The Health & Safety Legal Responsibilities of Landlords

March 12, 2015
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This guide provides an overview of the health and safety legal responsibilities of landlords and cover four main areas:

  1. Gas safety
  2. Electrical safety
  3. Fire safety
  4. Safety from Legionella

1. Gas Safety Responsibilities

It is a landlord’s responsibility to ensure that all gas appliances in a property are safe for tenants to use. Gas supplies must be installed and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer to ensure they are continually safe to use – a Gas Safe registered engineer will carry an ID card with a licence number, showing the types of gas work that they are qualified to do. The benefit of choosing a Gas Safe engineer is that you know they have been checked for competency and are qualified to work safely and legally with gas.

Checks on gas appliances and flues must be carried out every 12 months to ensure that they remain safe to use. If a tenant has supplied their own gas appliance, you are not responsible for its maintenance but must ensure that the gas pipework is safe.

Landlords must have an up-to-date gas safety record, sometimes referred to as a gas safety certificate, which should be issued to tenants when they move in or within 28 days of the safety checks. An engineer will issue you with a gas safety record when they have fitted or serviced an appliance – you must keep this up to date and keep the record for 2 years.

The Gas Safe Register says that, as a minimum, the record of a gas safety check must contain:

  • A description and location of each appliance and/or flue checked.
  • The name, registration number and signature of the engineer who carried out the check.
  • The 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 defects identified and any action required or taken to fix it.
  • Confirmation of the results of operational safety checks carried out on the appliances.

It is also important that you inform tenants of where to turn off the gas and what to do in case of emergency.

2. Electrical Safety Responsibilities

Landlords have a responsibility to ensure that the electrical system and all electrical appliances in their properties are safe to use. If unsafe, electricity can cause serious damage, including severe injuries or fires, so it is essential that you take the necessary precautions. Faulty or old wiring is one of the main causes of electrical fires.

Electrical installations must be safe when the tenants move in and must be maintained
throughout the course of their tenancy. This includes wiring, sockets, light fittings, kitchen appliances and washing machines etc. Always use a qualified electrician to carry out the checks. It’s recommended that electrical tests are carried out at least every 5 years or on change of tenancy.

All appliances provided to tenants, no matter how small, must carry the ‘CE’ marking which shows that they meet EU requirements for safety.

An Electrical Installation Condition Report will be issued by a registered electrician when they come to inspect the electrical installations in the property. This is also known as a ‘periodic inspection’ and is sometimes referred to as an ‘electrical safety certificate’. You should supply this report to your tenants on request. The report will feature:

  • The results of the inspection and testing.
  • The date of the next recommended inspection.
  • Details of any damage or wear and tear.
  • Details of any parts of the installation that don’t meet IEE Wiring
  • Regulations or meet UK national standards BS 7671.

If the electrical system is being installed for the first time, then the registered electrician carrying out the work will issue you with an Electrical Installation Certificate or a Building Regulations Compliance Certificate to show the work they have done is safe and complies with the law.

3. Fire Safety Responsibilities

Landlords have a legal obligation to ensure that their properties comply with fire safety regulations and are safe for their tenants to live in. The aim is to ensure that tenants can safely raise the alarm and escape quickly in case of fire.

As the responsible person, legislation requires landlords to undertake a fire risk assessment in all areas of their property, including individual rooms, shared hallways and corridors, common parts, stairways and exits. An individual fire risk assessment must be done for each property the landlord owns. This is a requirement under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and is mandatory for all landlords. The risk assessment should compromise of 5 key stages:

  1. Identify the fire risks (e.g. furnishings, blocked stairways or faulty electrics).
  2. Consider who is at risk (e.g. the tenants and their visitors).
  3. Implement appropriate control measures (e.g. improving escape routes, installing smoke alarms etc).
  4. Record the findings of the risk assessment.
  5. Review and update the risk assessment regularly (e.g. when a new tenant moves in or if the building is altered in any way etc).

Landlords should also use appropriate fire safety signage to help tenants know what to do in case of fire. This includes signs indicating the location of fire exits, assembly points, fire alarms, extinguishers and any other fire-fighting equipment. Signage must be clear and understandable by everyone living in the building. Place a Fire Action Notice detailing the actions to be taken in case of fire in a common part of the building, such as the entrance hall.

In regards to fire-fighting equipment: if your property is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) then you must supply at least one fire extinguisher (of the right type) per floor of the building and at least one fire blanket in each shared kitchen.

As an example, to ensure fire safety in their properties, landlords should:

  • Fit fire warning systems, such as alarms, heat and smoke detectors, to each property.
  • Ensure all doors can be easily opened in case of emergency.
  • Carry out regular electrical and gas safety checks.
  • Ensure all escape routes are kept clear at all times.
  • Ensure main front doors are a 30 minute fire door (FD30).
  • Ask tenants to report any defects or fire safety hazards immediately.
    Consider introducing a smoking policy.
  • Ensure any supplied furnishings are fire resistant and meet safety regulations.
  • Communicate to tenants what to do in case of fire.

Note that Fire Safety Certificates are no longer issued – under the Fire Safety Order you must now prepare a risk assessment and emergency plan instead. The information contained in the risk assessment and emergency plan should be communicated to your tenants and is sufficient evidence to show that you are complying with the law.

Find out more about Fire Safety in our guide: Fire Safety Advice for Landlords: Protecting You and Your Tenants

4. Legionella Safety Responsibilities

Anyone who has control of premises, including landlords, must be able to show that they understand and have considered the health risks associated with legionella and legionnaires’ disease. Landlords have an obligation to be aware of the dangers of legionella and ensure a risk assessment is done to keep their tenants from harm.

If you are landlord, you have a legal duty to ensure all water systems are correctly operated and maintained so as to control legionella bacteria. In a property, legionella bacteria may be found in any water system between 20-45°c, such as hot/cold water tanks, pipework and air conditioning units. The risk can be lowered if hot water is kept hot, cold water is kept cold and if the water is kept free of impurities, i.e. it is used regularly to keep it fresh and prevent stagnation.

To help keep your tenants (and their visitors) safe from harm, you must undertake a legionella risk assessment. As with any other form of risk assessment, this will comprise of 5 key steps:

  1. Identify the risks (e.g. check water temperatures).
  2. Consider who is at risk (e.g. the tenants and their visitors).
  3. Implement appropriate control measures (e.g. keeping water hot and removing impurities etc).
  4. Record the findings of the risk assessment.
  5. Review and update the risk assessment regularly (e.g. annually or if changes are made to the water system of the property).

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