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Being a landlord

Safety regulations

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This section looks in a little more detail at the safety regulations that apply to privately rented accommodation.

The basic rule of thumb is simply to do everything necessary to ensure that all items you supply in the property are safe. This is achieved through regular checks and servicing. Failure to fulfil your responsibilities as set out in the regulations can be considered a criminal offence. There have even been cases where landlords have been convicted and jailed for manslaughter where a faulty gas appliance has caused death and the landlord had not complied with this legislation.

The Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1994
This legislation places a statutory duty on landlords in relation to the installation and maintenance of any gas appliances (including gas boilers, water heaters, gas, coal and log fires, gas hobs and gas ovens) and pipe work in their properties through annual inspection and safety checks.

The landlord is required to have all gas appliances and installation pipe work checked at least every twelve months. These tests must be carried out by a registered CORGI engineer and must take place before the tenants gain access to the property. The engineer will basically be checking that:

  • There is sufficient supply of air to the property to allow proper combustion of any gas appliance.
  • Adequate facilities are in place for the removal of combustion by-products.
  • There is adequate ventilation to enable gas appliances to be safely used.
  • Appliances are in a condition that allows safe usage and eliminates risk of escaping gas.
  • Fittings and flues are maintained in a safe position at all times.

If at any point you suspect that there is a gas escape, you must immediately take all reasonable steps to cut off gas supply.

The landlord is required to keep accurate records of the date of inspections and remedial works carried out on all gas appliances within the property and retain these records for a period of 2 years.

The record should contain:

  • The date of the check
  • Name and address of the premises
  • Name and address of the landlord or your agent
  • Location of each piece of apparatus or flue
  • Any defects identified
  • Any remedial action taken
  • Identification of any defects
  • Confirmation that the safety check complies with the requirements of the regulations
  • The registration number of the CORGI engineer or the one with which employer is registered by Health and Safety Executive
  • The engineer's signature

To be fully compliant, you should keep one spare copy of the current record of the safety test certificate on the property, one with the letting agent, one for yourself and a final one per tenant, to be handed over when the tenancy agreement is signed. A new tenant must receive a copy of a current safety certificate prior to occupying the property. Tenants cannot be allowed to occupy the property if a current certificate is not available.

Electrical Equipment (Safety) regulations 1994
These regulations apply to anyone landlord who lets accommodation which contains electrical equipment. It covers any electrical equipment between 50 and 1000 volts a/c and requires that the apparatus to be safe and tested regularly by a competent person. The regulations do not, however, give any clear indications as to how often checks need to be made in order to be 'regular', nor stipulate any criteria that make a person competent.

The main things that you need to ensure are that the electrical equipment is:

  • Adequately protect against dangers such as overloading, through insulation and earthing.
  • Constructed in accordance with good engineering practice.
  • Accompanied by instruction booklets or clear instructions.

There are some simple checks that you can perform yourself to ensure that any equipment is compliant with the regulations:

Heating appliances should be in good working order, as should other domestic appliances such as washing machines, tumble dryers, microwaves, fridges, freezers and cookers.

  • Leads should not be worn or frayed.
  • Live and moving parts should be guarded and not easily accessible.
  • No wiring should be accessible or visible.
  • All plugs should be fused and BS1363 compliant.
  • Fireguards should be BS3248 compliant.
  • Fire extinguishers should be BS6575 compliant.

Furniture & furnishings (fire) (safety) regulations 1988
This legislation is there to ensure that furniture and furnishings are fire resistant and will not produce noxious smoke in the event of a fire. If required, the furniture or fittings may need to pass a match-resistance or cigarette-resistance test.

All furniture or furnishings that you supply must be marked with a label indicating that they comply with the regulations. Unfortunately, these labels often get lost or become unreadable - such items will not be compliant, even if they were manufactured to the correct specifications. You must remove any items that do not comply with the regulations before any tenants move in.

The following items are covered by the regulations:

  • Sofas and chairs
  • Beds, headboards and mattresses
  • Sofa-beds and futons
  • Nursery furniture
  • Garden furniture, which is also suitable for use inside
  • Scatter cushions and seat pads
  • Pillows
  • Loose and stretch covers for furniture
  • Futons
  • Headboards
  • Scatter cushions
  • Bean bags

The following items are exempt from the regulations:

  • Bed linen (including duvets and pillowcases)
  • Loose covers for mattresses
  • Curtains
  • Carpets
  • Furniture that was manufactured before 1 January 1950 (unless it has been re-upholstered since then). This is because most of the materials that cause fire were not in use prior to 1950.

General Product Safety Regulations (1994)
This legislation requires landlords to consider the general safety of tenants in their property. The regulations require that any product supplied to a consumer in the course of a commercial activity, must be safe. This obviously includes those products supplied during the letting of a property. You are also obligated to provide consumers with relevant information regarding the risks of any product, where such risks are not immediately obvious without adequate warnings.

Smoke detectors act
This simple legislation basically requires all new residential buildings built after June 1992 to have mains operated smoke detectors installed on each floor.

Building Standards Regulations
Buildings whose purpose is residential lettings must meet certain building standard regulations, as set out under local council guidelines. The exact nature of the regulations does vary from council to council, but there are some general common points:

  • There will be a set of minimum standards for buildings, set by the Environmental Health Department of the local authority.
  • The department can take legal action against a landlord, if necessary.
  • Tenants have the right to take legal action if their basic environmental health needs are not met. This can be a cost and longwinded process.
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