Where the leaseholders rent out their properties for under 7 years duration, as a landlord both they and their letting agents (if they use one) have a duty under common law to ensure the safety of the property and its contents so that no injury or damage is caused to the occupants, neighbours or to the public.

So, the properties must be gas safe, smoke and carbon monoxide safe, and electrically safe and even if such obligations are not contained within the tenancy agreement they are implied by the statutory obligation under s11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (repairing obligations in short leases).

Other key legislation that covers the health and safety of rented flats are:

  1. The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 which requires private rented sector landlords to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every floor of their properties on which there is a room;
  2. The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 which requires that all appropriate electrical equipment supplied in a property must be safe to use;
  3. The General Products Safety Regulations 1994;
  4. The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (as amended).

Repairs Procedure

There should always be a repairs procedure in place for tenants to follow and whether the landlord or the letting chooses to be informed verbally or in writing, a record should be kept of all problems reported. Tenants should do the same. Alternatively repair forms can be issued which can be filled in and then passed over for action. If no agent is used there should be an emergency procedure in place such as the issuing of a list of contractors names and numbers. Tenants should never be left with no-one to contact.

Landlords should deal with all repair requests promptly, with the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) outlining the recommended time scales for landlords to respond, depending on the problem:

  1. Emergency response – gas and water leaks, serious electrical faults;
  2. 24 Hour response – heating and water systems and other non life threatening electrical problems eg broken windows if not caused by tenant negligence;
  3. 72 Hour response – kitchen appliances and other items that affect the daily life of a tenant;
  4. Less urgent responses – broken lawn mowers, a fallen fence panel or a dripping tap.

Note: The landlord can include a sum to cover the cost of repairs in the rent but cannot pass the costs to tenants in the form of a separate service charge.

Access to a Tenanted Flat

Landlords also need to be aware of the process for accessing tenanted flats to carry out repairs under s11 (ss6) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 which reads as follows: ‘in a lease in which the lessor’s repairing covenant is implied there is also implied a covenant by the lessee that the lessor, or any person authorised by him in writing, may at reasonable times of the day and on giving 24 hours’ notice in writing to the occupier, enter the premises comprised in the lease for viewing their condition and state of repair’.

So landlords wishing to carry out repairs do not have the right to turn up unannounced to check on a property or a tenant. Instead a mutually convenient date and time must be arranged which must be at a reasonable time and after giving the tenant not less than 24 hours notice in writing. More notice can be given if the works are to be prolonged or disruptive and in such cases tenants should be given details of the works to be carried out and a rough idea of a finishing time or completion date.

If the landlord or the contractors attempt to enter without permission the tenant can launch a claim for trespass as they have the same rights over the premises just as an owner-occupier does. Therefore landlords should be wary about entering the property when the tenant is not there. Where a tenant has given permission, but has advised they will not be at the property themselves, it is recommended that landlords/agents are best accompanied by a witness.