This guide is written by Aaron J Barclay and helps you navigate the world of landlord compliance in regards to safety checks, safety certificates and property inventories.
Getting it right
We offer all safety testing and other compliance checks in house using our professionally qualified tradesmen and inventory clerks. We are also the only agency in London to insist upon two-monthly interim property inspections with full colour photographs of all rented properties as standard.
Energy Performance Certificates
An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) gives information about a building's energy efficiency. It is similar to the certificate provided with a domestic appliance such as a refrigerator or washing machine. However, it goes into much more depth regarding recommendations on how to improve your rating and therefore save money on heating and electricity bill.
Since 1st October 2008 it has been a legal requirement for landlords and sellers to provide an EPC when renting out or selling a property. The landlord will have the ultimate responsibility to ensure an EPC is in place before letting their property. An EPC is not required when a landlord is renting out individual rooms in an HMO where the facilities are shared (i.e. bedsits) but is required if an HMO is rented on a single tenancy agreement (i.e. a shared student property). All other rented properties require an EPC.
It is worth noting that an EPC lasts for 10 years and belongs to the house itself and not the person who authorised the inspection. Therefore if you have bought a property and wish to rent it out it would have an EPC already in place and that EPC can be used to market your rental property.
An energy inspection involves a domestic energy assessor inspecting every room of your property and collecting information. The assessor will require access to the rooms; the boiler and the loft may also need to be inspected. Photos will need to be taken of items such as the heaters and utility meters and also front and rear elevations of the property.
You must use a domestic energy assessor or Green Deal Advisor who is qualified and fully trained to be able to produce accurate and detailed certificates. Always ensure your assessor is registered and operating to professional standards.
Read our full guide: Is an EPC important for renting my home?
Gas Safety Records
All landlords are required to ensure the property that they let to tenants is safe. By law, landlords must have all gas appliances serviced regularly, usually once a year, and checked for safety.
As a landlord you are responsible for the safety of every tenant in your property. A landlord's duty applies to all rented property, be it a single room for rent or a large HMO, a lease or a licence.
The types of property include, but are not limited to, the following types of property:
- residential properties provided by landlords, local authorities, housing associations and hostels
- rooms to let in private households and B&B or hotel accommodation
- rented holiday accommodation such as caravans, chalets, narrow boats and cottages
The Gas Safety (Installations and Use) Regulations 1998 deals with landlords' duties to ensure gas appliances are safe and flues and fittings are in good and safe condition.
The three main responsibilities of landlords are listed below
All pipework, appliances and associated flues must be maintained in a safe condition. All appliances have to be serviced according to manufacturer's instructions. It is recommended that most appliances should be serviced annually unless an engineer advises otherwise.
Gas Safety Checks
An annual gas safety check (also known as a gas safety record or gas safety certificate) has to be carried out to ensure all gas appliances are safe.
A record of the gas safety check must be given to the new tenant before they move in or to an existing tenant within 28 days. Landlords should keep a copy of the safety record for two years.
What information does a gas safety certificate contain?
As a minimum, the gas safety certificate must contain the following:
- description and location of each appliance and/or flue checked
- name, registration number and signature of the engineer who carried out the check
- date on which the appliance and/or flue was checked
- the address of the property at which the appliance and/or flue is installed
- the name and address of the landlord (or his agent where appropriate)
- any defect identified and any action required or taken to fix it
- confirmation of the results of operational safety checks carried out on the appliances
What if your tenant won’t allow you access to the property?
Any contract that you have with your tenant should allow you to access the property and be able to carry out the safety check. You should take all 'reasonable steps' to ensure the work is carried out. This could mean a formal written letter requesting access. Ensure you keep a record of all the steps you have taken so that you are able to demonstrate that you did everything you reasonably could.
Electrical Safety Certificates
Most accidents in residential properties occur through faults in, or misuse of, domestic appliances or the electrical installation. Another cause of accidents is items being placed too close to heaters or lamps or other heat emitting appliances, which in turn catch fire.
Electrical shock, fires and burns are the three hazards you should be worried about. Issues such as damage to sockets and switches, misuse of equipment, deteriorating equipment or vandalism can be causes of these accidents.
