Health & Safety Issues

health_safety_635937881By supplying accommodation, furnishings, appliances and equipment to tenants, you are required by law to observe the health and safety issues that may affect them…
The laws and regulations previously mentioned in this chapter apply, as do the following additions with regard to health and safety:
• Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
• Defective Premises Act 1972
• Environmental Protection Act 1990
The implications of these Acts mean you must conduct a risk assessment of the property you intend letting and satisfy yourself that the property and its contents are safe. The Housing Act 2004 introduced a new ‘Housing Health and Safety Rating System’ (HHSRS), which became effective in April 2006. The new system does not negate the landlord’s repairing obligations under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, which continues to apply. HHSRS provides local authorities with new powers and responsibilities to inspect properties reported as being unsafe and then take appropriate action against the landlord/owner. HHSRS replaces the prior fitness test for houses in multiple occupation (HiMO) contained within the Housing Act 1985. The new measures apply to all dwellings, not just to Humus or properties that are rented though they will mainly impact on HiMO landlords seeking a licence to operate. Local authorities will inspect properties under 29 categories of housing hazard. These are:
• Damp and mould growth
• Cold
• Heat
• Asbestos and man made fibres
• Biocides
• Carbon monoxide
• Lead
• Radiation
• Uncombusted fuel
• Volatile organic compounds
• Crowding and space
• Entry by intruders
• Lighting
• Noise
• Domestic hygiene etc.
• Food safety
• Personal hygiene
• Water supply
• Falls in baths etc.
• Falls on the level
• Falls on stairs etc.
• Falls from windows etc.
• Electrical hazards
• Fire hazards
• Hot surfaces etc.
• Collision/entrapment
• Ergonomics
• Explosions
• Structural collapse
For most non-HiMO a landlords, the following represent the more likely and significant areas of health and safety concern:
Does the property contain asbestos? Older properties were often built using asbestos for sewerage pipes, drainage, roofing and to line walls. Removal is usually required unless it is in good order and safely encapsulated. Consult the local environmental health department for further advice.
Damp and mould
High levels of humidity, combined with inadequate ventilation, are a serious health hazard for occupiers. Any condensation or dampness should be investigated and the cause remedied.
Unventilated bathrooms and kitchens should have a ceiling or wall-mounted extractor fan. Opening windows should be tested after any painting has been undertaken.
Sharp objects
Examine the property for protruding nails, broken or cracked glass and any splintered timbers that may cause injury. Repair or replace as necessary before the property is occupied.
Basins, sinks, baths, shower bases, toilet bowls and cisterns should be free of defects. Any that are cracked or damaged should be replaced.
Safety rails
The banister rails leading up a staircase must be securely fixed, as should bath-handles (where fitted), any rails leading down into a cellar, and any gallery or balcony railings.
Floor coverings should always be in a good condition with no threadbare, loose or worn areas that could cause an accident. It is impossible for all eventualities to be considered and the law recognises that tenants must employ a degree of commonsense when occupying a property. However, landlords have a duty of care to their tenants and must take all necessary precautions to supply safe accommodation, free of any obvious hazard.