Property Conditions Checklist

Introduction

As a responsible landlord, you are expected to ensure your property is safe to live in prior to the tenants occupying the property. Most landlords provide good quality homes as standard, with 84% of tenants satisfied with their accommodation according to the English Housing Survey. To ensure that all properties are let out to the high standard that responsible landlords provide, there is an extensive amount of legislation on property conditions that landlords have to follow. As the level of risk varies depending on the type of tenancy and the type of property, not all the legislation applies to each property type. The purpose of this checklist is to break this legislation down into a series of checklists so that you can understand your obligations in an easy to read format.

Certificates and other required documents

One of the key responsibilities for landlords renting a property is ensuring their property is safe to live in. Failure to comply with these landlord requirements is a criminal offence so it is essential to ensure the property is gas safe.

What is the landlord responsible for?
Ensuring installations are safe

Landlords are responsible for ensuring that all gas appliances, including the installation pipe or flues, are maintained in a safe condition throughout the entire time the property is occupied. They should be particularly mindful of this when responding to repair requests.

Landlords of rented residential accommodation must have an annual gas safety check carried out on gas appliances which they provide (and all related gas flues). This work must be performed by a Gas Safe Registered Engineer.

Once the check has been performed the landlord will receive a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate (or CP12 as it is often referred to) from the engineer.

Providing a copy of the CP12 to the tenant

Tenants must be given copies of the current Certificate prior to moving in. Whenever the landlord performs a follow-up check, the tenant must be given a copy of the replacement certificate within 28 days of the annual check being completed.

Compliance with the Building Regulations

In addition, the landlord is responsible for ensuring that the installation of gas appliances within the property adhere to Part J of the Building Regulations. This means having things like boilers with a minimum efficiency of 86%. During installation, the qualified engineer should perform an assessment to ensure you comply with the requirements. They will provide you with a Building Regulations Compliance Certificate to show you have met these requirements.


What are the penalties for not complying?
Landlords have a duty of care to their tenants here and failure to perform this obligation can lead to heavy punishment.


Failure to provide the CP12 form is a criminal offence and landlords can face fines of up to £6000 or 6 months in prison for failure to provide this document to their tenants.


Landlords should also be aware that this is a hazardous situation and they may be subject to enforcement actions such as improvement or prohibition notices or emergency remedial action from the local authority.


In addition, the landlord can be held liable for having a defective premises which can lead to large losses through civil damages.

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 1 June 2020 and apply to all tenancies created on or after that date in England from 1 July 2020.

These new regulations require landlords to have the electrical installations in their properties inspected at least every 5 years and tested by a person who is qualified and competent. Landlords will also have to provide a copy of the electrical safety report to their tenants as well as to the local authority if requested.

For most landlords in the private rented sector this will not require a change in behaviour. The majority of landlords already check their installations regularly so they can provide the safest homes possible. However to ensure every landlord can comply with these regulations, NAPIT have produced the following guidance on the requirements.

What the regulations say:
Private landlords must ensure every electrical installation in their residential premises is inspected and tested at intervals of no more than 5 years by a qualified and competent person.

The regulations apply in England to all new specified tenancies from 1 July 2020 and all existing specified tenancies from 1 April 2021. ‘New specified tenancies’ is any tenancy created on or after 1 June 2020.

Following the inspection and testing, a private landlord must:

  • obtain a report from the person conducting that inspection and test, which gives the results of the inspection and test and the date of the next inspection and test
  • supply a copy of that report to each existing tenant of the residential premises within 28 days of the inspection and test
  • supply a copy of that report to the local housing authority within 7 days of receiving a request in writing for it from that authority
  • retain a copy of that report until the next inspection and test is due and supply a copy to the person carrying out the next inspection and test
  • supply a copy of the most recent report to any new tenant of the specified tenancy to which the report relates before that tenant occupies those premises; and any prospective tenant within 28 days of receiving a request in writing for it from that prospective tenant

Enforcement
Local authorities will be responsible for enforcing the new regulations and can impose a financial penalty of up to £30,000 if they find a landlord is in breach of their duty.

Local authorities have the power to serve remedial notices on the private landlord. If the remedial notice is ignored and action is not taken with 28 days, the local authority can arrange remedial work to be carried out, with consent from the tenant, and recover the costs from the landlord.

