Legionnaires’ disease occurs when droplets of water contaminated with Legionella bacteria are inhaled. It is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and the symptoms are similar to that of flu – high temperature/fever, cough, muscle pain, headache, diarrhoea, confusion. If you suspect Legionnaires’ disease, you must get help immediately. 

Why is this relevant to rental properties?

Man-made hot and cold water systems within most properties provide the ideal environment for Legionella bacteria to grow – suitable temperature, water droplets produced and dispersed (shower heads etc), water stored in tanks and/or recirculated, some “feed” for the organism such as rust/sludge/scale.

What do you need to do about it?

As a landlord you have a responsibility to manage the risk of Legionnaires disease within your property under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. As an agency we manage that risk on behalf of landlords in our managed properties.

We:

1) Recommend a third party risk assessment prior to commencement of letting

2) Carry out our Legionella protocols at check in such as running taps for 3 minutes to drain out stagnant water and checking shower heads for signs of dirt or limescale

3) Liaise with tenants to ensure that relevant precautions are taken if the property is going to be left empty for more than 2 weeks

4) Advise tenants of the relevant symptoms and how to reduce the risk

The advice given to tenants is as follows:

1) Make sure your boiler is set correctly. Hot water should be 50 degrees or more.

2) Cold water should be cold, not lukewarm. Please report it if this is not correct.

3) Regularly flush through any taps or showers not in regular use by running for 3 minutes

4) Disinfect and descale shower heads at least every 6 months

5) If you leave the property empty for longer than 2 weeks, please advise us of this, and on your return run all water outlets for 3 minutes.

As a landlord, you have several legal obligations under The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.These are:

1) Arrange an annual gas safety check to include all gas appliances and flues within the property.This must be carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

2) Provide a copy of this report to your tenants within 28 days of the test, and to all new tenants moving into a property. Note: Under the Deregulation Act 2015 if this is not done you will not be able to serve an eviction notice to your tenants. See this post for more information.

3) Maintain all gas appliances, flues and pipework, to include an annual service.

You are also required under the Health And Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure the property is safe.

What happens if you don’t comply?

Non-compliance is a criminal office and the standard penalty is a £6000 fine (per appliance) and/or 6 months imprisonment. However, if there were to be a fatal incident due to lack of gas safety compliance a criminal charge as serious as manslaughter could be levied against the landlord and/or agent. Any buildings or contents insurance could also be invalidated.

The current regulations state that a gas certificate must be carried out on annual basis, and must not be allowed to expire. This can cause an issue if there is no availability for appointments meaning you potentially have time left on a certificate “wasted”. The government has therefore implemented the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 on 6th April 2018 which introduce more flexibility to the timing of the gas certificate, by using an “mot style” system whereby the certificate can be carried out within 2 months of the due date, but retain that original date going forwards.

For more information and to check if your engineer is gas safe registered you can visit the Gas Safe Register.

Unlike the gas safety legislation, there is currently* (*see below) no legislation which states that a landlord has is a legal duty to arrange for an annual electrical test to be carried out.

However, under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1975, The Housing Act 2004 (in particular the HHSRS), Part P of the Building Regulations (England and Wales), The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1978 and the Defective Premises Act 1972, a landlord is obligated to ensure that a rental property is safe, and will be liable legally if a tenant is injured or their personal belongings damaged due to a defect in the electrical systems or appliances within a property.

In general terms, a landlord is required to ensure that all electrical installations and portable appliances (appliances with a plug) must be:

1) Safe

2) In good working order

3) In good repair

4) To current standards

Legislation Update 2018

Under the Housing and Planning Act 2016 measures are being introduced to make it a legal requirement for landlords to carry out:

1) A fixed wire test (also known as an Electrical Installation Condition Report) every 5 years

2) A visual condition report on an annual basis/every change of tenancy

3) An annual PAT test

As yet, there is no confirmed date for the implementation of these legal requirements. As an agency, SWR:

1) Arrange annual PAT testing on all managed properties

2) Carry out a basic visual inspection of electrical installations on check in of tenants

3) Are rolling out a fixed wire testing schedule across all managed properties in 2018 in readiness for the new legislation.

