As a residential property owner, you have a variety of legal responsibilities. Your responsibilities include keeping rental properties safe and free from hazards, ensuring all supplied gas and electrical equipment is properly installed and maintained, complying with fire safety regulations, providing an Energy Performance Certificate and protecting tenants’ deposits. In Scotland, property owners must also register with the local council before renting out property, or face a criminal offence.
Depending on the terms of the lease or tenancy agreement, most property owners in the UK are required to keep the property safe and free from hazards. This entails keeping the structure and exterior safe and in good working condition, including drains, gutters and external pipes. Installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity, heating and sanitation measures should also be kept in good repair and working condition. It is also best practice to provide operating instructions and user warnings for supplied appliances and equipment.
Property owners are required by the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 to make sure that all supplied gas appliances, fittings and flues are maintained in a safe condition according to manufacturer’s instructions. Every 12 months, a gas safety check must be conducted by a Gas Safe Registered Engineer on each gas appliance, fitting or flue to ensure they are safe to use. Safety check records must be kept for at least 2 years and a copy must be given to existing tenants within 28 days of the check. New tenants are entitled to a copy of the check before moving in.
While there is no statutory requirement to conduct annual checks on electrical equipment and appliances, landlords are still required under Common Law and various acts and regulations (such as The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994) to keep supplied electrical equipment and systems safe for tenants.
To stay compliant, property owners should regularly conduct a visual check on all electrical systems and appliances. Create a checklist that shows how often each piece of electrical equipment should be inspected, and include space to record the results. Electrical equipment should be tested frequently enough by a qualified electrician to ensure there is little chance the equipment will become dangerous between inspections. Using a qualified electrician can help you stay up to date on any changes with electrical regulations. Adjust the frequency of checks based on the number and severity of issues found.
Property owners must also comply with all fire safety regulations, including the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 in England and Wales, the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 in Scotland, and the Fire Safety (NI) Regulations 2010 in Northern Ireland. Fire risk assessments should be conducted and reviewed periodically. Access to escape routes should be carefully planned out and monitored. Smoke alarms should be fitted throughout the property. The tenancy agreement should state whether the tenant or the landlord is in charge of maintaining and testing the smoke alarm, including changing the batteries. Depending on the size of the property, fire alarms, signage, fire escape ladders and extinguishers may need to be provided as well.
If you supply furniture to your tenants, you must comply with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (as amended). The Act sets fire resistance requirements for furniture, furnishings and upholstered products. Most types of furniture are required to have a permanent and non-detachable manufacturer’s label and fire resistant filling, and must pass appropriate fire resistance tests, such as match and cigarette resistance. This is more of an issue with older furniture, as all new furniture should comply.
An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is required whenever a property is built, sold or rented. The certificate assigns the property an energy efficiency rating from A (best) to G (worst) and is valid for 10 years. Property owners in Scotland are required to display the EPC on the property itself. An EPC contains information about the property’s energy use and typical energy costs and recommendations for reducing energy use and costs. In order to get an EPC certificate, you must hire an accredited assessor to evaluate your property.
Residential property owners are required to protect their tenants’ deposits in a government-backed scheme through independent third parties. Assured short hold tenancy property owners in England and Wales, and all private landlords in Scotland, have 30 days to place a deposit in an approved scheme and provide tenants with key information the tenancy and deposit. There are currently no official requirements in Northern Ireland for protecting tenant deposits. Websites for approved tenancy deposit schemes for England, Wales and Scotland are below.
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