Fire and Safety in Properties

Letting agents must be aware of health and safety issue relating to rented properties and the tenants that live there. Fire safety is particularly important and there also laws that regulate gas, electricity and furniture.

The Agent’s Responsibilities

If the agent arranges to renew the gas safety record for a landlord, the agent takes on the landlord’s responsibilities for gas safety. If the agent has provided an introduction service only, it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the records are renewed every year. An agent must ensure that it is clearly stated in their terms of business who is responsible for gas safety.

As a matter of good practice, similar checks should be done on central heating systems, stoves or appliances that use coal, fuel and wood. If they are faulty or there is a ventilation problem, they can emit carbon dioxide. Thus the agent should also advise the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors.

It is not compulsory to fit smoke alarms or fire detection equipment in either older houses or rented property, unless it is classed as a house in multiple occupation. However, new build properties, or conversions since 1992, must have adequate fire safety systems under the current Building Regulations.

Gas Safety

The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 place legal duties on landlords, agents and contractors dealing with rented properties and specify that the following items must be safe:

  • Gas appliances
  • Pipework leading to the appliances
  • Flues from the appliances.

It is mandatory to undertake a yearly check to assess whether or not the system and appliances are safe and meet the current standards. An annual metre check is also required to ensure there is no escape of gas. By law, gas appliances must be safe, and failure to comply is a criminal offence.

Gas Safety Record

Gas engineers must be approved by a body known as the Gas Safe Register. A gas safety check should be undertaken annually by a qualified engineer. They must complete a gas safety record which must be given to new tenants before they move in or, for existing tenants, within 28 days of the check, and be kept for two years by the agent or landlord. The engineer who carried out the check must keep a copy and provide a further copy to the landlord or agent.

Electrical Safety

Any electrical equipment supplied must be safe, in line with the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 and the Low Voltage Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1989. It is not mandatory to have electrical equipment checked every year, but it is good practice to have it tested prior to the start of the tenancy and at periodic intervals thereafter. It is considered best practice to have electrical systems tested every five years.

Landlords and agents are liable under the law as both can be classed as ‘suppliers’ of the electrical equipment in rented property.

Plugs and Sockets

The Plugs and Sockets etc (Safety) Regulations 1994 set standards for plugs, adaptors and sockets in domestic appliances.

Furniture and Furnishings

The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 as amended set standards for domestic furnishings and furniture made or re-upholstered since March 1989. However, some items are excluded, for example carpets, curtains, and furniture made before 1950.

Both agents and landlords are liable under the Regulation if they supply furniture in the course of business and a breach of the Regulations is a criminal offence, but the defence of due diligence can be used.

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