Landlords in the UK have responsibilities for the safety of their tenants. These responsibilities are extensively enshrined in law, and the penalties for non-compliance are heavy.
Landlord obligations are complex and vary depending on the property type and occupancy (e.g. single let or HMO). The three key areas where landlords bear responsibility are:
- Fire safety
- Electrical safety
- Gas safety
This is a guide to landlord safety responsibilities.
Overview of responsibilities
Landlords have to navigate many regulations pertaining to the building they let and their responsibilities to tenants. They include:
- The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 2018,
- Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020
- The Housing Act 2004
- Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
- Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 (which includes amendments)
- The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005)
- The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
- Building Regulations
Generally, landlord responsibilities include at least the following:
- Ensuring that all fire alarms, smoke detectors and other fire equipment like sprinklers are in working order and regularly inspected.
- Providing fire safety information and evacuation plans for tenants.
- Ensuring that all gas appliances, such as boilers and ovens, are properly installed and maintained and that gas safety checks are performed on gas-powered appliances annually.
- Providing tenants with a copy of the gas safety certificate and keeping records in case of an issue.
- Ensuring that all electrical wiring and appliances are in good working order and that regular safety checks are performed (typically every 5 years)
- Addressing any concerns, issues or hazards related to fire, gas, or electrical safety in a timely manner
- Providing tenants with information on how to report any issues or concerns related to fire, gas, or electrical safety
- For more information, check out Gov.uk’s resources pages
Let’s address these points in detail.
Gas safety for tenants and landlords
Gas safety is a top priority. Failure to maintain gas appliances and address gas faults can result in big fines or even prison if negligence causes injury or death.
The landlord is responsible for various gas safety measures and checks. Here’s what you need to know:
Annual Gas Safety Check
For the safety of tenants, all gas appliances and flues must be inspected annually by a qualified and Gas Safe registered engineer.
After the inspection, the landlord receives a Landlord Gas Safety Record (LGSR), which must be acted on if there are any issues. If appliances are considered ‘Immediately dangerous’, then the gas will be cut off until they’re rectified. If the issues are ‘At risk’, then immediate repairs are required, and the gas can still be cut off.
Landlords must keep a record of the inspection for 2 years and provide tenants with a copy within 28 days. New tenants must be issued a copy upon moving in.
The landlord is responsible for all gas pipework, appliances, chimneys and flues. In addition, landlords are obligated to service boilers every year. This must be conducted by a Gas Safe engineer.
Gas pipework maintenance
HSE advises landlords to periodically check gas pipework for flaws or issues. Issues such as cracked pipes should be addressed immediately and the tenants informed.
What are the penalties for landlords who fail to have a gas safety check?
Gas safety checks are mandatory. Failure to carry out checks and maintain documents can carry unlimited fines and up to six months in prison. If negligence causes injury or death, prison sentences can be significant.
What happens in a gas safety check?
Safety checks are similar to services and can be conducted side-by-side. At the most basic, engineers will check the gas meter for any leaks or damage and run it for around 10 minutes to check its efficiency.
They’ll also conduct a visual inspection of the pipework and supporting infrastructure. Moreover, gas safety checks apply to all gas-using appliances, including gas hobs.
To protect themselves from unexpected gas appliance maintenance and repair costs, landlords should consider boiler and heating cover.
Electrical safety for landlords and tenants
Electrical safety is not dissimilar to gas safety, requiring periodic inspections of appliances and infrastructure. A landlord electrical safety certificate (Electrical Installation Condition Report, or EICR), requires an electrician, engineer, or other ‘competent person’ and includes things like:
- Fuse boxes
- Light fittings
- Plug sockets
What does an electrical safety check include?
Landlords who privately rent accommodation to tenants must adhere to the following requirements for electrical safety:
- Ensure that the national standards for electrical safety are met in the property. These are dictated by the 18th edition of the 'Wiring Regulations' (published as British Standard 7671).
- Have the electrical installations in their rented properties inspected and tested by a qualified and competent individual at least once every five years.
- Obtain the report results and date them accurately.
