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Are you playing Rental Roulette?

Nobody goes out of their way to break the rules, however you might be breaking a rule without even realising it! Here's our guide on some of the lesser-known rental regulations...

Upping your EPC

There has been plenty in the press about EPCs recently, especially with their tenth anniversary a couple of weeks ago. With much ado about the introduction of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), most landlords are well aware of what the legislation demands of them.

However, despite understanding that it will become illegal to let a property with an EPC rating of F or G from April 2018, many landlords are still considering their options with regards to how they are planning to make the required changes. However, if a property falls within this category a tenant can request to make changes, and if there is valid proof that it will increase the rating, a landlord is unable to refuse.

A tenant can request for:

  • The installation of pipes to enable a connection to the gas grid
  • Air source heat pumps
  • Biomass boilers
  • Biomass room heaters (with radiators)
  • Cavity wall insulation
  • Chillers
  • Cylinder thermostats
  • Draught proofing
  • Duct insulation
  • Gas-fired condensing boilers
  • Ground source heat pumps
  • Hot water showers
  • Hot water systems
  • Hot water taps
  • External wall insulation systems
  • Fan-assisted storage heater
  • Flue gas heat recovery devices
  • Heating controls for wet central heating systems or warm air systems
  • Heating ventilation and air-conditioning controls (including zoning controls)
  • High performance external doors
  • Hot water controls (including timers and temperature controls)
  • Hot water cylinder insulation
  • Internal wall insulation systems (for external walls)
  • Lighting systems
  • Fittings and controls (including roof lights, lamps and luminaires)
  • Loft or rafter insulation (including loft hatch insulation)
  • Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery systems
  • Micro combined heat and power
  • Micro wind generation
  • Oil-fired condensing boilers
  • Photovoltaics
  • Pipework insulation
  • Radiant heating
  • Replacement glazing
  • Roof insulation
  • Room in roof insulation
  • Sealing improvements (including duct sealing)
  • Secondary glazing
  • Solar blinds, shutters and shading devices
  • Solar water heating
  • Transpired solar collectors
  • Under-floor heating
  • Under-floor insulation
  • Variable speed drives for fans and pumps
  • Warm-air units
  • Waste water heat recovery devices attached to showers
  • Water source heat pumps

In order for the request to be valid, the tenant must supply the following:

  • A list of relevant energy efficiency measures that they wish to install.
  • What works they will carry out, if any, to ‘make good’ the property so it is returned to its original condition following the installation of the proposed improvements, and confirmation that you will cover the cost
  • Details of if the improvement that they are requesting was recommended in an EPC recommendation report, a Green Deal advice report or a report prepared by a surveyor, (a copy must be provided with the request).
  • Evidence of the funding that has been secured to cover the cost of installing the energy efficiency improvements, such as a grant offer letter
  • Evidence where the improvements may be installed and funded under a supplier obligation such as the Energy Company Obligation.
  • Written confirmation that you propose to fully or partially fund the energy efficiency improvements yourself
  • Where applicable, confirmation of the Green Deal Plan that will be used to fund the proposed measures, if you do not intend to use a Green Deal Plan to fund the proposed improvements, a copy of the quotation for the cost of installing the measures from a Green Deal installer or another installer that meets relevant installer standards.

If the tenant does not supply all of the required information, the landlord has grounds for refusing consent.

Legionella

Legionnaires disease is a rare, but potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by inhaling droplets of water infected with the Legionella bacteria. The bacteria can be found in man-made hot and cold water systems.

Whilst there are no strict legal requirements regarding the management of legionella in domestic rental properties, as a landlord, you have a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of your tenant and anyone who visits the property, by making sure the property is safe, and free from health hazards – including legionella.

It is best practice to build a simple legionella check into your routine property management checks and ensure that your tenants are aware of the risks, and how to best manage regular checks themselves too.

Carrying out a check is very simple. For most domestic systems, maintaining temperature and flow of water is the best way to ensure that legionella does not have the correct environment to flourish, so you should be sure to keep hot water hot, cold water cold, and above all – keep the system moving. Legionella loves tepid, standing water, so the less of that sitting around in your property’s system the better!

The Health and Safety Executive advises you to carry out the following steps at the start of every tenancy:

  1. Flush out the system fully: Blast all taps and showers, flush the toilets – make sure all water has been moved around the system
  2. Check that no debris has been able to enter the system: If you have any cold water tanks, double check that no seals have been broken or damage has been caused, potentially allowing bacteria into he system
  3. Set temperatures: If you have a hot water cylinder, ensure that it is set to store water no lower that 60°C.
  4. Remove unnecessary pipework: if you have ‘dead’ lengths of pipe, make sure they are capped off and removed.

It is also vitally important that your tenants are aware of measures, and that they are notified not to make any changes to parameters such as the temperatures. It is also wise to request that your tenants take steps to ensure that all water systems are flushed through regularly, in order to manage the risk on an ongoing basis.

For more information on your duty as a Landlord, a downloadable PDF is
available from theHealth and Safety Executive here.

Furniture and furnishings

In some cases, a furnished property is a real draw for some tenants – especially in big cities or if you are catering for the popular student market.

Cheap, easily replaceable furniture is the most popular option, with both landlords and tenants. It’s a sensible move too, with most new furniture and soft furnishings complying fully with the legally required fire safety regulations.

However, as you welcome your tenants into their property - with Swedish flat pack in situ - many people forget about the dusty furniture that’s been squirrelled away in sheds, lofts or storage space. Any furniture that is located in the property (including furniture, soft furnishings and garden furniture that is used inside) must still comply with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 (as amended in 1989, 1993 and 2010).

You must ensure that every piece of furniture in the property meets the following requirements:

  • Filling materials must meet specified ignition requirements
    Upholstery composites must be cigarette resistant
  • Covers must be match resistant
  • A permanent label must be fitted to every item of new furniture (with the exception of mattresses and bed-bases)
  • A display label must be fitted to every item of new furniture at the point of sale (with the exception of mattresses, bed-bases, pillows, scatter cushions, seat pads, loose covers sold separately from the furniture and stretch covers)
  • The first supplier of domestic upholstered furniture in the UK must maintain records for five years to prove compliance

Blinds and Window Coverings

We use them daily, but it’s possible that many of us are unaware of the legislation that surrounds blinds and window coverings.

Many landlords favour a simple blind over fussy curtains in rental properties, and most tenants also prefer the easy to clean, simple option. However, when supplying the fixture, landlords should consider if the device complies with safety regulations.

The British Standards Institution published standards in February 2014 (based on European Standards) which addressed the risks posed to children by internal blinds and corded window coverings.

The standards apply to blinds which include cords or chains that have a hanging loop which could pose a hazard in properties where there are children aged between 0 and 42 months.

All compliant devices will be fitted with a safety measure designed to prevent accidental strangulation of a young child by the looped cord.

If you have existing blinds or tracks in place with cords already fitted, don’t worry – you don’t have to change them all. Check to see if they have any long loops, and if so, you can fit a ‘cord tidy’ to the wall or windowsill which will secure the loose cord, and help prevent any accidents.

Glazing

When you consider your properties windows and doors, you are probably more concerned with their energy efficiency, rather than the safety of the glass. However, you should possibly turn your attention to the glazing as well, as it also needs to stand up to rigorous safety standards in order to comply with building regulations.

Some windows and glazed doors in residential properties may fall under the category of requiring safety glass in ‘critical locations’. Identifying a critical location can be complicated, but there is a guide available via the Residential Landlords
Association here.

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