Health and safety is something that everyone should take into consideration. Landlords: be especially aware of your responsibilities towards health and safety, not simply because you might get sued; your actions (or lack of them) have potential to kill someone. Not something you want on your conscience.
So, without further ado, here are some landlord health and safety requirements for you to get to grips with.
Gas can be a deadly killer. Do not underestimate the danger of this fuel.
If your property uses gas as a heating fuel, then you must have a gas safety certificate issued by a Gas Safe (Formerly CORGI) registered engineer. The document isn’t valid unless the checks have been carried out by a Gas Safe engineer, so make sure you check the engineer’s credentials before you let them in the property.
How to check a Gas Safe Engineer is registered
The first thing you should ask to see is the engineer’s Gas Safe Register ID Card. This card will have the engineer’s photograph on the front, with their registration number and details of which company they work for. There will also be a start date and an expiry date – make sure the registration is still valid! On the back of the card is a list of all the types of work they are qualified to do. Make sure they are qualified to do the work you need them to do.
You can verify an engineer on the Gas Safe website, or if you don’t have access to the internet, you can call Gas Safe (free) on 0800 408 5500, alternatively, you can check by text message. Simply text the engineer’s registration number to 85080, and Gas Safe will confirm via text if the person is registered. Your mobile phone provider may charge you to use the text service, so if you are counting the pennies then by phone or online is your best bet!
If the person on your doorstep isn’t actually Gas Safe Registered, don’t let them in! They are clearly dishonest, so not the sort of person you want in your property, under any circumstances. You especially do not want them carrying out any gas safety checks. To be a ‘good citizen’ you should report them to Gas Safe via the internet.
In October 2013, an Essex landlord was fined £950 and ordered to pay £4,000 for failing to check that the ‘Gas Safe’ engineers she employed were registered.
What should the engineer check?
To stay on the right side of the law, you only need to check the items you provide for the tenant to use. This may include:
- The boiler
- Gas fires
- Ovens and hobs
- Any other gas appliance.
You do not have any responsibility to check the tenant’s own belongings, but you may want to have these checked anyway. Simply, if your tenant’s dodgy portable gas heater from 1963 causes a fire (or other hazard) then you have much bigger problems to face. Even a small fire can be a nightmare to sort out and who needs that kind of headache?
What if the tenants refuse entry?
This one always boggles our minds here at Commercial Trust. Why would a tenant refuse you access to carry out an essential safety check? Well, there could be a whole host of reasons, and this could be a red flag for you to issue a section 21. However, if you can, take the time to speak to the tenant and find out why they are refusing you entry. It could be simply because you asked to do the check at an inconvenient time for them! Always, if you can, work with your tenants to resolve these issues.
If it isn’t because the tenant has her regular Zumba class at the time you’ve specified, then issuing a section 21 in this instance isn’t going to solve your problem. You still need to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to ensure gas safe checks are carried out. These clauses are open to interpretation, so be very careful about what you consider ‘reasonable’, it may differ from a judge’s definition. To find out more, visit the HSE gas safety for Landlords page. At the very least, you should keep a record of any written communications between yourself and the tenant regarding Gas Safety checks, or, try to take notes if you speak to them over the telephone. Whatever you do, don’t just let yourself in to the property without prior consent from your tenant.
What to do after the checks have been carried out
Once you’ve satisfied yourself that the person purporting to be from Gas Safe, is in fact registered to do the safety checks; then let them loose! Make sure that all your gas appliances are checked (even if they never get used), because you can’t expect an engineer to know what appliances you actually have, and where they are your property.
If all your appliances are safe, then your engineer will issue you with a Gas Safety record stating this fact. You will then have to provide your tenant with a copy of this certificate within 28 days of it being issued. You will need to retain a copy of this certificate for at least 2 years.
If one or more of your appliances fails the gas safety checks then the engineer will have to disconnect the appliance in question and put a safety sticker on it. You will then have to get the appliance fixed (by a qualified professional) or replaced.
Currently, there are no laws stating that landlords must provide an electrical safety certificate for their tenants. However, you do have a responsibility to ensure the electrical installations that you provide for your tenants to use are safe when the tenancy begins, and are maintained throughout the tenancy. Therefore regular safety checks are recommended.
If your property is an HMO (house in multiple occupation), you need to arrange a periodic inspection at least once every five years, whether or not the property is licensed.
If a fire breaks out due to faulty wiring, you want to be 100% sure you’ve done everything in your power to ensure the electrics were safe throughout the tenancy. A record of regular safety checks would help you prove you had done everything you could.
Remember many insurance companies will try to find even the smallest of clauses to refuse your claim. Don’t give them the ammunition! Additionally, a judge would look much more favourably on you if you had evidence that electrical safety checks were carried out by a qualified electrician on a regular basis.
Your common sense should kick in when it comes to fire safety; after all it is something they teach us in primary school. Check the following:
- There is access to escape routes at all time
- If the property is furnished, all furnishings must have a fire safety label still in place
- Provide fire alarms and if necessary extinguishers
Some landlords have more responsibilities than others with regards to fire safety. If you are an HMO landlord, then you should speak to your local council about fire safety when you register with them. Most (if not all) HMOs must have fire doors and smoke alarms fitted. You should check with your local council to ensure you meet all their fire safety requirements.
If you are in any doubt as to the law and your legal responsibilities as a landlord for health and safety, then speak to a solicitor who specialises in property law.