Each landlord has legal obligations to ensure that their rental property is safe and the electrical installation and any equipment provided is safe, before the beginning of a tenancy. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (which we covered in our Landlord and the Law Guide) provide some guidance on a landlords obligations.
Section 8. Implied terms as to fitness for human habitation. The property should be fit to live in at the beginning of the tenancy (1a). The property should be maintained in a fit state during the tenancy (1b).
Section 11. Repairing obligations in short leases. This section places an obligation on landlords to keep in repair and working order the installations of the property for the supply of water, gas and electricity (1b). Also included in this is space heating and water heating.
There is also the duty of care for landlords towards anyone visiting their property. The Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 and Occupiers' Liability Act 1984 state the landlord could be prosecuted if anyone is injured in their property, regardless of whether they were there lawfully.
In 2005 the Building Regulations for England and Wales were amended to include Part P. Part P covers electrical safety in dwellings. From this date all work undertaken must comply with Part P.
Most types of electrical work that is carried out in domestic properties must be notified to Building Control before the work starts and must be carried out by an electrician who is registered with a competent person scheme operator or, if in England, have the work tested and inspected by a registered third party.
For more information follow the links below. http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/uploads/br/br_pdf_ad_p_2013.pdf
Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
From 1st October 2015 all landlords must comply with new rules and regulations in regards to smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. A smoke alarm must be fitted on each storey of a property where there is living accommodation. A carbon monoxide alarm must be fitted in each room that contains a solid fuel burning appliance. At the beginning of a new tenancy, checks must be made to ensure every alarm is in working condition. This should be done on the day the tenancy begins. It is important to note that the tenant is responsible for the maintenance of the alarms in respect of letting the landlord know if the alarms develop any fault. A landlord should ensure that tenants know their responsibilities. One way to do this is to add a clause into a contract reflecting the above.
Electrical Installation Checks
All electrical installations contain an electricity meter, cables hidden in walls, accessories such as sockets, switches and light fittings. A safe electrical installation should ensure the following:
- that there are enough sockets for electrical appliances to minimise the use of extension leads and multi-socket adaptors
- that there are covers in place to prevent fingers coming into contact with live parts of the electrical installation. Any cracked or broken sockets should be replaced immediately
- a residual current device (RCD) should be installed to provide extra protection against electric shock
- earth bonding to gas meter pipework and water copper pipework should be in place to ensure a fuse or circuit breaker can operate quickly before an electrical shock
- sufficient circuits are provided to avoid overload and to minimise inconvenience should a fault occur on a part of an installation
- correct diameter cables are selected in relation to the fuse to ensure there is no overload and risk of burning or fire
Over time there will be wear and tear with regular use and the installation will start to deteriorate. Some connections may come loose which is a fire hazard.
A regular visual check should be carried out to spot any broken accessories, signs of overheating, damage to cables and any missing RCD's. As well as regular visual inspections Aaron J Barclay also recommend periodic electrical installation condition reports to be undertaken. They should be carried out by a registered electrician.
Certification of Electrical Work
All electrical work should be certified by a person belonging to a competent scheme for electrical contractors. One such scheme that proves you are competent is NICEIC (National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting). You should ensure that you receive reports and certificates for work carried out which should also include schedules of inspections and test results.
There are two different types of certificates. An Electrical Installation Certificate (EIC) or a Minor Electrical Installation Works Certificate (MEIWC)
The type of work you have carried out will determine which certificate you will receive. An EIC must be issued for all new electrical installations. It may also be needed for any alterations or additions to the installation. If any alteration or additional work is done to the installation and no circuit has been added then a MEIWC or an EIC can be used.
Periodic Inspection, Testing and Inspection Reports
Your tenants or anyone entering your property should not be put at risk by unsafe or poorly kept electrical installations. All electrical installations deteriorate over time and this could pose a risk to your tenants.
A Periodic Inspection checks the condition of an electrical installation against BS7671 - the UK standard for the safety of existing electrical installations.
The inspection process will discover if any circuits are overloaded, identify any potential electrical shocks or fire hazards and find any defective electrical work. The inspection will also highlight any lack of earth bonding.
