to letting your property
Understanding your legal responsibilities
There are many aspects relating to consumer safety in property lettings that you must ensure you are clear on, and up to date with. The following section will run you through the main regulations you should be aware of:
Furniture & Furnishings Regulations 1988
As a general guide, furniture made before 1988 is unlikely to meet the new standards and should be replaced before letting the property. You should check any furniture you are planning to provide in the let including beds, headboards, mattresses, futons, sofa beds, cushions and pillows for the date it was manufactured. However, duvets, pillow cases, blankets, carpets, curtains and furniture manufactured pre 1950 are exempt from this legislation.
To check items for the fire safety standards look for a permanent label stating the regulations it conforms to. Bed bases and mattresses are not required to have this label attached but should display information stating compliance with 'ignitability tests' and look for the compliance code BS 7177 for confirmation.
If you're in any doubt that a bed or sofa, for example, may not meet the required standard, replace them. There are substantial fines and even prison sentences imposed for non-compliance should an accident occur.
Gas Safety Regulations 1998
These regulations came into effect in October 1994 to help ensure gas appliances were correctly installed and maintained. The main risk of not servicing or maintaining gas equipment is a serious gas explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning. Landlords are required by law to service all gas-related equipment at least once every 12 months. Landlords must use a 'Gas Safe' certified engineer who must keep a record of regular checks and the condition of equipment at all times. You must also provide tenants with an annual gas safety certificate by law within 28 days of it being completed.
Electrical Equipment Regulations 1994
The electrical wiring in your property must be safe and in good working order throughout. You must also ensure you have enough sockets to meet the need of tenants. Wiring that is more than 15 years old should ideally be inspected on an annual basis. Wiring that is more recent can be left for longer periods if there are no indications of any problems. An electrician's report is likely to recommend a re-inspection in between two and ten years, although it is sensible to have these checks more frequently. There are particular additional requirements for houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs).
Energy Performance Certificates (EPC)
In order to even advertise your property it is now (from 1st October 2008) a legal requirement to have an EPC for each property. This is a document prepared by a qualified Domestic Energy Assessor that outlines to a potential viewer the energy efficiency and carbon emissions of the property so they can easily compare it to others on the market.
Once an EPC is obtained it is valid for 10 years unless the property is sold and a new EPC must be obtained at that point.
Mandatory Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
A licensable HMO is one where the property:
- Comprises 3 or more storeys;
- Has 5 or more unrelated occupiers (consisting of 2 or more households) and;
- Who share an amenity such as a kitchen, toilet, bathroom or lounge.
If the property consists of a mixture of self-contained flats and flats where the tenant has to go out of their flat usually through a communal area to make use of an amenity as described above (whether for their exclusive use or not), then this may require a HMO licence. In addition, properties let above commercial premises may require a HMO licence.