The condition of your property
‘Proper landlords’, i.e. landlords of separate properties let under tenancies such as assured shorthold tenancies, are bound by what are known as the ‘statutory repairing covenants’.
These are a set of rules set out in section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. However, you will be happy to know that, provided you don’t allow your tenant to acquire a tenancy (explained on Day 1), they will not apply to you.
However, this does not mean that it is all right for your property to be in bad repair!
The Local Authorities powers
It is not often realised that local authorities have a general duty, under the Housing Act 2004, to make sure that residential properties in their area, *all* residential properties, not just HMOs, are in a fit and proper condition. If a complaint is made to them, they will attend and do an inspection under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
Under the HHSRS, the property is checked against 29 hazards (such as ‘excess cold’, danger of falls and electrical hazards). If the inspection shows that the property has any ‘category 1 hazards’ the Local Authority will serve an improvement order on the landlord (i.e. you!) requiring him to bring the property up to standard.
Hopefully, this will never happen to you (the HHSRS is more generally used to inspect HMOs). However, you should make sure nonetheless, that your property, or at least the part used by your lodger, is in good condition. (Note, if you are interested you will find more about the HHSRS here)
Here are a few other matters (apart from gas which will be dealt with on day 5) to watch out for:
If you want to check whether the electrical wiring in your property is safe, you can get your electricity supplier to inspect it free of charge. However, be careful as if they think it is unsafe, they will cut your supply off until repairs are done.
Your local fire prevention officer can advise on fire safety. This is a free service and it is a good idea to obtain a report even if you are not taking in lodgers.
There are sometimes grants available, particularly if your property is in poor condition, or if you want to carry out energy saving improvements. Contact your Local Authority (for general grants) and the Energy Savings Trust (www.energysavingtrust.org.uk) for energy saving improvements. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau may also have a list of grant providers in your area.
Note: when I bought my house, it only had an outside WC so I got quite a good grant from the Local Authority to get it brought up to standard. Mind you, that was over 20 years ago!
Trading standards officers (although they do bring prosecutions), generally believe that the most important part of their work is to help people understand and comply with all the various regulations they are there to enforce. They are a very good source of information, are usually very friendly, and will have lots of useful leaflets. You can find your local office via the web-site here.
Vermin and insect infestation
This can happen to the best of us. Rats get everywhere, and if you have a cat or dog, flea infestation is often inevitable at some stage or other. It does not mean you are dirty! Have a word with your local authority pest control service, which is often free or low cost, or speak to your vet, who can advise on getting rid of fleas on pets.
Remember that if your lodger suffers an injury because of your property not being in a proper condition, you could be sued for damages!