The most important thing about your property is that it is safe and you are safe within it. Your landlord has a duty to obey the laws which are there to protect tenants but make sure you protect yourself against any possible danger, fraud and theft.
Your landlord must arrange for a gas safety check each year by a qualified Gas Safe engineer who will issue a certificate to the landlord. You should receive a copy of the certificate each year within 28 days of the test and in addition you should be given the latest copy when you move into the property.
Landlords must ensure that the electrical system is safe and that all electrical appliances they provide are safe to use. The law requires a property to be electrically safe but there is no strict requirement. Electrical safety is normally checked by five-year periodic inspection of all the electrically circuits in the property and by PAT testing the appliances.
Landlords must also ensure that the furniture provided is fire resistant, this is the law. You can check this by looking at the furniture at the labels which should be attached.
Structure and exterior
Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 requires landlords to ensure that the structure and exterior of the building is sound. This includes doors, windows and roofing as well as heating, lighting, sanitation, cooking appliances and water services.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and fire safety
If your property is classified as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), there are extra requirements on landlords to ensure their tenants health and safety. Currently under law, a standard HMO is defined as a building containing at least three tenants and forming more than one household with shared toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities. A large HMO is defined as a building at least 3 storeys, has at least 5 or more tenants living there, forming more than 1 household and tenants share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities.
The council places a duty on landlords to apply for a licence on large HMOs if all of the above are present and the landlord must obey this duty.
Changes to HMO law
The law around HMOs is about to change. Legislation called The Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Prescribed Description) (England) Order 2018 was agreed by parliament in February 2018 and comes into force on 1st October 2018. This order will change the HMO definition for licensing and will mean that more properties will need to be licensed to protect tenants’ safety.
From the 1st October 2018, the new definition for an HMO for licensing purposes will be as follows:
• Any property occupied by five or more people forming two or more separate households (this could mean three, two or single storey properties if they fall under this remit).
• Properties converted into bedsits
• Properties above commercial buildings (such as shops or restaurants)
Landlords of HMOs must make sure that:
• proper fire safety measures are in place, including working smoke alarms
• annual gas safety checks are carried out
• electrics are checked every 5 years
• the property is not overcrowded
• there are enough cooking and bathroom facilities for the number living there
• communal areas and shared facilities are clean and in good repair
• there are enough rubbish bins
There is no duty to licensed by halls of residence or student accommodation controlled and managed by educational establishments. They will have signed up to an approved code of practice are not defined in the legislation as HMOs.
Local authorities and housing associations and are not classed as HMOs either.
Legionnaires disease checks
Landlords are required by law to carry out a risk assessment to manage and minimise the hazards created by legionella bacteria which could cause legionnaires disease. Landlords are required to check on a regular basis to see whether there have been any changes in the property that may affect the risk assessment. The risk assessment should be checked yearly plus every time there is a change to anything within the property or new factors which could affect the risk assessment are uncovered.
• There are changes to the water system or its use.
• There are changes to the use of the building in which the water system is installed.
• New information about risks or control measures comes to light.
You should check there is a carbon monoxide alarm fitted in any room which contains any appliance which burns, or is capable of burning, solid fuel. This is up to the landlord’s responsibility as well.
Always get insurance for your possessions to cover you in-case the worst happens. It is a good idea to check with your parents to see if you are covered on their contents insurance policy and if you are not, arrange for insurance as soon as possible. You can get multiple quotes from comparison websites online and arrange your policy in the same way. You can do this individually or it may be cheaper to get a policy with all of your fellow tenants.
Be aware of intruders
Burglars will often focus on student properties as they have a reputation as being easy targets. Windows and doors are not always as well maintained or secure and the thief knows there may be multiple occupants, and therefore multiple laptops, mobile phones and televisions. Try to avoid leaving valuables in the property over the summer or during the Christmas or Easter breaks.
Even if you are away from your room, out of the property or in the back garden for just a small amount of time, keep your windows and doors locked and valuables out of sight. Many thefts take place through opportunity rather than planning and you will be surprised at how little time it takes for someone to enter and take your possessions.
Before you let anyone into your property, check their ID. This could be people claiming to be employees of the agents / workmen / council employees. Always ensure that they are who they say they are. Furthermore if you are satisfied that they are genuine but you do not know them, it is a good idea to never be alone with them for your own personal safety.
You may come across individuals who offer you a deal such as paying your rent for you in exchange for a reduced payment from you. This is a common scam seen recently where the individual takes a lesser cash payment, making the full rent on a credit card which is either stolen or cloned. Later on, the payment is declined by the bank leaving the rent still outstanding, the rent still outstanding and the tenant having lost the cash they have paid. Consider what the motivations are of the individual before agreeing to anything. If it is too good to be true, it normally is!