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Fire, health and safety regulations for landlords

Here we give you the low-down on safety regulations for landlords.

A landlord installing a smoke detector as part of his safety regulations

Landlords are responsible for tenants’ safety at home, and must maintain a property that is free from serious hazards. This means completing a fire risk assessment and checking the electrics, for example.

Landlords will need to provide tenants with a gas safety certificate and an electrical safety report.

Let’s look at what you need to know to get started, including recent changes in the law.

 

What are the latest regulations in the UK for landlords?

In 2020, there were some changes to landlord regulations in the UK.

The biggest change was to the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020. It is now mandatory for landlords to appoint a qualified person to conduct electrical safety checks every five years.

This rule applies to all new and existing tenancies.. Checks need to meet standards set out in the 18th edition of the wiring regulations.

The electrical safety industry has set out a competent persons scheme. This helps landlords to find a qualifying electrician more easily.

All changes are explained in full on the GOV.UK website.

The other big change is that all new and existing tenancies must have an energy efficiency rating of at least an E. Landlords must also provide tenants with an Energy Performance Certificate. 

 

What are the fire safety regulations for landlords?

Landlords have a legal duty to adhere to basic fire safety principles. This includes providing a working smoke alarm on each storey of the building.

A carbon monoxide alarm must be installed in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance, for example a wood burning stove.

Tenants must have access to escape routes at all times. Fire alarms and extinguishers must also be provided if the property is a house in multiple occupation (HMO). It is an HMO if at least three tenants live there, forming more than one household, and they share facilities.

Landlords are also expected to carry out a fire risk assessment, and to review it every one to two years. A fire safety professional can be employed to do this.

You must test all the alarms when someone new moves in. This ensures they’re in good working order and should be done on day one of a tenancy or before. 

Alarms can either be mains or battery operated. But if they’re battery operated, they need to be checked regularly.

From then on, it’s the tenant’s responsibility to test the alarms and make sure they’re working. Ideally this should be done on a monthly basis. If any alarms need new batteries, or the alarms need to be replaced, the tenant should contact the landlord to replace them.

To check landlord responsibilities on this topic, read the GOV.UK booklet.

Fire safety regulations for commercial landlords are likely to be different to a private landlord’s responsibilities.

Who’s in charge of what safety precautions may depend on what’s written in the lease. However, tenants of commercial premises are likely to be responsible for fire safety and for carrying out a fire risk assessment.

 

What are the furniture and furnishings fire safety regulations?

This applies to landlords letting a furnished property. It covers furniture such as sofas and beds, but basically all furniture and upholstery. It all needs to meet minimum fire safety standards.

Any furniture and upholstery you’re leaving in the property should have original fire safety tags still attached.

Firesafe explains the legislation on its website.

You should arrange a fire risk assessment to check whether a property is safe. This should be done by a professional, especially if it’s an HMO.

 

What do I need to know about fire extinguishers as a landlord?

Fire extinguishers need to be checked every year.

Checks need to be carried out by a fire extinguisher service engineer. You can buy ‘service-free’ extinguishers. But landlords still need to carry out checks in line with the manufacturer’s guidance.

If your property is an HMO, you’ll need to have a fire extinguisher on each floor. A fire blanket is required in the kitchen. 

Take time to properly assess fire hazards in the property.

For example:

  • Ensure there are no fuse boxes hidden under coats
  • Ideally use paint on walls instead of wall paper
  • Clear the exits of clutter or furniture
  • Use exterior doors that can be opened from the inside, without a key.

 

What are the electrical safety regulations for landlords?

As a landlord, you have a duty to ensure that electrical equipment in your property is safe.

To do this, you need to have them checked by a competent electrician every five years. The electrician will give you a certificate.

You'll need to share a copy with your tenant (within 28 days of the assessment), as well as the local authority if it requests one.

If the inspection highlights that work needs doing, it must be done within 28 days. Both the tenant and local authority must have written confirmation that the work has been done within, you’ve guessed it, 28 days.

 

What are the gas safety regulations?

Gas safety regulations for landlords can be found under the piece of law titled Gas Safety Regulations 1998. A reader-friendly summary can be found on the Gas Safe Register website.

Landlords need to ensure gas appliances, flues, chimneys and fittings are all working correctly and efficiently. Here are the main points to note:

A Gas Safe-registered engineer performs annual checks on the property (boiler, pipes, appliances etc).

A copy of the landlord gas safety record must be given to the tenant within 28 days.

You must maintain all the gas appliances and pipework etc, keeping it safe for your tenants.

 

How do I carry out landlord safety checks?

Despite the difficulties of living with COVID-19, you’re still allowed to check your rental property and carry out a fire safety risk assessment.

In doing so, both landlords and tenants should follow the Government’s latest advice on staying safe and preventing the spread of coronavirus.

You’ll need to give 24 hours’ written notice, and arrange the visit for a reasonable time of day i.e. not too early or too late.

During your safety check, it’s a good idea to assess:

  • Wiring - Check that it’s in good condition.
  • Smoke detectors -  Even if it’s a tenant’s responsibility to check, it’s good practice to check them yourself too.
  • Any fire extinguishers - Make a note of when they need to be checked again.

 

What are the rules for locks and security?

There could be multiple parties with access to the property besides you, the landlord. For example: tenants, cleaners, and any agency managing the property.

If you have an HMO, then each of the tenants will also have a key.

When a tenant moves out, there’s a chance they could keep a copy of the key. If you do not receive all sets back, it might be worth changing the locks.

Not only will this help protect your home, but it also gives peace of mind to your next tenant.

Tip: Getting certain types of locks may help reduce your insurance. 

 

Sorted your insurance yet?

If you haven't got home insurance, it's worth looking into landlord insurance to protect a rental property. Typically, it’s a combination of both buildings and contents insurance.

If you have a buy-to-let mortgage, some lenders will insist on you getting landlords insurance. 

There's also optional extras you can add to your policy to better meet your needs, like loss of rent cover or home emergency cover for landlords.

Make sure you shop around and compare landlord insurance quotes to get the best deal for you.