okay, I can hear a few groans coming from our much-valued landlords, and I can understand why. The private rental sector has taken quite a bashing recently what with MEES, amendments to Section 21, Right to Rent, all new terms landlords need to be familiar with and ensure they are meeting the criteria of as well. However, standards are a good thing, right? They raise the bar. They also cover your backside in the event that something does go wrong and prevent you facing a penalty or criminal charge. Tenants do need protecting from rogue landlords and unsafe homes, plus in ensuring your rental property comes up to scratch, you are making yourself a competitive entrant in the lettings market. Like Tom discussed last time, landlords who are not meeting up to MEES standards are now prevented from re-marketing their property, if their tenants have given notice, and face void periods if they can’t get their property up to scratch quickly enough.

So, what are the Government proposing? Before I discuss that, let’s look at your present obligations in terms of Health and Safety:

Gas Safety Certificate

The main risk of not servicing or maintaining gas equipment is a serious gas explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning. Landlords are required by law to have all gas-related equipment (e.g. boiler, hob, gas fire) inspected at least once every 12 months by a ‘Gas Safe’ approved engineer. Landlords must also keep a record of regular check, and the condition of equipment at all times, and provide tenants with an annual gas safety certificate; to not hold a current certificate in a tenanted property is a criminal offence as is not passing on a ‘passed’ certificate to the tenant within 28 days of the renewal date. These rules apply to LPG appliances too.

Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

You are obligated to provide smoke detectors on every floor of the property; these can be battery operated or wired-in. It is best practice to encourage your tenants to check these regularly and that you inspect and test them between tenancies, on the day a tenant takes occupancy and at the regular property inspections you should be carrying out. In addition, since October 2015, by law a landlord must provide Carbon Monoxide Detectors in any room of their rented property containing solid fuel. Not only does this include boilers but gas appliances such as hobs and wood burners and open fires too. 

Electrical safety

At present the extent of your electrical responsibilities are that the electrical system is safe, for example sockets and light fittings work correctly and are not loose and that all appliances (e.g. washing machine) you supply are in good working order and are safe too.

Fire safety

Under the House Act 2004 it is your responsibility to follow safety regulations, provide a smoke alarm on each storey and a carbon monoxide alarm (as discussed above) in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance (for example a coal fire or wood burning stove). You should assess whether your tenants have access to escape routes at all times and ensure any furniture and furnishings provided are fire safe.

So, what did you think when you read through that and refreshed yourself with your obligations? Personally, I read it and think, hmmm, room for improvement? I certainly feel there is. Here’s my thoughts on what the Ministry of Housing’s review might include and some best practice, so that you could get ahead of the game and raise your landlord standards:

PAT Testing

PAT is an abbreviation for Portable Appliance Testing. At present it is best practice for landlords to have any portable appliances (these can range from washing machines, or microwaves, or lawn mowers to something like an extension lead i.e. anything which plugs in) to be tested either annually or at the commencement of a tenancy by an approved PAT tester. However, it is not mandatory, and this is something that the Health and Safety review may look at. Another way to prevent landlords providing substandard commodities. This isn’t something that a landlord might intentionally do either, because unless you inhabit your rental property between lets, you wouldn’t necessarily know that there was a fault with one of your appliances. Faulty electrical appliances, especially tumble dryers, could catch fire, so having them regularly inspected would protect the tenant from such hazards, but also a landlord from being incriminated in any loss of belongings or threat to life. However, in order to be compliant, leaving manufacturer’s instructions for all appliances would be a requirement as a tenant must know how to correctly operate the appliance and, equally, they must be responsible for maintaining the appliance, to prevent it becoming faulty (e.g. cleaning the tumble dryer filters).

EICRs

EICR stands for Electrical Inspection and Condition Report. These can only be carried out by a qualified electrician operating through a Government approved organisation such as the NICEIC or Elecsa. Electrical standards are changing and, as of 1st January 2019 electricians will need to be qualified to the 18th edition regulations in order to install, modify or test electrics. For homeowners, it is recommended that a property’s electrics are tested via an EICR every ten years and for landlords, best practice would be every five years. At present, it is not compulsory for landlords to do this, however, the Minister for Housing did hint back in the summer that the Government were looking to make EICRs mandatory on private rental properties every five years. In a way, it makes sense. Not every rental property has gas but they all have electric. Newer properties have had their electrics installed to current standards but some rental properties – especially flats in old Georgian and Edwardian properties – have been split up into flats in the 60s and 70s and no-one has really revisited the electrics ever since. Such properties would benefit from an EICR, if not a complete rewire to today’s standards. Current consumer units have RCD protection, meaning the consumer unit will trip-out and prevent an electrical fire. Upgrading electrics doesn’t only prevent tenants’ lives, it protects the rental property from damage too.

Oil

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. This is something which may be included in the Health and Safety review to ensure oil tanks are safely fitted and supply is safely connected to the property.

Hard Fuel Appliance Servicing

Although appliances such as boilers, gas hobs, wood burners and gas fires must be inspected by an approved engineer, there is currently no legal requirement for these sorts of appliances to be serviced. I always advise my landlords to have an annual boiler service; we get our cars MOT’d every year so why wouldn’t we do the same with a boiler? It could prevent a breakdown, which would leave your tenants without heating or hot water, and it can lengthen the life of the appliance.

So, although the current Health and Safety review might not implement all of my suggestions above, I welcome such a review, because if it raises the standards of private rental properties this is a good thing for both tenants and landlords alike. A well maintained rental property is desirable to tenants and maintained in good condition for whenever you come to sell your investment.

If you have any queries about Lettings health and safety or would like to know more about how we can assist in renting out your property, please don’t hesitate to personally contact me 01452 310999, email us at gloucester@surepropertygroup.com or call into our offices in Worcester Street, Gloucester, to discuss your needs further.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Jemma Wilkinson

Director

Sure Sales & Lettings

*Read full Letting Agent today article here: https://goo.gl/ZX73JU