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Landlord responsibilities for tenant safety

Jun 1, 2018

As a landlord, one of the most important legal requirements is that you cover the basic safety practices and equipment in the property or properties you are renting.  Keeping your tenants safe should be your principal concern, so ensuring that these obligations are met is of the utmost importance.  Helen Porter, Partner and Litigation and Dispute Solicitor, clarifies the responsibilities of residential landlords regarding fire, gas and electrical safety, and explains how UK legislation applies in this area.

Safety legislation for landlords

There are a wide array of governmental acts, orders and regulations that legislate the safety obligations placed on landlords.  To name a few, fire safety requirements are covered by The Housing Act 2004, Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 2010, The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015.

Your location in the UK will determine the appropriate legislation for you.  The obligations detailed in this article are pertinent to properties in England.  For landlords in Scotland, the legislation is often more extensive.   Landlords in Wales are covered by similar legislation as for England and have regard to the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016.

In addition, a landlord will need to ensure their domestic private rented property reaches minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) before they can be let.  The MEES requirements are being implemented in two phases, beginning in 2018.  Except for a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), it is now a legal requirement to provide an Energy Performance Certificate.

Fire safety obligations for landlords

Landlords have a number of legal responsibilities regarding the fire safety of their properties and the subsequent safety of their tenants.  In order to meet the requirements, you must ensure you have: 

  • At least one smoke alarm fitted on every storey of the property.
  • A carbon monoxide detector and alarm fitted in every room in which there is a ‘solid fuel burning appliance.’ This type of appliance would include, but is not limited to, wood burning stoves and coal fires.
  • To ensure residents have access to escape routes at all times.
  • To ensure that all furnishings, fittings, furniture etc provided by you are fire safe.
  • To fit fire extinguishers and fire alarms if your property is a HMO.

Gas safety obligations for landlords

Gas safety is another area where landlords are heavily regulated to ensure the safety of their tenants.  As a landlord, you are required to:

  • Have all gas powered equipment and appliances installed and maintained by a fully certified, Gas Safe-registered engineer.
  • Have an annual inspection of gas equipment carried out by a Gas Safe-registered engineer.
  • Provide your tenants with a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate before they move in, or within 28 days of the check-in taking place and thereafter annually.  Landlords cannot recover possession of the property if a Gas Safety Certificate has not been provided.

The most important thing to remember here is that all work must be carried out by a Gas Safe-registered engineer.  If it is not, you have not fulfilled your legal obligations and could leave yourself open to enquiry and, even worse, you would be putting your tenants in danger.

Electrical safety obligations for landlords

Finally, electrical safety obligations are not as specific, but tenants do have particularly strong protections. The legal requirements in regards to electrical safety include:

  • Ensuring that the electrical system in the property is safe and fully functional. This means testing and securing light fittings, switches and any other parts of the electrical system tenants have access to.
  • Ensuring all electrical items and appliances supplied by you are safe. This includes larger appliances, like washing machines and dishwashers, as well as smaller items, such as kettles and toasters.

Helen concludes, “I cannot stress enough how important it is for landlords to follow their safety obligations.  The details here regarding fire, gas and electrical safety are the bare minimum you should do as a landlord to ensure your property is not only legally prepared for rental, but also that it is safe for your tenants to live.  While not legally necessary to go above and beyond the requirements explained, you could install additional safety measures and equipment, for example installing smoke detectors in every room, and supplying fire extinguishers throughout an HMO.  Making these decisions may depend on the type of property you have, but it is vital you provide the basic requirements before providing additional protection.”

If you have questions for Helen regarding your responsibilities as a landlord towards your tenant, you can contact her or Daniel Coleman in the team on 023 8071 7487 or email danielcoleman@warnergoodman.co.uk.  For general enquiries regarding your property, contact Hayley Steer on 023 8071 7412 or email hayleysteer@warnergoodman.co.uk.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.