What types of tenancy are caught by the regulations?
If a private tenant has a right to occupy a property as their only or main residence and pays rent, then the regulations apply, subject to some excluded tenancies (set out in Schedule 1 of the Regulations). This includes assured shorthold tenancies and licences to occupy.

Does this Regulation apply to Social Housing?
No. Social Housing is covered by many regulations which require electrical safety standards to be maintained but currently there is no requirement for Social Housing to have an electrical safety installation report every 5 years.

Do I need to get a new electrical safety certificate every time a new tenant moves in?
The regulations specify that an electrical safety certificate will be valid for 5 years, or a shorter time frame if the inspector deems it necessary. This means that generally you should only need to get one certificate every five years and this certificate can be supplied to any new tenants during that period.

Risk assessments

Landlords of residential accommodation have responsibilities for combating Legionnaires’ Disease. Health and safety legislation requires that landlords carry out risk assessments for the Legionella bacteria which cause Legionnaires’ Disease and thereafter maintain control measures to minimise the risk.

Most rented premises will be low risk but it is important that risk assessments are carried out and control measures introduced.

This page is intended to give a brief guide to prime landlords on their responsibilities in combating legionella. NRLA members also have access to a risk assessment form to help them document the steps they have taken.

What is Legionnaires’ Disease?
Legionnaires’ Disease is a pneumonia-like illness caused by the Legionella bacteria and can be fatal. The infection is caused by breathing in small droplets of water contaminated by the bacteria. The disease cannot be passed from one person to another.

Legionella bacteria are found in the natural environment and may contaminate and grow in water systems, including domestic hot and cold water systems. They survive low temperatures and thrive at temperatures between 20 – 45°C if the conditions are right. They are killed by high temperatures at 60°C or above.

Performing a risk assessment to minimise the risk
Landlords are under a duty to ensure that the risk of exposure to tenants, residents and visitors by Legionella is properly assessed and controlled.

Normally there is no reason why the landlord should not carry out this risk assessment himself/herself so long as they are competent. There will be no need to employ a consultant usually. The assessment should be a straight forward simple exercise in ordinary domestic premises.

Landlords will also need to review the assessment periodically, especially if there are any changes to the system.

Since 1 October 2015 landlords in England have been required to:

ensure smoke alarms are installed in all of their rented residential accommodation, and
ensure carbon monoxide alarms are fitted in every room with a solid fuel heating appliance. This includes any open fireplace that is available for use i.ee not blocked off.
The regulations apply both to houses and flats and also to HMOs; and are included in HMO licences. Failure to comply can lead to a civil penalty being imposed of up to £5,000.

These provisions only apply in England at the moment. However similar requirements are set to be introduced in Wales once the Renting Homes Wales Act is brought into force.

The following page will provide landlords with guidance on how to comply with this legislation and to ensure that properties are safe for tenants.

What are the requirements for carbon monoxide alarms
Landlords must ensure that there is a carbon monoxide alarm fitted in any room that is:

  • used partly or wholly as living accommodation, and
  • contains any appliance which burns, or is capable of burning, solid fuel.

This would include log and coal burning stoves and open fires, even if they are not normally in use, but does not include gas and oil boilers. If an open fireplace is purely decorative or blocked off then it is not covered by the regulations.

Who must comply with this requirement?
The requirements are imposed on the immediate landlord of the tenant. It also extends to any tenancies that were granted through subletting.

In addition, as this is now a mandatory licensing condition, if the property requires a mandatory, additional or selective licence, then it is the responsibility of the licence holder to ensure that these alarms are fitted in the property and in working order at the outset of the tenancy.

Which premises are affected?
These duties apply to almost all residential premises in the private rented sector. It also includes tenancies where the building is in mixed-use such as a flat above a shop.

Who is responsible for enforcement?
The local authority is responsible for enforcement.

A local authority must serve a remedial notice within 21 days where they have reason to believe that the landlord is in breach of any of these duties relating to smoke alarms or carbon monoxide alarms. A remedial notice must specify the action to be taken within 28 days of the date of service of the notice. It allows the landlord 28 days to make representations against the notice.

Penalties
If the landlord is in breach the local authority may require the landlord to pay a penalty charge up to a maximum of £5,000. It has discretion whether or not to impose this charge and if intends to impose a charge, must serve a penalty charge notice within six weeks from when first satisfied that a breach has occurred. A right to make representations against the penalty notice is given and the local authority may reduce the charge for prompt payment.