Under the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015, from 1st October 2015 landlords of rented property are required the make sure their property has:

1) At least one working and in date smoke alarm on each floor of the property

2) A working and in date CO alarm in any room with a solid fuel (wood, coal) burning appliance is installed

3) been checked at the start of tenancy to make sure all alarms are present, in date and in working order.

The law in England is inconsistent with the rest of the UK and only covers solid fuel burning appliances, Carbon Monoxide can also be emitted by gas burning appliances and therefore it is best practice to ensure there is an additional CO alarm in any room with a gas burning appliance (such as a gas cooker, fire or a boiler).

The Carbon Monoxide (Detection and Safety) Bill  2017 – 2019 is currently going through parliament to make this recommendation a law, which in our opinion is a fantastic idea. All our managed properties already comply with this recommendation.

Carbon Monoxide poisoning is known as the “silent killer” due to it being an odourless and colourless toxic gas. CO is produced when a fuel is not burnt properly, and can be produced from all gas, oil and solid fuel appliances, hence an annual service and annual safety test is very important to ensure appliances are operating correctly and safely.

Where should they be fitted?

A smoke alarm should be fitted according to manufacturers instructions but as a general guide:

1) On the ceiling, at least 30cm away from any wall or light fitting

2) Normally in a hallway where it can be heard throughout the house

A CO alarm should be fitted according to manufacturers instructions, but as a general guide:

1) At least 300mm from any wall (if ceiling mounted)

2) At least 150mm from any ceiling, door or window (if wall mounted

3) Between 1 and 3m from the potential source of CO (measured horizontally)

4) Not in an enclosed space (inside a cupboard for example)

5) Not where it could be obstructed

6) Not directly above a sink

7) Not near an extractor fan, air vent or similar opening

8) Not where the temperature could drop below -5 degrees or exceed 40 degrees.

Symptoms of CO Poisoning

Dull headache

Weakness

Dizziness

Nausea or vomiting

Shortness of breath

Confusion

Blurred vision

Loss of consciousness

IF YOU SUSPECT CO POISONING, LEAVE THE HOUSE IMMEDIATELY AND CALL 999.

On the 13th January 2020 “The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020” were laid in parliament. There are still a few steps to go through, but the important dates you need to know are:

  1. All NEW and RENEWING tenancies (AST’s) must have a satisfactory fixed wire test (Domestic Electrical Installation Condition Report) in place before 1st July 2020.
  2. All current tenancies, regardless of start date or length, must have a satisfactory fixed wire test (Domestic Electrical Installation Condition Report) in place before 1st April 2021.

As much as I feel sorry that landlords have literally been peppered with incoming legislation over the past few years (meaning lots of added expenses) I think that we can agree that this particular legislation is not only necessary, but has been a long time coming.

Electrical safety is one of the most important things to consider when renting your property, and one of the biggest and most important steps you can take is a fixed wire test.

Ever since the initial announcement of The Housing and Planning Act in 2016, we always knew these mandatory tests would be coming, so have been working on a very slow roll-out across our properties over the past three years.

Now we have a formal date to work to, we will be increasing the speed of this roll-out and contacting all our landlords to ask them for their permission to proceed with the test. Due to the amount of properties involved, we have secured competitive rates with our contractors.

Should you wish to have your property tested, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We can arrange the test for the price of:

1-4 bedrooms £175 + VAT (£210)
4+ Bedrooms £195 + VAT (£234)

There is a lot of discussion around asbestos, particularly in recent years where Health & Safety has been pushed to the forefront of our minds – but what actually IS asbestos and why do we, as property managers and landlords, need to know about it?

All landlords and property managers must abide by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, hence they must be aware of anything that may impact the general health and safety of their tenants.

