Helping landlords carry out regular safety checks and meet their legal obligations

Thursday, July 28th, 2016 - By Frank Bertie, NAPIT Trade Association Chairman

Frank Bertie, NAPIT Trade Association Chairman

Conditions for England’s nine million private tenants in rented accommodation are currently worse than in any other housing sector according to Government reports. Around a third of properties fail to meet the Government’s Decent Homes Standard and millions of tenants experience potentially life threatening risks, such as electrical hazards and gas leaks.

While some of these failings may be caused by ‘rogue’ landlords who flout the law, some landlords may simply be unaware of their obligations. Not only can this result in serious health and safety risks, if a landlord puts a ‘sub-standard’ property on the market, they may also experience saleability issues.

Many of the hazards that plague the sector, such as faults in hidden electrical wiring systems, will not be immediately apparent from a visual inspection. Landlords should, therefore, seek to make the best use of time-saving resources to guard against potential claims of negligence.

The legal landscape

But what are a landlord’s legal obligations? Surprisingly, this isn’t always clear cut.

Regarding utilities for instance, the Landlords and Tenants Act 1985 simply states that short lease landlords must: “keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house [they let] for the supply of water, gas and electricity”. There’s no mention of regular checks.

The industry recommendation regarding electrics has long been that an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) should be carried out by a competent electrician every five years, supported by an annual visual checklist. This aligns with other legislation such as the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations.

This lack of clear obligations increases the likelihood of landlords forgoing appropriate checks for longer, or not doing them and resulting in hazards going unnoticed.

Defusing hidden hazards

Most hazards are entirely avoidable if a schedule of checks is carried out and appropriate remedial action taken.

Historically, property owners haven’t had access to a single point of reference to detail their health and safety responsibilities.

However, after an All-Party Parliamentary Home Safety and Carbon Monoxide Group seminar in 2014, a Home Safety Sub-group of the Electrical Safety Roundtable (ESR) was formed to consider a new, whole-house solution.

With the support of insurance providers, landlord’s associations, mortgage lenders and trade associations, including RICS, a Home Safety Certificate was created, along with supporting checklists and guidance documents.

Designed for landlords, but useful for anyone with an interest in the safety of properties, the resources are primarily intended to encourage those who may be unaware of their legal obligations to carry out appropriate checks.

The Home Safety Certificate recommends an EICR every five years, for example, along with an annual visual check, to bring much needed clarity to this otherwise uncertain area. A similar approach is taken with other specified checks.

It enables landlords to record, among others, an up-to-date:

The certificate allows landlords to confirm they have completed important industry-recommended checks and complied with both explicit and implied legal obligations.

The ESR is continuing to work with insurance providers, landlord’s associations, mortgage lenders and trade associations to ensure Home Safety Certificates are used to best effect and become more closely aligned to house buying and selling processes.

For more information, visit www.homesafetyguidance.co.uk

Frank Bertie is Chairman of the NAPIT Trade Association for the building services and fabric sector. NAPIT are the the National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers.