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Landlord Safety Summit: Your questions answered

During the Landlord Safety Summit, Urban.co.uk's Adam Male and the National Landlords Association's Simon Ward explored all of the key elements that landlords have to be aware of, including gas safety, electrical testing, fire regulations and the ever-complicated legionella requirements. You can listen back here:

Gas

Q.If I get a new gas boiler and I have the certificate to say it is safely installed, and there is no other gas appliance in the property, do I need a gas safety certificate, or not for the next 12 months?

A.Yes but you can request that the Gas Safe register engineer who installs the appliance carries out the check so it includes maintenance of flues and pipework.


Q. Is an open fire classed as a solid fuel appliance ?

A. Yes



Fire


Q. I own an Edwardian house with an open fire and original chimney - if the tenant wants to have a coal fire, can we say no, or if we agree do we have to supply a fire guard and set rules of operation?

A. You can say no and put a clause in the AST forbidding its use, if you wish to. If you agree to this then you would need to ensure regular maintenance; Ensure there has never been a back-boiler installed (if there has then disconnect pipework and block it off the fireplace), regular chimney sweeping, fire guard and preferable a non-flammable hearth and guidance given to tenants to ensure regular maintenance and upkeep.


Q.With hard wired fire alarm systems is the 10-year shelf life of a detector the same?

A. Yes

Q. Is pressing the test button on a C02 and smoke alarms enough under current law. Will the smoke alarm bill change this meaning smoke tests will be required?

A. Currently this is sufficient; if the system is more complex and there is a fire panel then that should also be able to produce a ‘health diagnostic’ of the installed system. The Smoke Alarm Bill was never passed by Parliament and it has been considered to have been shelved.

Q. Does a residential building of four flats require a fire alarm system that connects all of the flats?
A. No, but if on different floors the Escape Areas (landings and hallways) should have an interlinked system.

Q. I was told by a fire officer not to have anything even a fire blanket as this could cause the tenants to stay longer in the house. Is this true?
A. I know of no evidence to suggest that this is the case.

Q. Does every kitchen have to have a fire blanket?
A. In every shared house and bedsit-style HMO there will need to be a fire blanket in all rooms with cooking facilities. In single household dwellings it is good practice to have one installed; this applies to houses and flats regardless of whether they have been purpose-built or converted.


Q. If tenancy agreement states no smoking, if a fire occurs due to smoking, is your insurer right to not pay out?
A. This depends on the providers policy to an extent but I would have thought (with L/L liability insurance) that there is a good chance of them paying out but they may wish to bring about a claim against the tenant, if negligence by the tenant appear to be beyond reasonable doubt.

Q. Are fire extinguishers mandatory in HMO's?
A. They are not mandatory but considered to be good practice to have one installed on each floor in the common parts.

Q. Do you have to get chimney swept annually or is that the tenants responsibility?

A. This will be the responsibility of the landlord


Q. Fire extinguishers have been removed by the management company from internal communal areas as it said this is the new regulations/legislation. Property is a block of flats. Is this right?

A. There is no new regulations/legislation calling for the removal of these items. A multi-purpose extinguisher on each floor of the common parts is recommended good practice.

Q. If one provided an escape ladder and the tenants hurt themselves using it in case of fire, or if they used it in any other case and hurt themselves, would I be liable?
A. Only if the escape ladder of its fixtures to the building were found to be defective. Ensure this is in sound working order before each AST and check this on periodic inspections. Put clause in AST stating that its use is solely for emergency escape.

Q. On the webinar there was no mention that the test needs to be on the first day of the tenancy, can you please confirm that this is the only day it should be tested?
A. It should be tested on the nearest time/day to the beginning of an AST but this is not restricted to the initial day of any AST.

Q. I believe that testing is only for new tenancies not for any renewal of tenancy, is this correct – so where same property, same tenant there is a need only to test once? Is there any scenario where testing would be required for same tenant/same property due to for example a new tenancy agreement being signed with them or the tenancy becoming statutory periodic?
A. Testing should be done on a regular basis regardless of whether an AST is initial or a replacement, and whether the tenants remain the same or not.

Q. Re smoke detectors, if the tenant takes it down what is my liability?
A. The tenant would be liable if they removed the detectors, not the landlord. However periodic inspections should bring this to light and once discovered the landlord will be responsible to ensure theses are put back/re-installed. landlord may be able to recoup the cost of this from the tenant/their deposit.


Electrical

Q. My student let isn't classed as HMO do I HAVE to have the electrical safety check?
A. No, but it is good practice to have this done anyway.

Q. Are laptops and computers or music equipment considered appliances to be tested?
A. Only if they have been provided by the landlord as part of the furnishings.

Q. Does the electrical certificate required for all HMOs or just licensed HMOs?
A. All HMOs.

Q. Would a built in electric hob count as portable?
A. No.

Q. If a washing machine is not used and in a shed would it have to be Pat tested?

A. No.

Q. Does a landlord need to have an electrical network tested every 3 years (used to be 5) in a non HMO?
A. The law (Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, Section 11) states that all electrical installations must be safe at all times. There is no law giving any compulsory test for electrics in non-HMO properties.

