Health and Safety
The provisions in s122 of Part 5 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 (electrical safety standards for properties let by private landlords) requiring mandatory electrical safety testing by landlords were expected to come into force in October 2017 but have yet to do so. Under the provisions the Secretary of State may (by secondary legislation) pass regulations placing a positive obligation on Landlords to make sure that electrical safety standards are met during any tenancy term. These ‘electrical safety standards’ relate to the installation of the electrical supply and the electrical fixtures and fittings or appliances that the Landlord may have supplied. In order for this to be satisfied landlords will be required to instruct an expert (an electrician?) to make sure that the ‘electrical safety standards’ are met. These tests may be required annually and may bind the landlord to give a copy of the expert’s certificate to the tenant. However, until the Secretary of State has passed the regulation, the extent of the obligations remain unknown. Landlords who fail to comply with the ‘electrical safety standards’ could face a financial penalty and with the consent of the tenant, the local authority may enter the rented property and remedy any electrical safety failure. The Act may also make fixed wiring and PAT tests a legal requirement for landlords.
Note: The above information on the new legislation was sourced from the Painsmith Landlord and Tenant Blog.
SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM (ENGLAND) REGULATIONS 2015
On 1st Oct 2015 the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 came into force. From that date, private rented sector landlords are required to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every floor of their properties on which there is a room. This is regardless of whether it is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and this includes a bathroom or toilet. Guidance issued by Government is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and that they should usually be fitted to the ceiling in a circulation space – i.e. on a landing or in a hallway.
Smoke alarms must be checked regularly, both by landlords ensuring that the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy (with potential penalties of up to £5,000 if they don’t comply) and tenants during the tenancy.
The Act also requires carbon monoxide alarms to be installed in all rooms where solid fuel is used i.e. coal or wood-burning stoves.
HOUSING ACT 2004
The standard of rental properties is governed by the overarching legislation of Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004, specifically under the Housing Health and Safety Ratings System. This is an ‘evidence-based risk assessment’ approach to housing and is actively targeted at the PRS because of the number of rental properties that would be judged unacceptable under it’s criteria. It can also be used for the common areas of blocks of flats. More on this can be read here.
ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT (SAFETY) REGULATIONS) 1994
The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 requires that all appropriate electrical equipment supplied in a property must be safe to use. Unlike the Gas Safety Regulations, there is no mandatory requirement for the equipment to be checked nor are there any stipulations as to how often the electrical supply might need to be checked, but the duty of care remains the same. If landlords or agents should be found guilty of non-compliance with these regulations, the penalties are severe in monetary terms and include possible imprisonment.
GENERAL PRODUCTS SAFETY REGULATIONS 1994
The General Product Safety Regulations 1994 require landlords to ensure that products supplied in their property are not only safe but that they provide the tenant with instruction manuals and information sheets. These Regulations act as secondary legislation to the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and relate to any business which supplies plugs, sockets, adapters or fuses intended for domestic use, (with a working voltage of not less than 200 volts), correctly fitted with a fused and approved UK three-pin plug (BS 1363) or approved “conversion plug”. The conversion plug is a device which may be used with a conforming socket and which is designed to enable a non-UK plug to be used with it. All this also applies to any appliances with a plug fitted that may be supplied.
FURNITURE AND FURNISHINGS (FIRE) (SAFETY) REGULATIONS 1988
The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (amended by the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) (Amendment) 1989 and the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) (Amendment) 1993) was introduced to improve safety by requiring all furniture and furnishings in rented properties to meet the match test or cigarette test.
New furniture is usually marked with a display label (a triangle with a smoking cigarette) to show that it complies with this regulation. There should also be a permanent and non-detachable label stating compliance. Bed bases and mattresses are not required to bear a permanent label but compliance will be indicated if the item has a label stating that it meets BS7177 which is the ‘specification for resistance to ignition of mattresses, divans and bed bases”.
The regulations apply to all upholstery and upholstered furniture and loose fittings, permanent or loose covers including: beds, mattresses, pillows, armchairs and scatter cushions.
Non-conforming items are required to be replaced but carpets and curtains were excluded from the regulations.