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Tenants are living in dangerous conditions according to a recent survey.

A survey of landlords has found that hundreds of thousands of tenants are living in unsafe housing with missing smoke or carbon monoxide alarms as landlords aren’t meeting obligations on repairs that they are responsible for.

The data, collected by ComRes on behalf of Citizens Advice, found that a quarter of landlords failed to make sure there’s a smoke alarm on every floor of their properties and a further 26% failed to carry out annual gas safety work.

According to the report, 90,000 homes do not have a working carbon monoxide alarm, despite this being regulation, and one in six tenants say the disrepair in their home was causing a ‘major threat to their health and safety.’

ComRes is calling for a national housing body for private renting to set standards, which could include creating a home “MOT”, setting a “fit-and-proper-person” test for landlords and standardising rental contracts.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said. “Too many private renters live in hazardous homes – often with dangerous flaws.

“The government must establish a national housing body to ensure landlords let property that meet legal standards and gives renters the support they need when they don’t.”

75% of landlords agreed a single national housing body responsible for setting standards would improve the quality of their work, with nearly half of them saying they were unaware there were potential fines for not checking carbon monoxide and smoke alarms were in working order.

What is a landlord’s specific fire safety responsibilities?

As always with lettings, the devil is in the detail. However, the overriding principle when it comes to tenant safety is to make sure that if anything does happen, you can prove to your local housing officer or to a court that you did everything that could reasonably be expected of you to protect your tenant.

There are lots of things you can do to prevent a fire. You can also make sure that if one does break out your tenants have plenty of warning so they can get out safely.

The Housing Act 2004, including the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

There are key rules and regulations within the HHSRS that relate to fire safety. As a landlord you need to ensure where you can that your tenants are protected from accidents such as electric shocks, fires, burns and scalds.

Your responsibilities include:

  1. Keeping escape routes clear and checking your tenants understand they need to do the same
  2. Making sure there are no fire hazards near areas where fires may start. For example, ensuring electrical leads and tea towels are not kept near ovens/hobs and combustible objects are not stored near boilers or fuse boxes
  3. Only allow a ‘spark’ type device to be used when lighting a gas cooker, as opposed to matches
  4. Checking appliances have had a PAT (Portable appliance test) annually
  5. Ensure electrical appliances have a British or European safety mark.

Some of the rules and regulations around health and safety can be interpreted differently by representatives at different local authorities. Therefore, to ensure you comply, talk to your local housing enforcement officer about the key things they look for.

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015

These can vary from one country to another, so it’s important to check with your local housing officer what they expect you do to.

To help protect your tenant, it’s a good idea to adopt an attitude of doing ‘everything you can’ rather than just the ‘minimum’. For example, having smoke alarms on each floor is now a requirement throughout the UK, but Scotland has gone further, requiring:

  1. A functioning smoke alarm in rooms used for daytime living
  2. One smoke alarm in hallways and landings
  3. A heat alarm in the kitchen
  4. All alarms to be interlinked, i.e. wired

How to carry out landlord safety checks

Part of keeping up to date with fire safety is knowing where to turn for help and advice on keeping on top of the changing rules and regulations.

For example, just because an agent lets a property, it doesn’t mean they know the rules. Ideally, work with an ARLA, NALS or RICS member agent, as they are far more likely to keep up with the laws. You should also check their lettings qualifications as the better their qualifications, the more likely they are to know how to protect you.

It’s also worth double checking with the agent whether their terms and conditions mean they take responsibility for any fire safety breaches. If you’re still responsible, you will need to quiz them about the work they do to ensure your property meets the necessary standards.

It’s incredibly important for landlords to follow fire safety requirements. Whether you take full responsibility yourself or outsource it to someone else, you must still be able to provide evidence you have done everything that can reasonably be expected to protect your property and tenant from fire and smoke damage.

The main thing for you to think about, as a landlord, is doing everything you can to protect your asset (your property) as well as your tenants, not just the legal minimum. You should be confident that if a fire does occur, your tenants will be alerted in time for them to escape, or if there is a chance of carbon monoxide poisoning, they will be warned before any damage can occur from this silent killer.

Always keep up to date and ask for help and advice from your local authority to make sure you’re following the latest rules and regulations.

References:

FIA

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