Fire safety legislation for Landlords
As a homeowner I have more than a passing interest in the dire state of the housing market. A recent analysis by Morgan Stanley the investment bank predicts a further fall in prices over the next year taking the market back to 2004 price levels. I am more optimistic, and the Banks have got it seriously wrong in the past to put it mildly, but if it happens it will plunge millions of mortgage borrowers into negative equity. On the other side of the coin the squeeze in mortgage lending has resulted in the Buy to Let market surging ahead and again if the analysts are right up to one in six of us may be renting by 2020.

This was the subject of a conversation with a neighbour who having failed to sell his property after nearly 3 years on the market was now looking at renting it out so he could downsize and get an income boost from the rental. Debating the pros and cons it was quickly apparent that the guy had not a clue about what becoming a landlord entailed.

Landlords are obliged to comply with a raft of legally binding safety legislation covering everything from gas appliances to the kitchen sink. The Furniture and Furnishings (fire safety) Act, that old chestnut the RRO, and the 1991 Smoke Detectors Act are examples. It is not widely known that all new homes built since 1992 must have at least one smoke detector installed on each floor. Although the regulations do not apply to other properties under the landlords “duty of care” installing them is strongly advised. The tenancy agreement should also make clear who is responsible for testing and maintenance of Smoke Detectors including battery replacement.

Blocks of flats and houses with several tenants attract further safety responsibilities and are subject to regular safety inspections based on RRO type risk assessments. As a consequence a landlord’s duty of care may include providing additional safety equipment including fire extinguishers, fire blankets and in larger complexes appropriate fire safety signs. Fire and Safety Centre do supply special Fire Safety Packages designed specifically for landlords.

In addition any furnishings – even some patio furniture that is not to the current fire resistance regulations will have to be replaced or removed. Gas appliance’s will also have to maintained using a registered Gas Safe Engineer (the old CORGI scheme is no more) and electrical installations brought up to current standards with annual PAT tests. This is just the tip of the compliance iceberg to which you can add a whole load of contractual and tax issues which goes some way to explain why many would be landlords end up putting the whole thing in the hands of a specialist Management Agent. It is certainly the best option for my neighbour I think.