Q. Is PAT testing a legal requirement?
A. No, there is no law stating that this is Mandatory.

Q. I was recently advised that there is a requirement for consumer units to be upgraded to metallic. I have copied the regulation below. The consumer unit was replaced in 2013 and when enquiring about having a couple of minor electrical works carried out in my property e.g. replace a spotlight. I was told that if the consumer unit did not meet the new regulations then I would be put on notice and have a year to carry out the upgrade. This is the first I have heard about this and have googled to establish is there is any guidance to landlords, which I cannot find. Is this correct?
A. The 17th Edition of wiring regulations, latest edition January 2016, require that all new consumer units are made from a non-combustible material or enclosed in an enclosure constructed from non-combustible material but this regulation does not preclude compliance to regulations passed before this date. Information and guidance to landlords can be found via the following link:https://www.landlordelectricalinspections.co.uk/co...

HHSRS

Q. How do we monitor someone's personal hygiene?
A. This is not possible if the contract is of an Assured nature. This type of thing may only be apparent to lodgers/those with a Resident landlord. This is largely subjective and is not the job of a landlord to monitor this.

Q. I have a tenant who is basically filthy, horrendous kitchen, mould in the shower etc. Am I responsible or would meddling infringe his right to quiet enjoyment?
A. Be aware of the difference between dirt and disrepair. It is difficult to police cleanliness and it is important to be aware of the tenants’ right to quiet enjoyment. Issues such as mould need to be address by the landlord but the landlord does not have a right to enter the premises uninvited by the tenant if the contract is Assured in nature/non-resident landlord. Be careful not to address the matter in a way that could be perceived as over-bearing or harassing in nature. If tenant is not allowing access to address an issue then keep a log of events and write to the tenant informing of your need to access and that if the tenant continues to prevent access then the tenant will be liable for any detriment to belongings etc.

Q. In some of my HMO's tenants regularly smoke. This is offensive to the other housemates and they complain to me. What course of action is available to me?
A. Assuming that there is a clause in the AST/contract that forbids this then the landlord should try to resolve with an informal discussion. If this does not work then write to the tenant requesting that they cease to smoke on the premises and cite clause in contract forbidding this. If the problem persists then landlord can consider when they can serve a Section 21 notice/Notice to Quit and use this, at first, as a threat to get the tenant to stop. If they do not take this seriously then act upon the Section 21.

Legionella

Q. How often should I test for Legionella?
A. There is no mandatory testing certificate for this but a landlord should be satisfied at all of times that they have minimised the risks of this occurring. Test in between each tenancy. If term of occupancy is more than 1 year then testing annually during periodic inspections.
If the water temp is between 20 and 45 (in a very hot summer, for example), what is the recommended course of action?
Contact Local Authority Environmental Health department or the HSE for specific guidance in such circumstances; they will be able to arrange for further, more detailed, testing.

Q. Why are some Managing Agents "dismissive" of the Legionella Risk Assessment?
A. Difficult to say as this may be quite subjective, however a lack of any recognised national testing certificate may contribute towards this. There is no specific legislation relating exclusively to this but is covered by others (eg: Health and Safety at Work Act 1974) and this may lead to ambiguity over regulations or existence of regulations.

Q. Why is the Legionella (water safety) requirement not included in the Government guidance?
A. Guidance is provided by the HSE and is available to read or download from their website at the following page:http://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/reviewing-what-...More detailed guidance can be downloaded by scrolling to the bottom of the page in the above link, under the heading ‘HSG274 Legionnaires Disease: Technical Guidance’.

Q. Is there a kit we can buy to test for legionella please?
A. There are numerous kits available, most of which can be found online. Just enter the phrase ‘Legionella Testing Kit’ in the search bar of an internet search engine and you will find numerous results linked to the availability of purchasing these kits.

Q. How do you test if you have an immersion tank? In an HMO with a hot water tank does the water in that tank need to be kept above 45 degrees or can it be heated to above that on a periodic basis to ensure that bacteria do not breed?
A. Test the temperature of any hot water taps that have been directly fed from the tank. If an immersion heater is in constant or regular use then the risk of Legionella will be very low as the water will be heated on a periodic basis but also frequently re-circulated which also helps to minimise any risks.

OTHER

Q. How does protection against thermal effects Regulation 421.1.200 affect landlords and should we actively be changing consumer units etc?
A. The regulation is designed to further minimise the risk of fire and spread of fire caused by electrical networks/systems in cases such as over-loading and over-heating etc. All new consumer units installed from January 2016 must conform to this regulation but does not preclude compliance to regulations passed before this date.

If you have any questions about safety issues, and how you can ensure that you are meeting all of the important legislation, the NLA Advice Lineis free for all members. For membership contact the NLA at 020 7840 8900.


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