- Provide any existing tenants with a copy of the report within 28 days of the inspection date, and provide a copy to any prospective tenants within 28 days of them requesting it.
- Similarly, the landlord must be able to supply local authorities with a copy of the report within 7 days of them asking.
- Suppose the report indicates that maintenance, repairs or further investigative work are required. In that case, the work must be completed within 28 days or within a shorter period if the report deems the work immediately necessary.
- The landlord must obtain written confirmation from the electrician that the work has been completed.
What happens if an electrical safety check fails?
If the EICR fails, the landlord will need to carry out remedial work to fix the specified issues.
They must then obtain confirmation that the work has been carried out.
Landlords generally have a maximum of 28 days, but serious faults like exposed wires need to be dealt with immediately.
What are the penalties for landlords who fail to have an electrical safety check?
Electrical safety checks are mandatory, and fines can extend up to £30,000. In serious cases, landlords can face imprisonment if their negligence leads to injury or death.
There are numerous examples of landlords facing fines for missing gas safety checks and EICRs.
To protect themselves against the cost of electrical repairs and maintenance, landlords should consider electrical insurance cover.
Fire safety for landlords and tenants
Fire safety regulation is complex and varies depending on the building type and occupancy.
Building Regulations have extensively regulated fire safety for all buildings, especially for converted flats and HMOs.
At a minimum, landlords must:
- Provide a smoke alarm for every storey. Carbon monoxide alarms must be provided in any room with a solid fuel-burning appliance, like a wood burner, but are commonly installed near boilers too.
- Building escape routes must be functional and unobstructed.
- Furniture and furnishings must be fire safe.
- Provide fire alarms and extinguishers if the property is an HMO.
If landlords are building a new property or refurbishing an existing one to let, they must also comply with up-to-date Building Regulations. Electrical safety connects to fire safety, too, as all appliances must be PAT tested (Portable appliance test). Rules surrounding HMOs are particularly stringent, particularly around exit routes and communal areas.
The Housing Act 2004 and Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
The Housing Act and HHSRS are crucial to fire and electrical safety. This legislation makes provisions for:
- Keeping fire escapes free and instructing tenants how to vacate in the event of fire.
- Reducing fire hazards, e.g. keeping combustible materials away from fires.
- Using spark-triggered or electrical hobs rather than having tenants use matches.
- PAT testing any electronics supplied with the tenancy.
- Ensuring appliances included are safe with British or European safety marks.
Fire risk assessments
Risk assessments are required for flats and HMOs and analyse the property for fire risk factors, such as escape routes, fire resistance and hazards.
The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) recommends that landlords review their risk assessments every two years and update them every four years at a minimum. This is regulated by the Fire Safety Order, and breaches can result in fines and/or imprisonment.
Fire risk assessments must also cover furnishings and furniture, which should be fire safe.
What does a fire safety check include?
Fire safety checks should include:
- Ensuring fire exits and escape routes are unobstructed at all times.
- Properly installing and maintaining necessary fire equipment, including fire functional fire alarms (all properties), fire extinguishers and fire blankets (HMOs).
- Marking fire exits and ensuring they’re well-lit.
- Carrying out gas and electricity checks.
- Ensuring that furniture and furnishings meet fire resistance regulations.
- Installing certified fire doors and fire-proof material in appropriate locations.
What are the penalties for landlords who fail to have a fire safety check?
Adhering to fire safety regulations is mandatory, and failure to comply can carry large fines and imprisonment. Landlords have been imprisoned for up to 18 months for serious breaches.
Tenants also have responsibilities to adhere to. Here are some tenant safety responsibilities:
- Tenants must let the landlord conduct gas safety checks.
- Tenants are responsible for their own electrical appliances.
- Informing the landlord of any potentially dangerous issues so they can be rectified.
Summary: Landlord safety responsibilities
Landlords have one-off and ongoing safety responsibilities for electricity, fire safety and gas.
Adhering to regulations is mandatory, and courts are known for ‘throwing the book’ at failures and non-action. Landlords should develop plans for dealing with property and tenant safety and keep detailed records in case of an issue.