What are your health & safety responsibilities as a landlord?
By Helen Jackson -
Being a landlord can be great — the current rental market is incredibly buoyant, providing an excellent opportunity to increase your income while giving you a new project to focus on.
But along with all the fun stuff, you’re also obligated to fulfil certain health and safety responsibilities. This is to ensure the well-being of the people occupying your property, regardless of how long their tenancy lasts.
You must ensure you take your responsibilities as a landlord seriously — you are ultimately liable for whatever happens to your tenants regarding gas safety, fire safety, electrical safety, etc., with the consequences ranging from financial penalties to jail time.
This guide explores the health and safety responsibilities you’ll need to know if you’re considering becoming a landlord.
As a residential landlord, one of the first things you’ll need to consider as part of your health and safety review is the property’s gas safety check. This one might trip you up as while it’s not a legal requirement for homeowners to acquire an annual gas safety certificate, it is a legal requirement for a landlord to provide this certificate every 12 months.
The gas supply and any appliances used on the property must be installed, maintained and subsequently checked by a gas registered safety engineer. Once the check has taken place, the certificate must be presented to new tenants before their move-in date or for existing/rolling tenants 28 days from when the assessment is complete.
Landlords who fail to provide a gas safety certificate, therefore finding themselves in breach of the gas safety regulations, are considered to have committed a serious crime and can be penalised with anything from a £6,000 fine to a possible six-month jail sentence.
This is not a risk you should ever consider taking, especially considering that the average cost of a gas safety certificate in the UK ranges between £60 – £90.
The total number of house fires attended by the UK’s fire and rescue service has decreased by 34% over the last decade, which is a testament to the safety equipment now available.
However, with annual house fires totalling 147,295 in 2021, there’s still much to do when contributing to this positive trend.
The role of the landlord is to provide every occupied property with either a mains or battery-operated smoke alarm as a legal requirement. In addition, many regional fire services will offer a free home safety check and, if needed, will provide free smoke alarms. So there is no excuse to meet your obligations as a landlord regarding fire safety.
For peace of mind, installing a carbon monoxide detector/alarm system around any solid fuel-burning appliances would also be a good idea despite not being a legal requirement.
Any devices should be fitted, checked or in good working order at the time of a new tenancy. A good way of evidencing this to the new tenant would be by including this as part of the property’s initial inventory check, signed off by the tenant at the beginning of the residency.
Other fire safety points to consider:
- Ensure all furniture you provide is fire resistant
- Lay out furniture so it doesn’t restrict any escape routes.
- Supply fire extinguishers (a legal requirement for any multi-occupancy property — i.e. individual tenants sharing a property
As of 1st April 2021, it’s now mandatory for all rental properties in the UK to be subjected to an electrical check every five years, producing an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR).
This report must be supplied to the tenant within 28 days of the property being inspected, with a further copy being provided to the local authority within seven days of receiving a request.
A registered competent electrician must conduct the EICR. Check out the Electrical Safety Roundtable to find someone in your area who can complete these checks on your property. Once you’ve found an engineer know that this will cost you roughly £80 – £100.
Other than the property’s wiring, houses are often filled with electrical devices, which all come with a risk to the user.
As a residential landlord, you’re responsible for the safety and maintenance of all electrical devices provided in the property when your tenant moves in. This may influence how much you decide to furnish the property with electrical devices, as all appliances supplied as part of a furnished property will need to be professionally PAT tested.
Whereas all electronic devices brought into the property by the tenant, do not need to be tested.
In recent years the term asbestos has become a problem word within property health and safety. A potentially harmful material used in building projects worldwide, asbestos hit its peak popularity in properties constructed between the 1960s and 1980s.
Asbestos is a good insulator with fire protection properties, also used to preserve against corrosion, so is most commonly found in the flooring, wall insulation, ceiling tiles and piping of buildings built in this era. Intact, asbestos is pretty harmless; however, when broken or damaged, tiny fibres can get into the air and, if inhaled, can cause severe damage to your lungs and, in extreme conditions, can be fatal.
While the importation, supply and use of asbestos in the UK has been illegal since 1999, you’d be safe to assume that buildings older than this hold a greater risk of containing asbestos and should be checked by a qualified professional before any tenants gain access to your property. Never try to remove asbestos yourself.
In a residential property, legionella, a water-based bacteria, can grow in temperatures between 20-45°C. Water containing legionella, if consumed, can lead to legionnaires’ disease – an infectious and sometimes fatal form of pneumonia.
Before renting out a property, it’s a legal requirement for landlords to carry out a risk assessment of the whole property, which will, as part of the overall assessment, identify any risk of exposure to legionella.
The risk assessment should examine all the water storage units located at the property, from the domestic hot and cold water systems, water tanks, heaters, and everything else.
Like all the other safety checks mentioned in this guide, it is always best to assume there is a problem and check it out rather than risk it.
You can minimise the chances of legionella developing by decreasing the water storage at the property. You can do this by installing instantaneous water heaters (eg. combi boilers and electric showers) if the property currently does not have them.
Hopefully, this guide has given you a lot to consider before becoming a landlord. It’s always important to be fully informed about your responsibilities, particularly when it comes to health and safety.
If you’re a landlord looking to purchase your next property, financing your project with a bridging loan can be a viable option.
Learn more about what you should look for in a bridging lender.