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Landlord Responsibility in Law
Have you covered your legal responsibilities?
Landlords have a duty to ensure the safety of the property they are letting and, if furnished, its contents.
The following are statutory Safety Legislations applicable to letting properties, which must be adhered to by Landlords:
The Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1988
Provisions which apply to rented property let on a tenancy or lease of less than 7 years (including periodic tenancies) or those which may be determined within 7 years, and to periodic tenancies arising from such tenancies. Property occupied under the terms of a licence, e.g. guest houses, bed and breakfast and holiday accommodation, is also covered by these regulations.
The Regulations make the following main provisions in relation to rented property:
1. MAINTENANCE. The Regulations place a duty on the landlord to ensure that all gas appliances, flues and associated pipework are maintained in a safe condition at all times.
2. ANNUAL SAFETY CHECK. Gas appliances and flues in rented accommodation must be checked for safety within 12 months of being installed and thereafter at least every twelve months by a competent engineer (i.e. Gas Safe registered gas installer).
3. NEW TENANCIES. Before any lease commences, it must be ensured that the gas safety check has been carried out on each appliance and flue within the 12 month period before the tenancy commences, or has been or will be carried out within 12 months after the appliance or flue was installed, whichever is later.
4. TENANT'S APPLIANCES. Under these Regulations, a landlord's duty to maintain and check appliances does not apply to gas appliances which are owned by the tenant, nor to any flues that only serve such appliances (although the landlord may have a duty to repair and maintain such flues under separate legislation - see s.11, Landlord and Tenant Act 1985).
5. RECORDS. The Regulations require the landlord (or his agent) to keep a record of safety checks on each appliance and flue. The record must include the prescribed information which includes the date of the check, the address of the premises concerned, the name and address of the landlord (or where appropriate, the agent), the description of the appliance/flue checked, any defect identified, any remedial action taken, confirmation that the check complies with the Regulations, and the name and Gas Safe registration number of the person doing the check. The Gas Safe Gas Safety Record Form may be used for this purpose. Records should be kept for 2 years from the date of the check.
6. GAS CERTIFICATE. A copy of the safety check record or certificate must be given to any new tenant before the tenant occupies the premises to which the record relates. Also, a copy of the new record must be given to each existing tenant within 28 days of the annual check.
Because the Regulations require that a copy of the record is to be given to each existing tenant and any new tenant, this means that all tenants should receive a copy of the report within the prescribed time.
7. CONTRACTING OUT. A landlord or agent may not contract out of his obligations under the Regulations, e.g. by making an agreement or stipulation on the tenant under the lease that the tenant must arrange for servicing of gas appliances.
8. ROOM-SEALED APPLIANCES. The Regulations prohibit the installation of certain types of gas appliances in certain areas; such as a room used or intended to be used as a bathroom or sleeping accommodation. Although this is a general requirement on all properties, a landlord has additional specific duties under the Regulations to:
- check that such appliances are not installed in any room occupied or intended to be occupied as sleeping accommodation
- ensure that the Regulations are not contravened when a room is converted to form accommodation used or intended to be used as sleeping accommodation.
Smoke Detectors Act 1991
The 1991 Smoke Detectors Act requires that all new houses that have been built since 1992 must, by law, have a smoke detector installed, the minimum requirement being one smoke alarm on each level of the building.
This is not a piece of legislation aimed specifically at residential letting property, but aimed at all new buildings. If an agent installs smoke alarms into properties that he manages or they already exist, care must be taken in ensuring that it is clear from the letting agreement who is responsible for the maintenance of the detectors including testing and battery replacement.
To neglect this matter could mean that the landlord or agent is responsible, and in the case of a fire could be held liable for being negligent in their duties. There are different rules covering Houses in Multiple Occupation with regard to the installation of smoke detectors and other fire prevention measures.
The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994
The Regulations require:
1. GENERAL SAFETY. That all electrical equipment supplied is safe.
In measuring safety, the 'supplier' needs to ascertain whether the product will comply with the current UK requirements for safety of domestic electrical products. Without detailed technical knowledge, there is no simple way to define which electrical products conform and which do not.
2. INSTRUCTIONS. Where the safe use of the equipment relies upon the user being aware of any particular characteristic, suitable information or instruction booklets should be provided. The instructions should be given in English.
3. LABELLING. The 1994 Regulations require that any equipment supplied in the EEC after 9th January 1995 shall be marked with the appropriate CE symbol (subject to the Transitional arrangements below). In practise, the CE labelling requirement only applies to manufacturers when equipment is first placed on the market.
4. TRANSITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS. Equipment supplied in the letting of property will thus be supplied equipment already placed into the supply chain. The transition arrangements allow the supply of electrical equipment which either complies with the provisions of the 1994 Regulations or complies with the provisions of the 1989 Regulations. Thus letting agents may continue to provide non CE labelled equipment as long as it is compliant with the 1989 Regulations.
The Furniture and Furnishing (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 as amended in 1993
Since January 1997, it has been unlawful for landlords to supply upholstered furniture in rented property which does not comply to 1988 standards as set out in The Furniture & Furnishings (Fire)(Safety) Regulations 1988 (as amended).
The reason is that upholstered furniture made before 1988 may contain foam which is capable of engulfing a room in seconds with toxic fumes. The new standards require furniture to be filled with safer materials and be covered by material with greater fire resistance. Consequently, the regulations apply to the covering and the filling material of these furnishings.
What is covered by the regulations?
All upholstered seating furniture, beds, mattresses, headboards, sofa beds, futons, scatter cushions, seat pads, loose and stretch covers.
Furniture bought new after 1988 should be labelled to indicate it complies. Since 1993 it has been illegal to sell second-hand furniture which does not comply (furniture made before 1950 is the exception).
You will also need to make sure you have:
- Certificates meeting these regulations where appropriate
- An inventory of all items left in the property and a property condition report
- Carried out a Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) for all electrical appliances.
- Got permission from your mortgage lender if you have a mortgage on your property or told your freeholder
- Told your insurers.
Energy Performance Certificates (EPC)
Private residential landlords are required to provide an EPC when renting out a home to new tenants.
The EPC remains valid for 10 years and can be used for all new tenants in that period; it is only required for self-contained properties, ie they are not necessary when a tenant rents a room with shared facilities.
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