This article is intended as a guide to landlords' responsibilities regarding the physical aspects of a let property. It describes the standards required of the property and furnishings, as well as obligatory safety checks and the records and certificates you need to comply with the law. Local authorities can inspect residential properties under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
The material covered in this article will help you reduce or eliminate hazards for those aspects of the property which are legally the landlord's responsibility. You should check these things and others before letting your property.
Responsibilities for maintenance
A landlord is responsible for the proper repair and maintenance of:
- the exterior and structure of the dwelling, including associated areas and structures (e.g. access stairs, garden walls and outbuildings)
- installations for supply and use of water, gas and electricity (including removable appliances supplied by the landlord)
- installations for personal hygiene, sanitation and drainage (e.g. baths, sinks and showers)
- installations for heating and hot water
- food safety – (e.g. sinks, draining boards, work-tops and food storage facilities)
- fire safety
Property structure and exterior
Before letting a property make sure that the structure and exterior are in proper condition. This includes the roof, guttering, drains and external pipes, external walls and windows and doors.
It is your duty to ensure that the property is in fit and safe condition for habitation throughout the tenancy. Any problems on the outside such as leaks are likely to compound and spread indoors, so the exterior of the property is first priority for maintenance.
If you have doubts as to the condition of the structure and exterior it's a good idea to have it checked by a qualified surveyor.
Gas and gas appliances
Landlords are responsible for the maintenance and repair of gas flues, appliances and pipework belonging to them and which are provided for tenants' use.
All installations for the supply and use of gas must be carried out by a Gas Safety registered professional. This includes mobile appliances (e.g. LPG heaters).
A Gas Safety check must be carried out within a year of any new gas installation, before a property is let, and annually thereafter.
Tenants must be given a copy of the Gas Certificate at the start of tenancy and within 28 days of annual checks.
Landlords must keep Gas Certificates for at least 2 years.
Electricity and electrical equipment
There is no legal obligation for landlords to have installations for the supply and use of electricity in rental accommodation certified, but it is still your duty to ensure that electrical wiring, installations and appliances are in proper repair and do not pose a hazard to occupants, their visitors or their property.
Pay particular attention to movable items and parts which are vulnerable to wear and tear, such as flexes and cords, plugs and sockets. Plugs should comply to appropriate standards (check for labelling), have the correctly rated fuse, and have partially sleeved live and neutral pins.
It's a good idea to keep the number of appliances you supply to a minimum and keep all receipts and inspection records. Make sure warning tags are in place and that instruction manuals are available to tenants.
You should also arrange, at least once a year, for a qualified electrician to carry out a portable appliance testing (PAT) safety test on any portable electrical equipment you provide for tenants. The PAT tester will give you a dated certificate and put stickers on the plugs of appliances to show that they are safe. Electrical installations and equipment must also comply with product safety regulations, and heavy penalties are possible per non-compliant item.
To avoid liability in the case of accident or injury it is sensible to have your electrical systems and installations checked periodically by qualified personnel.
Heating and ventilation
Condensation and damp are common causes for complaints by tenants, and damp, mould growth and excess cold are all hazards covered by the HHSRS, so adequate heating and ventilation are essential. It may be prudent to include a condition in the tenancy agreement to ensure that the property is adequately heated and ventilated during cold times of year.
Installations for the supply and use of water and hot water are the landlord's responsibility. Faulty water systems can cause costly damage to a property and result in major disruption to tenants. It is prudent to get water systems checked by a qualified professional. A typical example of water system failure could be inadequately insulated pipework becoming frozen – causing disruption to supply and ultimately leaks.
You must ensure that there is an escape route from the property in case of a fire. Depending on the size of the property you may have to provide fire extinguishers and alarms – check with your local authority – though it is prudent to take any steps necessary to protect your property from fire. For houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) there are more stringent requirements. Fire-safety of furnishings is covered below.
Furnishings and appliances
If you are providing furnishings and appliances as part of a let you should make sure they comply to all relevant product safety regulations.
Gas and electrical appliances are covered under the same rules as we have mentioned above.
A good way of ensuring that your furnishings and appliances are up to standard is by keeping an inventory and checking off each item as safe and compliant with regulations before tenancy begins and at sensible intervals.
It is good practice to keep purchase receipts and safety certificates and to provide tenants with copies and instruction manuals. As a general rule anything you supply must be safe and fit for the use for which it is intended. This is essential, not only for compliance with the regulations, but because you could be liable to a claim for damages for any injury resulting from an unsafe item. Therefore it is advisable to avoid items of uncertain safety or origin. In addition to these general requirements you should ensure that all furnishings comply with fire safety regulations as follows.
Fire safety of furnishings
All furniture and soft furnishings must be fire-safety compliant. Exceptions are items made before 1950, curtains, carpets, duvets and sheets.
It's easy to identify fire-safety compliant items by the permanent labels they will have (with the exception of mattresses and bed-bases). When you buy items new they should also have fire-safety compliance labels on display (except for mattresses, bed-bases, pillows, scatter cushions, seat pads, loose covers sold separately from the furniture and stretch covers).
These should comply with product safety regulations. All white goods are now given an energy efficiency rating from 'A' to 'G' – 'A' is best.
Further useful information and documents
We recommend you to read next our article on how to reduce the number of hazards in your rented property.
If you would like to buy residential tenancy agreements, you may be interested to look at our collection of AST agreements.