As a landlord, you have a duty of care to your tenants. This means that you are required by law to provide safe accommodation, and any associated risks in the property, are minimised. In England, this obligation is outlined in the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, also known as the HHSRS.
The HHSRS is an assessment of the hazards in a rental property that could affect the health of the tenants. While landlords are expected to self-assess their rental properties and carry out repairs and changes to reduce any risks, the official assessment will be carried out by an Environmental Officer from the local authority. If officers find that there are improvements to be made, this will be approached informally first, before an improvement notice is formally issued.
It’s worth noting that in an extreme circumstance, hazard awareness notices, emergency prohibition orders and demolition orders can be served.
In this blog, we will outline the areas that landlords should be aware of when it comes to duty of care for tenants and making sure the property is ready for an HHSRS assessment.
Written risk assessment
As well as a written risk assessment by an Environmental officer working to the HHSRS definitions, some landlords choose to have a ”competent person”, such as an experienced letting agent to come and carry out a risk assessment. This is then reviewed periodically, such as annually or between tenancies.
If you’re currently letting out property, download our FREE Landlords Compliance Check List to help make sure it is compliant thus reducing the chance of risk and fines.
The minimum legal requirement states that there must be a working smoke alarm fitted on each floor of the property, and CO2 detectors in rooms that contain coal or wood-burning fires and stoves and gas appliances. Somebody must test these alarms at the beginning of each new tenancy.
Many landlords choose to go above and beyond when it comes to smoke alarms, fitting them in every hallway, landing and living room as well as installing a heat sensor in the kitchen.
Landlords must make sure that property boundaries, such as walls and fencing, are well maintained. They must also ensure that doors and windows have appropriate locks in good working order – with all keys accounted for. Only tenants, property managers and landlords should be able to enter the property.
Many landlords also choose to add outdoor lighting fixtures to both the front and rear of the property, to ensure tenants feel safe entering and exiting when dark.
Features such as outdoor lighting can also add to the curb appeal of a property. Please read our guide to improving curb appeal.
All gas features and equipment supplied with your rental property must be installed and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Landlords are required to have an annual gas safety check carried out, with a copy of the certificate provided to the tenants.
Landlords are legally required to make sure that all electrics, including appliances, in the property, are safe. The law states that the electrical system needs to be inspected by an electrician every five years. Still, all good property managing agents will urge their landlords to instruct PAT (portable appliance test) annually, and electrical inspections to be carried out between every three to five years.
New regulations were introduced on 1st June 2020 to ensure that the electrical installations in rented properties are safe. Click here to see what the new Electrical Safety Standards require of landlords of privately rented accommodation.
If you are letting a furnished property, then you are obliged to make sure that all furnishings and upholstered furniture meets fire safety regulations. Manufacturers labels that confirm this must remain on the items.
Damp, condensation and mould
Mould can be so dangerous to tenants’ health; landlords must take these potential issues seriously. The property must be well-ventilated, with particular attention paid to high-humidity rooms like the kitchen and bathroom.
It is best practice to use mould-resistant paint in these rooms, as well as carrying out regular checks for mildew and mould. Should you find any, you must get an expert diagnosis before covering up or removing to make sure the root of the problem has been identified and resolved appropriately.
Issues such as this can worsen in the colder months. Please take a look at our guide for landlords when it comes to Preparing a Rental Property for Autumn and Winter Months.
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and more recently, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 states that landlords are required by law to make sure the property is fit for habitation at the start of each tenancy. This good condition must also be maintained for the duration the tenancy; should the property or furnishings fall into disrepair; the safety of the tenants could be compromised.
Emergency procedure and manuals
There should be clear instructions for tenants when it comes to the procedure and contacts in an ”in case of emergency’ situation. This helps to minimise the risk of an injury occurring in these circumstances. Landlords should also provide access to instruction manuals for equipment in the property such as boilers, ovens etc. Giving them the information to use items correctly again, minimises the chance of injury occurring.
Should you have any questions about the points set out in this blog, we welcome you to contact a member of the lettings team or take a look at our Landlords page. Here, you will find much more information about our tenancy management options.