Asbestos was known as the “Magic Mineral” for many years given its versatility and properties as a construction product. It was used in many ways such as insulation, fire proofing, cladding, even roofing and floor tiles. It wasn’t until much later that the effects of asbestos on those who produced, shipped and used it became apparent. Unfortunately by this point, asbestos was so widely distributed and used that it was impossible to trace it and remove it from those buildings that had included it.

So WHY is Asbestos dangerous?

Asbestos is made of fibres, as you will see below. When the Asbestos is “friable”, meaning the edges are damaged or worn, these fibres can be released into the air, and inhaled or ingested. Once ingested or inhaled, they are difficult (if not impossible) to remove, and eventually cause disease, such as lung cancer or conditions known as Asbestosis and Mesothelioma.

What does Asbestos look like?

To keep things simple, there were three main types of Asbestos in use in this country – these are nicknamed after their appearance: “White Asbestos” (Chrysotile), “Blue Asbestos” (Crocidolite) and “Brown Asbestos” (Amosite).

Image courtesy of: https://www.merryhillenvirotec.com/types-of-asbestos/

The use of Blue and Brown Asbestos was banned in the UK in 1985 but large amounts remain. Blue is widely seen as the most dangerous type of asbestos due to its structure – the fibres are short and spiky, which cause the maximum damage to the lungs.
Blue asbestos was often used for products such as spray on pipe lagging, insulation or asbestos cement.

Image Courtesty of: https://www.ad-asbestosremoval.co.uk/

Just as a matter of interest, a lot of people think that the visible fibres of asbestos are what cause the problem. In fact, it is actually the fibres you can’t see with the naked eye that are more troublesome, as shown by this micrograph:

Similar to Blue asbestos, Brown asbestos was mostly used for cement sheets and insulation.

The most common type of asbestos, white, was banned in 1999 which means as a landlord or property manager you should be aware that it may be present in most properties built or converted before 2000. White asbestos is commonly found in areas like artex ceilings, insulation, cement, soffits, piping, fireproofing and ceilings but is so widespread the uses of this type of asbestos would take too long to thoroughly list.

Image courtesy of: https://job-prices.co.uk/asbestos-in-the-home/
Image courtesy of: https://job-prices.co.uk/asbestos-in-the-home/
Image courtesy of: https://job-prices.co.uk/asbestos-in-the-home/

How can I tell it is asbestos?

To only way to confirm the prescence of asbestos is by testing it. There are many companies that will offer a sampling and testing service, often with a 24 hour turnaround. They will take a look at the sample under a microscope to identify the type of fibres it contains, and therefore confirm the presence of asbestos in the sample.

What do I do if I have asbestos?

The first step in the sucessful management of asbestos is the identification of the location and type of asbestos, and the assessment of the current condition.
We would always recommend using a professional company to carry out an “Asbestos Management Survey” and if necessary, an “Asbestos Management Plan and Asbestos Register”.
This survey will review the property non-invasively to identify the location of asbestos on site, as well as giving recommendations for its management and/or removal.
Should there be extensive works being carried out at the property, it is important to take this further and arrange for a “Refurbishment/Demolition Survey” which is much more invasive.

Both types of survey will provide information on how to manage the asbestos, which is likely to be either complete removal, encapsulation (covering to prevent the release of fibres) or regular checking of the condition.

If you would like further information, the Health and Safety Executive website is a fantastic resource, in particular the booklet titled “Asbestos Essentials“.

References:

https://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/

http://ibasecretariat.org/lka-paper-asbestos-from-magic-mineral-to-killer-dust-apr-28-2013.pdf

https://ehs.oregonstate.edu/asb-when

https://ehs.oregonstate.edu/asb-when

South West Relo - your local family agent

Family run, our tenants and landlords love the fact we take personal care in what we do to help customers.

Here at SWR, our business model is not to undercut or price match other agents. We offer you the most comprehensive and personalised service to protect your valuable and important investments whilst making the journey of being a landlord as “stress free” as possible.

Come and visit us at The Stables and let’s discuss how we can help you with your property management needs.