All responsible landlords should ensure that they provide tenants with the highest quality accommodation, that their property is safe for their tenants to live in and that all legal obligations are being met. However, navigating your way through the minefield of laws, regulations and best practice regarding safety can be daunting. So what must you do and where do you start? The following guidelines apply to non-HMOs. Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) are covered by more stringent requirements.
Under requirements introduced by the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014, landlords have to have fixed wiring (Electrical Installation Condition Report or EICR) checks carried out at least every five years. However, if the electrician recommends more frequent checks (which they will do if the wiring is old or in poor condition) then the landlord should follow their advice on frequency.
The EICR report must include an appliance check report (a Portable Appliance Test or PAT). PAT checks are required on appliances provided by the landlord, but not those belonging to the tenant. PAT checks must also be done at least every 5 years but if the electrician recommends more frequent checks (which they usually will for the PAT check) then the landlord should follow their advice on frequency.
Statutory guidance on the requirement can be read on the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) website.
EICR checks carried out between 1st January 2012 and 30th November 2015 by a competent electrician are acceptable, even if they do not include an appliance check. For example, an EICR carried out on 30th November 2015 without PAT checks would still be valid for up to 5 years, to end November 2020.
Anything that is movable and fitted with a plug should be on the PAT report. Everything in the property which uses the electrical supply must be on either EICR or PAT, unless it belongs to the tenant.
It is advisable to have the checks carried out more frequently than five yearly if recommended by an electrician.
It is a requirement that landlords ensure that the electricians they use are competent. Electricians should be a member of SELECT, NAPIT or NICEIC or be able to complete the checklist in Annex A of the guidance.
The PAT test can be carried out by a landlord/letting agent provided they have undergone relevant training, such as that provided by Landlord Accreditation Scotland (see Annex C of the guidance for details). The PAT check can also be carried out at a different time to the EICR check, provided both are carried out at least every 5 years.
EICRs and PATs carried out from 1st December 2015 must be documented on the forms specified on pages 14 and 21 of the guidance in order to be acceptable under the regulations. In addition, all appliances checked must have test labels placed on them.
New build/newly rewired properties meet the standard provided an in-date Electrical Installation Certificate (EIC) is in place. An appliance that was purchased new less than one year before the date of the PAT check does not require to be tested, but it should be listed on the PAT report and the date that its first test is due clearly recorded.
EICRs and PATs must be retained for 6 years.
Enforcement of the electrical testing requirements are the responsibility of the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber). The Chamber can issue a “Repairing Standard Enforcement Order” and ultimately a rent penalty for non-compliance, which is a criminal offence.
All landlords and letting agents are advised to read the guidance in full to familiarise themselves with the detail of the requirements.
Gas safety regulations require landlords to ensure that all gas fittings and flues are maintained in a safe condition. They must also ensure that all appliances and flues are checked for safety at least every 12 months.
You should have a “Gas Safe Register” (www.gassaferegister.co.uk) engineer carry out a safety check on all gas equipment annually. This includes the gas meter, boilers, heated water tanks, fires and cookers. You must supply the tenant with a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate (GSC) which is issued by the engineer.
Regulations introduced in April 2018 allow a landlord to arrange for a gas safety check to be carried out any time from 10-12 calendar months after the previous check whilst still preserving the original check expiry date.
GSCs must be retained for 2 years from the date they were carried out.
Before you re-let a property after tenants have vacated it, you need to ensure that all appliances and flues are safe and have an up-to-date gas safety check record. A copy of this record needs to be given to tenants prior to moving in.
If you suspect that gas equipment could have been tampered with since the last GSC was carried out, HSE recommends you arrange for another GSC to be completed before giving access to new tenants.
Appropriate checks should be carried out and any unsafe equipment rectified or removed before a new tenancy begins. HSE also recommenders that installation pipework be inspected and tested for soundness before property is relet.
In addition to the statutory GSC, it is best practice to ensure that all boilers and appliances are serviced annually. We can arrange a service to be carried out on gas appliances at the same time as the annual gas safety inspection.
