Rental Property Safety Considerations
If you’re intending to let out a flat or house, you will need to comply with some legal requirements. Understandably, the law is strict on health and safety in rented property. Otherwise, at the very least, you could find yourself in court, and much more seriously, you might put at risk the well-being, or even lives, of others. Once you have complied, and have followed other necessary actions, your landlord certificates will give both sides peace of mind.
You must provide adequate heating, including hot water, and are expected to keep it working efficiently. Gas appliances must be properly installed and maintained by a qualified person, such as a CORGI or Gas Safe engineer, who should carry out an annual check on the whole system, and on related matters like air circulation and ventilation. Keep copies of the gas safety certificate, and all other records, for two years.
Regular checks should also be carried out on electrical systems and on any appliances supplied by you, including washing machines, fridges, freezers, microwaves and kettles. Supply a copy of instructions, particularly for new equipment.
In fact, any kind of fuel-burning equipment should be fitted and serviced by a qualified engineer, so that there is no danger of carbon-monoxide poisoning. This odourless and colourless gas has been accurately labelled as the silent killer, so you can help to guard against it by ensuring that rooms are well ventilated, and by getting an appropriate alarm.
Furniture and fittings must be fire resistant, so that they can’t emit fumes in the event of fire. Since 1988, the law has stipulated that all furniture and furnishings should carry labels, to prove that they meet standards. If your tags are missing, you will have to re-test or replace items, because you must be able to demonstrate suitability. Remember to install fire alarms, and to carry out monthly checks. Ensure that there is an exit in case of emergency – especially relevant if your property is deemed to be a House in Multiple Occupation.
The legislation applies to upholstered pieces, including convertibles such as futons and sofa beds; all types of beds and accessories, mattresses and pillows; garden furniture for use indoors; nursery items; and pillows, cushions, and the like. It would be sensible to keep a fire blanket or extinguisher on the premises, too.
Pre-1950 or antique products, bed linen, duvets, sleeping bags, carpets and curtains, are exempt, however. Make sure that you advise your tenants on sensible preventative behaviour, too. Cigarettes, candles and cooking are all common causes of fire, so make sure that they understand the possible dangers. Many others are the result of faulty electrical equipment, so do make checks on this.
You are, of course, responsible for maintenance and repairs, which are all part of health and safety in rented property. Some jobs don’t demand landlord certificates, so you may be able to tackle them yourself. For example, check that there are no hazards, such as exposed or loose wiring, and address any damp problems before they become a major issue.
The structure and exterior must be well maintained, too. The same applies to sanitation, which should be in decent condition, as well as in good working order, of course. This category covers not only toilets, baths and sinks, but includes drains as well.
Energy Performance Certificates
An Energy Performance Certificate is needed for any property that is being built, sold, or rented, and should be in place before marketing. Failure to do this can result in a fine. It contains information on energy usage and costs, and how to save on both. Valid for ten years, it provides an efficiency rating from A down to G. If you make any changes – for example, if you install new windows – you will need a new document. Hire an accredited assessor, and if you’re letting out in Scotland, display the EPC in the house or flat.
Copies of all papers, such as gas safety certificates, should be available to tenants within 28 days. While some of these precautions may seem overwhelming, they are absolutely essential. Apart from issues of legality and potential danger, they will save you money and stress later, and will build your reputation as a responsible landlady or landlord!