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Safety first – the regulations.

Being a landlord you are responsible for the safety of your tenants and your property. This is not necessarily an onerous task but you should be aware of your responsibilities.

Gas supply and appliances
This is probably the main one. Obviously it will only apply if the property has gas. The gas Safety(Installation & Use) 1998 state that a landlord is responsible for having a gas pipe work and appliances certified as being in safe working condition. The inspection process has to be carried out at least once a year and by a CORGI (Council for Registered Gas Installers) registered tradesperson. These inspections shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours and plumbers charge either by appliance or time. Prices have doubled in the last couple of years as plumbers have cottoned on to the opportunities in the buy to let market and the shortage of plumbers gets ever more acute. Expect to pay £60 upwards just for a boiler and gas oven to be checked. For your money you will be issued with a gas safety certificate. A copy should also be left for the tenants with one retained by the gas engineer for their records. In fact the landlord is legally obliged to produce this record to the tenant on the grant of the tenancy and within 28 days of each annual inspection.

The record must be kept for a minimum of two years from the date of the check and must contain the following information.

  • The date of the check.
  • The address of the installation.
  • The name and address of the landlord or his agent.
  • A description of the location of each appliance checked.
  • Any remedial action taken.
  • Confirmation that the check complies with the rules laid down in the regulations.
  • Name and signature of the individual who carried out the check and their company’s registration. number with the health and safety executive.

Landlords who failed to comply with these regulations can be held criminally liable ( to say nothing of the insurance policy for the property potentially being invalidated). Just to make you aware of how seriously the courts take the matter. In 1999 a landlord was found guilty of manslaughter following a tragedy caused by non-compliance with the regulations.

There is no legal requirement to have the electrics checked in the same way as there is for gas. I would recommend that this is done, particularly if there is any doubt on the safety of devices or the wiring. One thing that all you budding electricians should be aware of is that building regs have recently been tightened considerably so that under the amended Part P of the Building Regulations. From the 1st January 2005 any electrical work apart from:

Repairs, replacements and maintenance work; or
Extra power points or lighting points or other alterations to existing circuits (except in a kitchen or bathroom, or outdoors) will require you to use a ‘competent’ person as approved by the Government. For more details check with your local council or go to the Government website for and look under building regulations Part P.

Fire safety
Unless your property is a HIMO (house in multiple occupation) there are no specific fire regulations you need to comply with when letting a property. You might as a minimum ensure that it is fitted with smoke alarms. However, these may not function for long because in practice their sensitivity means that they are often triggered by normal cooking fumes. Try therefore not to locate them too close to where the cooking takes place. Given that not much more than a burnt bit of toast will set them off, many tenants get fed up of their culinary moments being interrupted and will resort to removing the batteries or circuitry of the alarms, rendering them useless.

Properties that are a registered HIMO are subject to some regulation in respect to fire safety. This is because these type of letting unit are at the highest risk of fire and as they are very likely to be converted buildings over two stories in height. Therefore, they are the most difficult to ensure a safe escape should fire break out. Most local authorities operate a voluntary registration scheme for HIMO owners that requires they meet minimum fire safety standards stipulated by the fire officer. Regulation will change as a result of the introduction of mandatory licencing to be introduced as a result of the licensing to be introduced following the 2005 Housing Act

The other aspect of fire safety is in relation to furnishings. This will only really apply to you if you intend to furnish your property. The law requires all properties rented after 1st January 1997 to have to comply to the Furniture (fire safety) regulations 1988.

Articles covered by the regulation include:

  • Settees
  • Chairs
  • Mattresses
  • Padded headboards
  • Pillows
  • Cushions
  • Loose and stretch furniture
  • Nursery furniture

All these items must carry a government approved label stating compliance. The exceptions to these regulations are mattresses, pillows, cushions and loose furniture covers.

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