For a long time I have been, what some would call, over-compliant with my lettings clients, but then I have always been a cautious one, and I could never have an injury, accident or worse, on my conscience. What I mean by ‘over-compliant’ is that I always insist that my landlord clients fully co-operate in their care of tenants, ensuring that their properties are safe, from gas, electrics, and any hazards on the HHSRS list. They must know who is living in their properties, no blind-eyes being turned to sub-letting or Airbnb usage, and, every tenant complies with AML (informative article from Foxtons) and R2R checks.
I genuinely wish that everybody in the lettings industry had the same moral conscience as I have. I am forever hearing ‘yes gas safety is a legal requirement but electrical checking isn’t…’ which, most certainly, is not the case. If you read the government guidelines it states this:
Your landlord must make sure:
- the electrical system is safe, for example sockets and light fittings
- all appliances they supply are safe, for example cookers and kettles
So, in my view, you can only confirm that electrics are safe if you have had them tested by a competent person and that’s why I would always insist on a periodic inspection for new tenancies, with visual or portable appliance testing annually (for up to 5 years, then another periodic would be due). Such testing ensures I always have an electrical inspection condition report for each rented property I put a tenant into. Personally I am astounded that a) the government hasn’t amended the legislation to include a mandatory report for electrics (the same as for gas), and b) that corner / cost cutting landlords and agents don’t feel terribly bad for putting people’s lives at risk!
I am working with many letting agencies across the UK and often find myself discussing safety procedures with the teams, so I find it quite a shock that so many agents are not being forceful enough with their landlords, in regards to their tenants safety. When many landlords or agents read electrical guidelines, which state “Unlike gas regulations, there is no law that says you must have a landlord electrical safety certificate, but, should any electrical fittings or appliances within your rental property cause harm to a tenant, you could be held liable” so many of them read the first sentence and entirely dis-regard the second one.
To put things into perspective, on 14th June 2017 a Hotpoint fridge/freezer in a rented apartment caught alight, possibly due to an electrical surge in the building, and killed at least 80 people. The Grenfell Tower disaster caused massive upset and outrage across the nation, but that type of accident happens all of the time in private rented accommodation, so just because this was on a much greater scale with huge media coverage, does not mean that individual deaths or injury from other home fires are less terrible for everyone concerned.
In the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy, Sadiq Khan, London Mayor said: “Those who mock health and safety, regulations and red tape need to take a hard look at the consequences of cutting these and ask themselves whether Grenfell Tower is a price worth paying. Nowadays, we would not dream of building towers to the standards of the 1970s, but their inhabitants still have to live with that legacy. It may well be the defining outcome of this tragedy that the worst mistakes of the 1960s and 1970s are systematically torn down.”
This entire situation should really make any landlord or agent think about any homes built before 1980 and consider the safety of the entire property before renting it out.
Sub-letting to illegal immigrants
On another note, but along the same sad theme, comes the issue of sub-letting or non-compliance with ‘Right to Rent’ checks on tenants. At Grenfell Tower, so many tenants illegally sub-let their apartments and many of the flats were occupied by migrants and asylum seekers with no paperwork to account for their presence in the building, so the exact number of deaths will, unlikely, never be determined. Now, how terrible is that? Entire families could have been wiped out because people cut-corners and put greed ahead of safety.
If you feel that your lettings team could be giving incorrect advice to your landlords, or are guilty of omitting to check electrical safety or turning a blind eye to ‘friends and relatives’ staying with tenants for extended periods of time but not being named on tenancy documents or checked for immigration status, then why not consider inviting me to come and work with your teams to ensure their systems and processes are keeping tenants safe, and business owners out of jail…!
JANE GARDNER, MNAEA, FARLA