Landlords are expected to consider the general safety of their tenants and any other individuals visiting their rental property. Landlords have a duty of care.
These considerations are not only for the protection and benefit of their tenant, there are some very compelling reasons why landlords should make absolutely sure their rental properties are entirely safe.
Potential risk can be minimised by good property management practice. Landlords need to make regular checks of their rental property, looking out for any safety issues that arise, whether through wear and tear, any structural issues relating to the property, regulatory issues in terms of utilities or required servicing, or to do with tenant behaviour. Landlords should act promptly to fix any potential risks they pinpoint during these visits. Don't adopt a 'fingers crossed' attitude.
Accidents at a rental property can put a landlord into a whole lot of trouble. Any aspect of safety comes under criminal law - if a landlord is proven to being negligent to a general safety issue at a rental property, they could be put forward as having committed a criminal offence. Found guilty a landlord can be faced with a term in jail, a heavy fine, or both. In addition to any state legal case, a landlord could also face liability from the tenant for civil damages, and these can be substantial. The smallest injury can bring an expensive fine.
To put this into context, I recently had one case where a drunken visitor to a rental flat I own, successfully claimed thousands of pounds after grazing his knee falling in the communal hallway. The claimant required no hospital visit. In fact I have never seen an ounce of proof that he grazed his knee at all. However, he was able to argue that a hallway light had stopped working. Having reported the issue, the electrician who had been arranged had failed to turn up, the letting agent hadn't realised and a further two days had passed. Fortunately for me, my landlords insurance company was able to pass the claim onto the letting agent for failing to check the issue had been fixed and it was their insurance that subsequently ended up paying out the fine.
Hopefully this shows just how easy a claim can happen, and that civil liability in safety matters is becoming an increasingly important issue for many landlords. Now that lawyers actively promote their services, on a 'no win, no fee basis', there is an increasing number of accident claims, and damages can be substantial if a case can prove negligence on the side of the landlord, even for something minor, such as a grazed knee ( I ask you, what is the world coming to? .. Landlord shakes head and huffs).
The issue also emphasises the importance of paying out for comprehensive landlord insurance cover. Don't skimp on a limited cover policy. I like Alan Boswell's cover, because they offer a 5 star Defacqto cover, and are a specialist landlord broker who are used to dealing with the issues that result from tenanted properties.
Whichever landlord insurace cover you go with, make sure it is a specialist landlord insurance product, and not a general household insurance, which will not cover a tenanted property.
Okay, enough of the scare stories.
Safety regulations in a rental property come under the Consumer Protection Act (1987) and The General Product Safety Regulations 1994 (European Communities Act 1972).
It is a criminal offence for a landlord to supply any item with a rental property that might be considered as unsafe. Some items such as oil heaters, portable LPG heaters, DIY tools, glass furniture and garden tools are particularly hazardous, and my advice to be landlords are best not to supplying any of these. They are all high risk and therefore best avoided.
Landlords should not forget to check the rental property before any new letting, just in case any unsafe items have been left by a previous tenants. It these are defective it would be the landlord who is liable.
Landlords should pick up on any risks when they prepare a Property Inventory and Schedule of Condition. Any safety issues should then be either taken away or dealt with then.
From my own experience, keeping the items provided to a minimum, especially any electrical appliances and upholstered furnishings at the rental property. It will help to reduce a landlord's risk of liability.
It is important for landlords to remember that by providing an appliance or furniture that does not comply with the respective regulations may result in a criminal offence the consequences of which:
Safety regulations regarding a tenanted property are enforced locally by the local authority: Trading Standards, the Health & Safety Executive, Environment Health Officers and local Fire Officers.
What landlords should be aware of in ensuring that they are not open to prosecution is that they can demonstrate that they have carried out their duties with “due diligence”.
This legal term refers to them having taken all reasonable steps to avoid committing an offence and what is more, a landlord has kept the documentary evidence to prove this.
The main areas of safety that landlords need to be concerned about are:
FORMS FOR LETTING PROPERTY
FINANCE AND TAX ON RENTAL PROPERTY
RENTAL PROPERTY REGULATIONS
FURNITURE AND FURNISHINGS
HMO (HOUSE IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION)
TENANCY DEPOSIT SCHEME (TDS)
ENERGY PERFORMANCE CERTIFICATES
COMMUNAL HEATING REGULATIONS
INVESTING IN BTL PROPERTY
A GUIDE FOR NEW LANDLORDS
WHICH PERIOD OF PROPERTY
BUYING OFF PLAN
KNOWING THE RISKS
PROPERTY INVESTMENT CLUBS
MANAGING RENTAL PROPERTY
GIVING NOTICE TO LEAVE
NON - PAYMENT OF RENT
GETTING YOUR MONEY BACK
THE TENANT WONT MOVE OUT
THE TENANT DOES A BUNK
RAISING THE RENT
REDUCING THE RENT
REPAYING THE TENANCY DEPOSIT
FAIR WEAR AND TEAR
MOULD AND CONDENSATION
MAINTENANCE OF A RENTAL PROPERTY
LETTING RENTAL PROPERTY
TEN STEPS TO LETTING
WRITING A LETTING ADVERT
FURNISHING A PROPERTY
LETTING AGENT OR DIY
SELECTING A LETTING AGENT
TENANTS ON BENEFITS
LETTING TO STUDENTS
PREPARING AN INVENTORY
TERMS OF A TENANCY
LENGTH OF A TENANCY
RESPONSIBILITY FOR REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE
TENANCIES IN SCOTLAND
LETTING TO TENANTS WITH PETS
LEGISLATION OF LETTING PROPERTY
TENANCY DEPOSIT DISPUTES
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
HOUSING ACT APPEAL DISPUTES
THE LANDS TRIBUNAL
RIGHTS OF LIGHT APPLICATION
APPEALS FROM LEASEHOLD VALUATION TRIBUNALS (LVT's)
POSSESSION - SECTION 8 NOTICE
POSSESSION - SECTION 21 NOTICE
SECTION 21 TIMETABLE AND PROCESS
GROUNDS FOR POSSESSION
PREPARING FOR A POSSESSION HEARING
HARASSMENT BY LANDLORDS
RENT DISPUTES BETWEEN LANDLORD & TENANT
FAIR RENT (RAC)
MARKET RENT UNDER AST
LEASEHOLD VALUATION TRIBUNALS
MODIFICATION OF RESTRICTIVE COVENANTS