If you’re a responsible landlord, you’ll know that you have a duty of care for your tenants. This means that you’re legally obliged to provide safe accommodation and minimise the risk of any hazards and dangers. In England, this is covered in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.
So what are the top 10 health and safety obligations?
All the gas fixtures and fittings you supply must be safely installed and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Each year, you must have a gas safety check carried out, as well as giving the tenant a copy of the certificate, before they actually move in.
As the law stands, you only have to have the electrical system periodically inspected by an electrician if it’s an HMO (every 5 years). However, you are legally required to make sure the electrical system and appliances you provide are safe. The most effective way to do that is by instructing a ‘Part-P’ qualified electrician to carry out an inspection on the system every 3-5 years and have PAT Testing carried out (Portable Appliance Test) on appliances every 12 months.
All furnishings you supply, such as sofas, chairs, mattresses etcmust meet fire safety regulations, and there should be a permanent manufacturer’s label confirming this.
Legally, there must be a working smoke alarm on each floor of a property that is rented out, and this should be tested at the start of every tenancy. To give your tenants the best protection, you can go further than the minimum legal requirement and install the following:
- A smoke alarm in all living rooms
- A smoke alarm in every hallway and landing
- A heat sensor in the kitchen
(All these are required in Scotland)
- A carbon monoxide alarm
5. Written risk assessment
A ‘competent person’ should complete a written risk assessment form for the property. A good person to do this is a fire safety specialist who can then review it periodically – ideally each year or between tenancies, whichever comes first.
6. Clear escape routes
This will be covered in the aforementioned risk assessment, but do consider that tenants can inadvertently obstruct escape routes during their time there. As such, it’s a good idea to put up clear notices in fire escape route areas and on fire exit doors.
7. Mould from damp and condensation
Mould can cause a huge health hazard for your tenants, so the property MUST be properly ventilated, especially in the kitchen and bathroom, where a lot of condensation collects from steam from showering or cooking. Mould-resistant paint on the walls and floors in these rooms certainly helps, and also make sure you check for mildew during periodical inspections. If mould appears, make sure you get a diagnosis of the cause before covering it up or there’s a chance it will return.
Make sure there are secure locks on doors and windows and that boundaries are well maintained (e.g. walls and fencing). External security lighting can give tenants peace of mind. Make sure you are aware of who has keys to external doors, and that only the tenants, the property manager and landlord are able to enter.
Under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and recent amendment, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, you’re legally obliged to ensure the property is fit for habitation at the beginning of the tenancy and that it is well-maintained. If the furnishings or fittings or fabric of the property itself fall into disrepair, it could cause serious safety issues for your tenants.
10. Emergency procedures and operating manuals
Display clear information about what tenants should do and who to contact in case of an emergency, e.g. if there is a fire or flood in the property. Make sure there are instruction manuals for any equipment you’ve provided, to help tenants use it safely.