For licensed properties, failure to comply with this regulation is a breach of a mandatory condition. This carries a potential civil penalty of up to £30,000.

As of 20 March 2019, the Fitness for Human Habitation Act is in force for tenancies in England.

This legislation amends the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 so that landlords must ensure their property is fit for human habitation at the start of the tenancy, and then maintain this standard throughout rest of the time the tenant lives in the property.

For most landlords in the private rented sector this will have little to no effect, as they already provide high-quality homes that tenants are happy to live in. This is why 84% of tenants are happy with their accommodation according to the English Housing Survey.

However, it is useful to know your obligations as a landlord. The purpose of this guide is to explain what these obligations mean for landlords and agents, including potential penalties.

What is meant by ‘fit for human habitation’?
It is important to note that fit for human habitation does not mean that there is a defect in the property. It means a defect in the property that is so serious a court would consider the property to be unfit for that person to live in.

This is an important distinction because it means that the property has to be judged on the basis of the current property condition, and whether it is unsuitable for the actual person who lives in it as opposed to the generic tests applied by local authorities using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. As a result, a younger, fitter tenant living on their own would have a higher threshold for what is unfit for them to live in than an older person or someone with a young family.

How do I establish if my property is unfit for human habitation?
Ultimately, the question of whether a property is unfit for human habitation will be decided on the facts by a judge if necessary.

Nevertheless, as a responsible landlord, you should ensure your property is not:

  • neglected or in a poor condition
  • unstable
  • suffering from a serious damp problem
  • laid out in an unsafe manner
  • lacking in natural light
  • lacking suitable ventilation
  • suffering from a lack of supply of hot and cold water
  • encountering issues with drainage or the lavatories
  • difficult to prepare and cook food or wash up in

In addition to this, you should ensure that your property does not have any of the 29 hazards set out in the Housing Health and Safety (England) Regulations 2005.

Are there any defects the landlord is not responsible for?
The landlord is not responsible for:

  • defects caused by the tenant’s negligence or intentional damage
  • rebuilding the property in the event of destruction or damage by fire, flood, or a catastrophic weather event
  • repairing items that the tenant is entitled to remove from the property i.e. their personal property
  • carrying out works that the head landlord will not authorise. The landlord must make reasonable endeavours to contact the head landlord in this case

Whether you are renting to a family or renting to sharers you have an obligation to ensure the property is safe from fire. However, knowing what is required to make a property safe is quite a complex area of the law.

There are several important pieces of legislation which can affect your responsibilities and practices in regards to fire safety for your properties. Not all of it applies to every property which can make it difficult to understand exactly what you need to do to ensure you are being responsible about fire safety.

The purpose of this guide is to help you understand what the legislative framework is for fire safety, what you might be required to do to comply with it, and how that translates to ensuring each of your properties is safe for your tenants. It is designed for landlords and agents who own or manage one property rather than a block of flats for example.

What fire safety legislation might apply to my property?
The framework for fire safety ranges across a number of different pieces of legislation. The main ones are –

  • The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
  • The Housing Act 2004
  • The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
  • The Building Regulations (Part B)
  • The HMO Management Regulations 2006 and the additional provisions laid out in 2007

Not all of the above legislation will affect your individual property. 

Who should perform a fire risk assessment?
If you are renting out a single dwelling to a family you can perform a fire risk assessment yourself if you feel sufficiently competent/knowledgeable about fire safety. Otherwise you should hire a professional to perform the assessment for you. The best practice would be to have this done on an annual basis and before a new tenant takes up occupation.

If your property is let out as a HMO, particularly one where you rent out the property on a per-room or bedsit basis you will have higher fire safety standards to meet. In these cases you should hire a professional fire risk assessor.

What are the smoke and carbon monoxide alarm requirements?
As of 1 October 2015, every tenanted property in England is required to have a smoke alarm fitted on every floor that is used as living space. In addition to this if you have a solid fuel burning appliance then you need to have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted in the same room as the appliance.

Summary of which legislation applies to specific properties
As we have discussed not all the legislation applies to every type of tenancy arrangement. For example, the Fire Safety Order will only apply where you retain control of the common parts of the property. The following sections recap which pieces of legislation apply in your particular situation.

