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Ensuring the health and safety of rental properties

Posted on Wednesday, 15 January 2014 09:22AM by Artful Lodger
The government is taking a particular interest in private rented sector (PRS) health and safety at the moment. In November, it revealed it would be reviewing the condition of rental homes in December before publishing a paper that will ask figures within the housing sector if they think current standards need to be improved. Meanwhile, a Liberal Democrat MP and the Residential Landlords Association have called for electrical safety checks in the PRS to be made mandatory.
Thus, it would seem this is going to be a prevalent topic over the course of 2014 and is something letting agents need to be aware of. But what can agencies do to ensure the properties in their care comply with all health and safety requirements? Read on to find out.
The fundamentals
There are three fundamental areas of PRS health and safety that landlords and letting agents are responsible for - gas, fire and electricity. Meeting these requirements will go a long way to ensuring rental properties are kept safe.
By law, any gas appliances must be installed by a Gas Safe registered engineer, be checked by a professional annually and tenants need to be provided with a copy of the gas safety check record within 28 days of moving into a property.
When it comes to fire, homes need to comply with regulations regarding escape routes, while furniture must be fire-retardant and display the appropriate label. Fire alarms also have to be installed, although the requirements vary depending on the size and age of the property in question.
Regarding electrics, the landlord or agent is responsible for ensuring all fittings and appliances are kept safe. As of yet, there is no requirement for annual checks, but this is something the government is considering introducing.
Other things to think about
Health and safety doesn't stop with these fundamentals however and landlords will likely be held responsible for accidents that occur in any part of the home. Efforts should be made to ensure every area of a property is kept as safe as possible, even if it's just small things such as removing trip hazards.
The tenancy agreement should clearly state who is responsible for the maintenance of communal areas to avoid any disputes occurring.
When problems do occur, it's vital to ensure they are solved as quickly as possible. Developing a good working relationship with professional contractors is key to this, as it's important for an agency to know it can rely on the company working on its properties.
Using specialised property rental software can really enhance the maintenance process. This technology will allow for contractor's jobs and tasks to be easily tracked and recorded, while it can also be used to make payments, print bills and invoices and manage contracts.
Effective maintenance will keep tenants happy, as they will appreciate problems being solved quickly. This can enhance an agency's brand image and increases the chances of it being recommended to others.
The key to ensuring rental properties remain safe and secure is to be proactive rather than reactive. Tackling problems at an early stage prevents them from escalating and becoming more time consuming and expensive at a later date.