Carbon Monoxide detectors
Landlords must have carbon monoxide (CO) detectors fitted in their properties to comply with the repairing standard. Landlords must have a long life battery OR mains powered detector in any space which contains a carbon based fuel appliance (excluding cooking appliances) e.g. a gas/oil boiler, gas/oil fire, wood burning stove or open coal fire. There should also be one in any bedroom or living room which is bypassed by a flue.
Detectors must comply with BS EN 50291-1:2010+A1:2012 and, where hard-wired or wireless installations are adopted, applicable European directives. There are rules on the positioning of detectors including that they should in most cases be 1-3 metres from the appliance, 30cm from any walls (if ceiling mounted) and 15cm below ceilings (if wall mounted). CO detectors have expiry dates printed on them and must be replaced before that date is reached.
In order to comply with the repairing standard, landlords should either install smoke and fire detectors that meet the standard set by guidance issued by Scottish Ministers, or be able to justify why a lesser level of protection is appropriate in a particular home. Reasons why a lesser level of protection might be appropriate could include:
- where the proximity of an open fireplace would make a smoke detector impracticable, a heat detector may be fitted
- where the layout and design of the house means that one detector can combine the protection required by individual detectors in different areas, such as a kitchen/diner or open plan layout, or in small flats where the living room and hall can be covered by one smoke alarm
- where the landlord intends to install detectors within a reasonable timescale as part of a programme of upgrading property
Landlords are entitled to rely on professional advice from qualified electricians on their compliance with the standards in building regulations.
Guidance issued by Scottish Ministers requires there to be at least:
- one functioning smoke alarm in the room which is frequently used by the occupants for general daytime living purposes
- one functioning smoke alarm in every circulation space on each storey, such as hallways and landings, or in main room if no landing in upper storey
- one heat alarm in every kitchen
- all alarms should be ceiling mounted
- all alarms should be interlinked so that all sound when one device is activated (radio interlinking rather than hard wired interlinking can be used in most cases).
Since 1 March 2019 it has been permissible to install either mains-operated alarms or tamper proof long-life lithium battery alarms. Smoke alarms should conform to BS EN 14604. Heat alarms should conform to BS 5446-2. Multi-sensor alarms should conform to BS EN 54-29 or BS EN 14604. For more detailed information on smoke alarms, see BS 5839 Part 6. The fitting of a hardwired smoke/heat alarm system may require a building warrant and landlords should consult the Building Standards department of the local authority.
Landlords should ensure that smoke and heat alarms are regularly maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. It is recommended as good practice that landlords advise tenants to test alarms on a weekly basis. It is also recommended that landlords should advise tenants not to tamper with alarms.
If there is a requirement for the house to meet a more stringent standard of provision for detecting and giving warning of fire (for example, in a house in multiple occupation (HMO) requiring to be licensed, or under building regulations), then the repairing standard criterion is only to be regarded as met if that requirement is met.
Government guidance on the requirement can be read online here.
The Scottish Repairing Standard requires all rented property to be fitted with smoke detectors in the living room and all circulation areas/hallways and a heat detector in the kitchen. See above for further details.
It is best practice to provide a fire blanket and/or extinguisher in the kitchen and these should be maintained and serviced regularly.
Ensure furniture and soft furnishings supplied by you comply with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire)(Safety) Regulations 1988. Check the labels for this.
Landlords have a legal duty to ensure that the risk of exposure of tenants to Legionnaires’ Disease is properly assessed and controlled. A risk assessment should be carried out and regularly reviewed and control measures should be implemented.
Energy Performance Certificates
It is a requirement that all rental properties have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) made available to prospective tenants. We will ensure that it is included on any advertising portals. The certificate provides information to prospective tenants on the energy efficiency of the property, as well as recommendations for cost effective improvements that could be made. The certificate lasts for 10 years and is included as part of a home report for any properties sold in Scotland after 1st December 2008. EPCs are held on a public register.