What safety checks do landlords need to do?Written By PropertyLoop June 24, 2021
Whilst the debate over which party of the rental agreement is responsible for repairs seems to still rear its head from time to time, a landlord’s duty of care towards their tenants, and obligation to offer a safe rental opportunity is undisputable.
Are Landlords Responsible For Repairs?
Whilst the occupants of a rental property are expected to conduct themselves in a “tenant like manner” over the duration of the rental period’s fixed term, seeing them conduct minor repairs, the more significant remedial work should be the concern of the landlord. With this in mind upon the signing of the tenancy agreement the tenant takes on the responsibility to inform the landlord of any damage or imminent repairs that are needed around the rental property. If the occupants of the dwelling fail to keep the landlord updated with any necessary remedial work, or prevent them from accessing the rental property to carry out such repairs, the landlord’s liability to uphold the good condition of the rental property is nullified. This is one of the many reasons as to why maintaining a positive relationship between both parties of the rental agreement is essential, the occupants of the rental property could well be ignoring, or preventing the repair of something that if left unattended could develop into a far greater health and safety hazard.
While the more mundane aspects of maintaining he rental property such as regular cleaning and replacing light bulbs would fall upon the shoulders of the tenant, the landlords Is largely responsible for any issues that concern the structure and exterior of the rental property, typically comprising the guttering, pipework, roofing, windows, gas and electrical appliances, wiring, sinks and other amenities, alongside the upkeep of communal or high use areas within the rental. It is also essential for both landlords and tenants to understand that a bespoke term written into the tenancy agreement will never absolve a landlord of their duty to repair and ensure the upkeep of the rental property as this would diminish the tenant’s right to rent a habitable home. Further to this the owner of the rental property is unable to make the occupants incur any costs associated with repair work carried out on the property as it is not their responsibility to attend to these matters.
With this being said, if landlord is proving to be reluctant towards their duty to maintain the rental property tenants are advised to detail the extent of the damage, alongside the needed repairs and communicate this to the landlord in written form. If after multiple attempts to establish a negotiation with the owner of the rental property and have the appropriate remedial work conducted, the tenants are unsuccessful, they may be able to obtain an “order for specific performance” from the courts. In some cases if the damage to the rental property is excessive and is placing the occupants in imminent danger, the local authority will take it upon themselves to carry out the needed work and recuperate the costs from the landlord.
Can I Withhold Rent?
If the landlord is failing to attend to any remedial matters that the tenants bring to their attention they could be tempted to withhold their due rental payments in an effort to motivate the owner of the rental property into action. However, this is a rather ill-advised move as in doing so the occupants of the property would be breaching the terms of their tenancy agreement, failing to uphold their obligation to make regular rental payments and therefore giving the landlords adequate grounds to pursue eviction proceedings. It would be a far better course of action for the tenants to obtain a declaration empowering them to organise the repair works themselves, then deducting the associated costs from their future rental payments.
The occupants of the rental property may also be successful in taking legal action against the owner of the rental property. If the conditional of the accommodation are found to have cause harm, discomfort or cause excessive inconvenience to the tenants they may be entitled to a significant amount of compensation due to the negligence of the landlord. When determining the amount of compensation that should be awarded to the tenants, the courts will evaluate the extent of the damage to the property and the landlord’s willingness, or lack of, to address these issues once brought to their attention.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 holds landlords more accountable for the condition of their rental property, legally compelling them to ensure that the property is in a safe state of repair before being let out to aspiring tenants. Not only should the property have ample ventilation, lighting and draining, but be free from damp, structural issues and provide a safe facility for tenants to prepare and dispose of food and waste in a sanitary manner.
What Makes a House Unfit For Human Habitation?
It goes without saying that before a landlord presents a rental opportunity to the rental market they should ensure that it is safe to occupy. If the rental property is found to have excessive structural issues, problems with the growth of mould or the spread of damp, is overcrowded, or is facing a pest infestation it will fall far short of the mark in regards to meeting current health and safety standards within the rental sector.
