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Student Landlords Risk Assessment

Having spent a couple of days at the Birmingham Landlord Show last week it was clear that many Landlords need to get more organised and keep written records. A Risk Assessment, as well as hopefully saving lives may help your case, if you unfortunately find yourself in court

The Housing Act 2004, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) introduced duties in relation to fire safety in common areas of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

The order may not apply to some HMOs, which are occupied as shared houses. For example it may not apply to a non-licensed, standard layout, single joint tenancy, shared student house, where the students have good mobility, which is no more than two storeys and has no more than four students in residence.

This piece is aimed at rented, shared properties that do not by law have to produce a Fire Risk Assessment. If you haven’t yet written a Risk Assessment then you should seriously consider producing one for your rented property, even if legally you do not need it. It is also very easy to include other types of risk in this document.

There is an excellent publication on Fire Safety in Housing produced in July 2008 by the Local Authority Coordination of Regulatory Service (LACORS). This can be downloaded free by visiting the publications pages of the LACORS site or you can buy a printed copy, ISBN 978-1-84049-638-3, for £20.

Landlords of smaller standard construction properties will be able to produce their own Risk Assessment, not just of the common parts, but the whole of the premises. A hazard is anything that has the potential to cause harm and a risk is anything where the chance of harm can occur.

There is no requirement for you to train residents, however providing simple information on fire precautions and other risks may help to reduce the risk of fire and other hazards.

Start your Risk Assessment with some simple headings:

Property Address:
Assessment Date:
Completed By: (usually the Landlord)
Date Reviewed:

Divide your page into 4 columns:

1. HAZARD (List significant hazards, which have the potential to cause harm. Ignore minor things such as a pot of glue)
2. WHO MIGHT BE HARMED? (May include e.g. tenant, visitors, contractors or neighbours)
3. IS THE RISK ADEQUATELY CONTROLLED? (List existing controls and/or note where information can be found on e.g. systems or procedures)
4. WHAT FURTHER ACTION IS NEEDED TO CONTROL THE RISK? (These are things that you can reasonably do to lower the risk in the future e.g. add additional electrical sockets. Record here any site specific hazard and publications you have read to enhance your knowledge)

Walk around the property (an important part of the process) and identify sources of ignition and fuel i.e. anything that burns and other hazards such as tripping hazards. Who would be affected by this risk? Can you minimize or remove the hazard? An example of a way to reduce a hazard might be to increase the number of electrical sockets (appropriately positioned) to minimize the use of extension leads (a potential tripping, shock and overheating hazard) and multiple-sockets (overloading).

Having identified the hazards in the first column, record who is at risk in the second column and in the third column what preventative measures you have in place, the actions taken to reduce the risk, where information can be found and any discussions you have had with the tenant particularly at the check in or during inspections. In the fourth column list measures that you would like to do in the future to further reduce a risk.

The notes below include risks that you might consider, as you walk around the house. The comments in brackets could be included in the ‘adequate control column’ in your Risk Assessment or suggest information/advice you could provide and where it can be found e.g. in a House Handbook that you have put together to help the students through the tenancy.

  • Fire in the building (e.g. measures in place such as smoke/heat detectors, main exit door can be open internally without a key, testing alarms, emergency escape plan, contacting fire service).
  • Naked flames (e.g. candles, provide advice on use).
  • Gas boiler (e.g. include, if applicable, the cupboard where it is sited, carbon monoxide detector, annual landlord gas inspection certificate, instructions).
  • Electrical Installation (e.g. 5 year periodic inspection, certificates kept for minor works).
  • Landlord portable electrical appliances (e.g. annual Portable Appliance Test – PAT).
  • Cookers, toasters and other kitchen equipment (e.g. provide fire blanket and extinguishers, PAT, instructions on use).
  • Lighting equipment (e.g. annual PAT on desk lamps).
  • Flammable liquids (e.g. cooking oil, fire blanket, advice on cooking chips!).
  • LPG, paraffin, heating oils and petrol (e.g. no storage of these items in the house).
  • Furniture and Furnishings (all furniture and furnishings in the house should comply with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 as amended).
  • Landlord Inspections (e.g. provide tenant with a written report and include health and safety issues found during your inspection).
  • Dampness (e.g. provide advice on avoiding condensation).
  • Electric blankets, computers, TVs (e.g. advice on use, avoid overloading electrical sockets).
  • Faulty or misused equipment (e.g. ask tenants to visually inspect, visual check when you inspect the property and record findings).
  • Smoking (e.g. ask tenants to consider a no smoking clause in the tenancy agreement for the health and safety of all the tenants).
  • Electrical sockets (e.g. tested, additional electrical sockets will minimize the use of extension leads and multi-sockets).
  • Falls and slips (e.g. check carpets, steps, stairs, handrails and provide safety mat for bath and/or shower).
  • Location of gas valve, stop-cock and electricity fuse box (e.g. provide written information).
  • First Aid (e.g. recommend students assemble/buy a simple first aid kit).
  • Emergency reπairs (e.g. provide examples of procedure in place).
  • Crime prevention and burglary (e.g. list measures taken such as window locks, burglar alarm, double glazing, safety chain on door, external light at rear of property and provide written advice).
  • Emergency telephone numbers (e.g. provide list e.g. gas emergency).
  • People who are ιmpaired by e.g. alcohol (e.g. provide advice on organising a party).
  • Excessive noise (e.g. provide advice on avoiding excessive noise).

A Risk Assessment is a ‘live’ document and should be reviewed annually or when you make any significant alteration to the premises.

Discuss with the tenant the significant hazards identified in the risk assessment at the check in and then the tenant and landlord can sign and date two copies as part of the check in process.

More comprehensive information can be found in publications such as LACORS HOUSING – FIRE SAFETY.

There are many other ways that Landlords can get better organized, but a Risk
Assessment should be near the top of the list, even if your rented property doesn’t legally need one!

This article was written by BEE IN THE BONNET



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