I own a self-contained dwelling rented by a family – what applies to me?
Always applies
The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
Sometimes applies
Housing Health and Safety Rating System if you are inspected by the local authority
The Building Regulations if you are making a material change to the property


My property is a HMO let out on a joint tenancy, what applies to me?
Always applies
The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
HMO Management Regulations
Sometimes applies
If your property requires a Mandatory or Additional Licence you will need to comply with the licence conditions relating to fire safety
If you are converting, building, or altering your property then Approved Document B of the Building Regulations
The Housing Health and Safety Rating System if you are inspected by a local authority

I own a Bedsit occupied by 3 or more persons – what applies to me?
Always applies
The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
Fire Safety Order 2005
HMO Management Regulations

Sometimes applies
If your property requires a Mandatory or Additional Licence then you will need to comply with the licence conditions relating to fire safety
If you are converting, building, or altering your property then Approved Document B of the Building Regulations

What is the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)?
Introduced in the Housing Act 2004, the HHSRS is a set of standards used to identify potential hazards in a property during an inspection. Typically these inspections are performed by a local authority environmental health officer as part of a risk assessment of the property.

The government has produced detailed guidance for landlords and other property professionals on this topic. It covers the 29 separate hazards, how the level of risk is assessed as well as the various enforcement methods available to local authorities to ensure

Can I be required to make improvements and repairs under HHSRS?
While a number of the 29 hazards are likely to be the result of disrepair, they can also identify hazards that can only be fixed via improvements to the property.

Unlike the obligations to keep a property in repair, where a sufficiently serious hazard has been identified, the local authority can require you to make improvements to the property as well as fixing any repairs.

Landlord Jargon Buster

Finding your way through jargon and industry speak can be tricky, especially if you’re a first-time landlord. We’ve put together a list of common phrases you might hear when letting your property out.

Applicant: The individual that is applying to rent the property

Additional Person Fee: This is a fee that is added to each additional person who is to be included in the tenancy agreement.

ARLA:The Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) are the UK’s most popular professional industry body for letting agents. ARLA ensure that all agents meet a certain requirement of service level and protect their clients’ money.

Arrears:  Late rent, or rent that is unpaid that the tenant owes to the landlord.

Buy to let: An investment property bought with the intention of letting it out.

Check out: This is the inspection process a property goes through at the end of the tenancy, before the deposit is returned to a tenant. If there are repairs needed on the property that were caused by the tenant and are not general wear and tear, any fees will be deducted from the deposit.

Communal area:A shared living space in a property, usually found in a HMO.

EPC: An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is used to rate the energy efficiency of a property. This is done by looking at the amount of energy that the property uses along with the carbon dioxide it emits.

Fixed Term Tenancy: This is a tenancy that has a specific start and end date.

Furnished: This refers to a property that is rented out with furniture included for use within the property until the end of a tenancy.

Gas Safety Check:A legal check carried out every twelve months by a registered engineer to ensure the provision of gas to the property is safe.

Guarantor: A third party that isn’t listed as a tenant and agrees to keep up rental payments if the tenant falls into arrears.

HMO: A House in Multiple Occupation is a property that is shared by multiple residents that share communal facilities such as a kitchen or bathroom.

Inventory: A check that is carried out before the start of a tenancy to formally document the contents and condition of a property. This is often referred to at the checkout process to ensure the condition hasn’t changed.

Landlord: A person who lets out land, a building or accommodation.

Letting Agent: The letting agent facilitates the agreement between a landlord and a tenant for the rental of a property.

Managing Agent: A letting agent who also manages the property on the landlord’s behalf.

Notice: Official confirmation that the tenancy is coming to an end, this can be given by the landlord or the tenant.

Part-furnished: A property that is let with partial furnishings, these usually include white goods.

PAT test: A Portable Appliance Test ensures that electrical appliances with a plug are safe to use.

Reference: A reference involves a series of checks carried out on a tenant, these include employment checks, credit rating and checks with a tenant’s current landlord.

Rent: This is usually a monthly fee that is paid to a landlord by a tenant in exchange for accommodation.

Security Deposit:This is money paid by the tenant before the tenancy begins. This is taken as a security precaution should a tenant default on payment of rent, or cause any damage during their time as a tenant.

TDS: The Tenancy Deposit Scheme is a government scheme set up to protect a tenant’s deposit throughout their tenancy.

Tenant: The person who lives in the rented accommodation.

The Property Ombudsman: This is a scheme that was set up to allow a mediator to step in where a dispute between a tenant and landlord arises.

Unfurnished: This is a rental property that is let with no furnishings, it is up to the tenant to furnish the property during their residency.