Important Legal Changes for Landlords

Carbon Monoxide

Landlords will be required by law to install working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their rental properties from the 1st October 2015. The national percentage of households with a working smoke alarm currently stands at over 90% compared to 83% in rental properties. This change is intended to prevent up to 26 deaths and 670 injuries a year and to address the imbalance between protection levels for private tenants in comparison to residents classed as owner occupiers or social house occupants. Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: “In 1988 just 8% of homes had a smoke alarm installed – now it’s over 90%.” “The vast majority of landlords offer a good service and have installed smoke alarms in their homes, but I’m changing the law to ensure every tenant can be given this important protection.” “But with working smoke alarms providing the vital seconds needed to escape a fire, I urge all tenants to make sure they regularly test their alarms to ensure they work when it counts. Testing regularly remains the tenant’s responsibility.” Communities Minister Stephen Williams said: “We’re determined to create a bigger, better and safer private rented sector – a key part of that is to ensure the safety of tenants with fire prevention and carbon monoxide warning.” “People are at least 4 times more likely to die in a fire in the home if there’s no working smoke alarm.” “That’s why we are proposing changes to the law that would require landlords to install working smoke alarms in their properties so tenants can give their families and those they care about a better chance of escaping a fire.” Failing to comply with the legislation planned for October, will leave you open to a penalty of up to £5000.

Legionella

As well as the changes for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in rental properties, landlords and managing agents must ensure that the risk of exposure to tenants, residents and visitors by Legionella is properly assessed and controlled. To comply with the changes, risk assessments must identify and assess potential sources of exposure, and steps take to prevent or control any risk that is identified. Landlords and their agents need to be aware that Legionella bacteria can multiply in hot or cold water systems and storage tanks, and be spread via showers and taps. Suggested steps to control the threat of Legionella include but are not limited to:
  • Disinfecting the water system
  • Ensuring no water can stagnate
  • Insulating pipework
  • Keeping water cisterns covered and free of debris
  • Advising tenants about risks, and requiring them to take precautions such as flushing through showers they rarely use
  • Considering if any tenants are particularly venerable such as the old and those with compromised immune systems
Under normal circumstances, there is no reason why the landlord cannot carry out this risk assessment himself/herself so long as they are competent as the assessment should be a straight forward exercise in ordinary domestic premises. However, if there is any doubt then a 3rd party consultant should be contacted to carry out the checks. Provided the risk assessment shows that the risks are insignificant and the control measures are being properly managed no further action is necessary. A record of the risk assessmsent should be kept for 5 years. For full details of the new guidance please see the the Health and Safety Executive’s revised Approved Code of Practice here. The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Setfords Solicitors are a national full service law firm, with Landlord and Tenant solicitors in Guildford and across the country.