When the local authority is determining if a rental property is fit for human habitation they will referrer to the Housing Health and Safety Regulations, often referred to as the HHSRS. These regulations establish a minimum threshold of safety that each rented out property must meet before being occupied. Often the layout of a property will be taken into account, with poor lighting, an unsafe layout and minimal ventilation being indicative of a property that doesn’t adhere to the standards.
Electrical Safety Checks
Under current health and safety regulations landlords must ensure that the electrical outlets, appliances and supply points are operating in a manner that doesn’t endanger the occupants of the property. The rental property must be comprehensively assessed by a qualified electrical engineer every five years, with an Electrical inspection Condition report been given to the landlord if the rental is found to be safe. If any of the appliances within the property are found to be in an unsafe condition they must be removed immediately as to not pose a danger to the residents.
Gas Safety Checks
Landlords will also be expected to have their rental property undergo a gas safety check each year. The gas safety inspection must be carried out by a fully qualified gas safe engineer, with a gas safety certificate being provided to the landlord providing that the property passed the assessment. During the inspection the gas safe engineer will evaluate the safety of the boiler, flues and any gas appliances found throughout the property. Once the gas safety certificate has been obtained by the landlord this must be provided to the tenants of the property within 28 days of the inspection taking place. However, if the landlord is entering into a fresh tenancy period with new occupants they must be provided with the gas safety certificate within 28 days of the tenancy agreement being signed; if the landlord fails to deliver the documents to the occupants of the rental property, similarly to the energy performance certificate and the government issues, “how to rent guide”, the landlord will be unable to enact a section 21 order notice against the tenant.
Fire Safety Checks
As can be expected before a rental property owner is able to host their opportunity on the market, they must ensure that their buy to let adheres to current fire safety regulations. With this in mind the landlord must ensure that every floor of the rental property that hold accommodation must have a working smoke alarm installed. Further to this, any area of the rental property that contains an appliance that burns a solid fuel source, or stores such a fuel, should also contain a carbon monoxide alarm alongside a traditional smoke alarm. If the landlord’s rental property is considered to be a house in multiple occupation, or HMO they will have to adhere to additional fire safety regulations. Landlords that let out a HMO to multiple tenants will be required to have fire blankets and extinguishers available to the tenants in communal areas and high risk areas such as the kitchen.
In addition to this landlords hat choose to let out their rental property in a partly, or fully furnished condition will have further regulation to abide by to ensure the safety of their tenants. The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 established a minimum level of ignition and fire resistance any furnishings the landlord introduces to the property must abide by. Typically encompassing furnishings such as beds, pillows, curtains, carpets, upholsters and in some cases garden furniture, the landlord must keep evidence of their ignition resistance documented in the event the property is inspected by an environmental health officer.
However, with this being said it is important for landlords and tenants to note that the owner of the rental property will not be held liable for any items and possessions the tenant brings into the rental that do not meet these stringent fire safety regulations.
Legionella Risk Assessment for Landlords
Commonly caused by the occupants of the rental property being overly exposed to contaminated water, legionnaires disease, can pose a significant risk of infection to the tenants. It is the duty of the landlord to be aware of this risk and take appropriate measures to minimise this hazard. This can be accomplished through ensuring that the rental’s water system is thoroughly flushed before letting the property out to tenants, alongside there are measures in place to prevent contaminants and debris from entering the water supply for the property. Landlords could also act to reduce the risk of exposure to legionnaire’s disease through removing any unnecessary or redundant internal or external pipework from the property and implementing precautions to ensure that the correct temperature for the stored water is maintained.
Further to this tenants should be made aware by their landlord of the extra measures they can take to mitigate the risk of legionnaire’s disease. The occupants of the rental property should take steps such as cleaning faucets and shower heads often, and letting the water run from taps for a few minutes of they have vacated the property for an extended period of time.
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