As a landlord, you are legally required to provide safe homes for your tenants. However, some landlords, even those that have been in the industry for years, are still unsure what this actually entails.
There are dozens of things in each and every home that could be considered dangerous, some of which are your responsibility to protect your tenants from and some of which are not.
So how do you keep your tenants safe and where do you start?
Most landlords know that it is essential to keep the structure of their properties in good condition, not just to keep their tenants safe, but also to ensure that their investment is looked after.
Cracks in walls, loose roof tiles and broken bathroom and kitchen units will all need to be replaced as soon as possible, as if they are left, they often get worse.
Your landlord insurance will cover the structure of your properties should you need to repair them, however, there are some things you can also do. For example, at the beginning of each new tenancy you should make sure you perform a thorough inspection of your property and look for signs of structural issues, such as damp or leaks.
Make sure that any issues, no matter how big or small, are addressed as soon as possible and included on your tenant’s inventory in case there is a dispute at the end of the tenancy.
Wires and electrics
A recent report by the charities Shelter and Electrical Safety First has shown that 16% of people living in private rental accommodation in the UK experienced problems with electrical hazards between 2012 and 2013.
At the moment, residential landlords are not legally required to check the wiring or electrical appliances in their properties, unlike in commercial properties.
This is why both Shelter and Electrical Safety First are campaigning for the law to be changed and tenants to be protected from electrical hazards in their homes.
Phil Buckle, Director General at Electrical Safety First, said: “Mandatory five yearly checks are the only way to ensure that all private rented sector properties are safe.
“This change in law would be very easy to implement as the primary legislation already exists and our research shows that the majority of MPs would support a change in the law.”
One of the most dangerous things that can happen in your property is a fire breaking out, which is why landlords are required to perform fire assessments on a regular basis.
Under the Housing Act 2004 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) 2005, landlords are required to provide their tenants with an adequate means of escaping their property in the event of a fire.
If you are letting Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) there are more stringent laws concerning fire safety, as they are generally larger than those let out to single tenants and there are more people living in them.
Once you have deciphered all the fire hazards in your properties, you need to talk to your tenants to ensure that they know what to do in case of a fire. However, some landlords also like to provide this information in paper form at the beginning of tenancies.
These days, it’s not just physical dangers that landlords need to look out for, but also financial dangers, as the economy is still fragile.
Even though unemployment figures are falling, wages are still well under the cost of living, which means that your tenants may struggle financially at one point or another.
In order to protect your businesses, you should therefore have contingency funds in place, which you can rely on if one of you tenants falls into rent arrears or one of your properties is unoccupied for a considerable amount of time.
You can also work closely with other landlords in your area and your local authority to understand the current issues in the private rental sector and how you can protect both your tenants and your business from them.
If one of your tenants does miss a rent payment, make sure you contact them straight away to find out if they are experiencing any financial difficulties and discuss how you can help.
Remember, by keeping an eye on your tenants’ finances, you’re ultimately protecting your own!