Frequency of Periodic Inspection Reports
How often you should carry out a full inspection depends on the age and type of installation and how it is used and maintained. For a rental property with a new installation it is recommended to have one carried out every 5 years. This is the maximum allowed. Subsequent inspections will depend on the condition of the installation at the time but at least every 5 years is recommended or at the end of a tenancy - whichever comes first. If a change of a tenancy occurs after a short period then a visual inspection should be enough.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO's)
There is a requirement under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) regulations 2006 and the management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Wales) Regulations 2006 that all electrical inspections in HMO's are testing and inspected at least every 5 years buy a qualified professional. A certificate and schedule of testing results should be provided. If an housing association or local council asks for this certificate you should provide it within seven days of receiving the request.
Portable Electrical Appliances
Many deaths in UK homes are caused by the misuse of appliances. This includes faulty plugs, leads and appliances. Almost all of these fatalities can be avoided by taking simple precautionary steps.
The safety of most appliances relies largely on the present condition of the properties fixed wiring - but of course, the misuse of electrical appliances will increase the risk of electrical shock and fire. A good example is the cord of an iron which is often wrapped around the iron. Eventually this could cause a twist or a kink in the cord and any damage could expose the wire. To ensure the safety of the property and the tenant you must ensure that all appliances are testing, used and stored correctly.
If you provide electrical appliances for your tenant (such as a fridge, microwave, washing machine, lamp) you can check if the item carries at least a CE mark - the manufacturers proof that it conforms to EU safety legislation. We strongly recommend purchasing appliances which carry additional safety marks such as the British Standard Kite mark or the 'BEAB Approved' mark because these carry greater assurance of safety.
The appliance supplied by any landlord should be suitable for its location and its intended use. Always ensure tenants have manufacturer’s instructions available to them when they move into a property. You can always download these instructions online if you have misplaced them.
Portable Electrical Appliance Testing
To ensure all electrical appliances are safe there are various checks that you can undertake.
For example you could check:
- there are no cuts or abrasions in the cable covering
- the outer covering of the cable is gripped by the cord grip at the top of the plug so that no inside cabling is visible from outside
- the casing is not cracked and the pins are not bent or damaged
- there are no signs of burning or overheating
- there are no loose parts or coverings and no loose screws
The most dangerous defects in electrical appliances can be identified by carrying out these simple visual checks. To ensure complete safety a Portable Appliance Test should be carried out by a competent professional. This test, carried out using an electrical tester, tests the appliance for earth continuity and insulation resistance. The test is carried out by plugging the appliance into a tester. The test is carried out without having to open the plug or appliance itself.
Electrical related accidents are the main cause of domestic fires in the UK.
Loose connections in appliances and plug and sockets can be the cause of a fire in a domestic property. Using incorrect fuses or circuit breakers can also lead to a fire by overheating cables. A lot of domestic fires start in the kitchen whilst cooking. Others causes of domestic fires are candles, cigarettes and hanging clothes on heaters to dry.
You can install suitable fire detection systems to ensure your tenant and your property are protected from the risk of fire. Any alarms will need to be tested and maintained on a regular basis. A properly installed fire alarm system will be able to warn potential tenants of danger and allow them to get to a place of safety before any escape routes become blocked or too dangerous to pass through. The system should be designed to be able to alert tenants sleeping in any room of the property to a potential fire. There might be hidden areas where fires are able to start such as boiler rooms and loft with have electrical appliances such as PV invertors.
A fire alarm specialist should be instructed if you do not currently have a fire alarm system in place. The type and complexity of any system depends on the property and the level of risk. A small, single family property over two floors will only need two smoke alarms - one on each floor. A larger property of multiple occupation will require a more sophisticated system and include smoke alarm, heat detectors and alarms linked to a control panel ensuring all alarms go off if one alarm is set off. This is called interlinking of alarms. All residential properties where people are going to sleep should have some kind of fire detection systems in place.
Testing Fire Alarm Systems
Basic testing of alarms does not require specialist knowledge of qualification. Routine tests can be carried out by you or your tenant weekly, where one or more detectors are tested. For more complex systems the results should be recorded in a log book.
In the event of a fire your tenants need to be able to escape to a place of safety. The escape route should be clear and the route should be adequately lit and easy to follow. Tenants will panic and be distressed and disorientated if they are woken in the middle of the night so it is vital escape routes are clear.
Some larger buildings with lengthy and complex escape routes or buildings housing vulnerable people will need additional lighting covering the escape route.
We offer all of the above services in house using our own team.
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