The title of this blog post may be a bit of a misnomer. That's because it's not the annual testing of landlords, of course, but rather the tests landlords of HMOs should be carrying out on an annual basis to ensure their properties are habitable for tenants. Indeed some of these tests are statutory and if not carried out could lead to a fine and removal of the HMO licence. Others may be non-mandatory but they’re still advisable - for your own peace of mind as well as that of the tenants.
What HMO landlords should be testing annually
Gas appliances and installation. Gas inspections, together with fire safety, are the biggies when it comes to tenancies and HMOs in particular due to the fact there are so many individuals living under the one roof. By law all gas appliances in the property must be tested on an annual basis by a registered CORGI gas installer. The certificate must then be available for inspection by tenants and your local authority.
Fire safety tests. The fire alarm in an HMO must be tested on a regular basis (weekly) – either by the landlord or a tenant. A log book should detail when the inspection was carried out and made available to tenants and the council if requested.
Smoke alarms must also be tested frequently. The number of smoke alarms in the property depends on its size but a fire extinguisher must be present on each floor and a fire blanket placed in the kitchen. The rules for HMOs are particularly stringent when it comes to fire safety.
Other areas for testing
Electrical inspection. It's up to the landlord to ensure that the electrical appliances in the property eg kettle, microwave, cooker, heater, toaster etc are working and not a fire or safety hazard. At the same time he or she must ensure the wiring of the property, including the light sockets, all work and are in a reasonable working order. In the case of the latter, broken or scorched sockets should definitely be flagged up and checked.
If there are any concerns with either the electrical installation or appliances (whether at the start of a tenancy or throughout) then the local council can take enforcement action against a landlord under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
With an HMO there is a statutory obligation to get the electrical installations tested at least every five years (this isn’t the case with a standard tenancies). The testing in an HMO must – like the gas testing – be carried out by a qualified electrician who will then issue a certificate (known an Electrical Installation Condition Report) showing the electrics are in satisfactory working order. The council can insist on seeing this certificate within the space of just one week.
Appliances testing. When it comes to appliances the standard check is called a Portable Appliances Test (PAT). There's no legal need to have this test carried out but it's always a good idea - for your own peace of mind at least. The Electrical Safety Council (ESC) currently advises that all new appliances have a CE mark. This shows that it's been passed for safety. For appliances which aren't new always look out for cuts in cables, loose wires in a plug and screws which haven't been secured tightly enough.
The ESC also advise that large and static equipment such as fridges, fires and washing machines should be checked at least every four years while portable and regularly used items, for example, kettles, toasters and vacuums should be given a once-over every two years. There should also be a list of instructions available for tenants on how to use the appliances in the HMO.
Energy Performance Certificate (EPA). Another statutory requirement for most landlords, it doesn’t always apply to HMOs (at the moment - a Bill to include HMO landlords is currently about to get its second reading in parliament later this month). Basically an EPA outlines how energy efficient your property is and potential tenants must be given this information on viewing. The exception is an HMO with shared facilities such as kitchen, toilet, shower room etc) and where there are a number of individual agreements ie a bedsit-type agreement.
At this moment in time the only time a landlord of such a property would need an EPA is when they either let out the property as one complete unit, converted it to flats, or sold the property. Failure to provide an EPA could lead to a £200 fine on an ongoing basis until the document is provided.
Find out more about the types of checks you should be running as an HMO landlord at Property Go-To Girl today.
I'm Jacquie the Property Go-To Girl. I am passionate about property. I love to help people make the most out of their property investments!