It is not surprising that Landlords can be penalised by the Health and Safety Executive when they fail in their duties to tenants. Generally a landlord is seen by the Courts as being a person who has a greater position of power over the tenant. They own the property.
It is only right and proper therefore that the landlord ensures that the property is kept to an appropriate standard and the property is therefore safe.
One of the statutory obligations of a landlord under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, is to ensure that an appropriate gas safety certificate is obtained for the property every 12 months.
It is far from uncommon for tenants to be overcome by carbon monoxide poisoning from boilers which have not been properly maintained. The landlord has a statutory obligation to ensure the boiler is safe by obtaining a safety certificate from a Corgi registered heating engineer and to provide a copy of this certificate to the tenant.
It is not surprising therefore that the press recently ran a story of a landlord in Accrington who was ordered to pay nearly £60,000.00 in fines and costs having ignored repeated warnings from the Health and Safety Executive to provide a safety certificate and to arrange gas safety checks on a property he was renting out over a period of nearly 2 years.
I understand the landlord was given several opportunities to obtain safety certificates. He ignored these. By ignoring both his statutory responsibility and the notices that he received from the Health and Safety Executive, he (the landlord) was clearly placing his tenants at risk and it is hardly surprising therefore that a very large fine was handed down.
The purpose of the Regulations is obvious. The landlord has an obligation to ensure that the tenant is safe. If he fails in his obligation he will be penalised. The obligations are obvious. They are not difficult to follow and it is not arduous to obtain a gas safety certificate which does not involve significant cost.
At present the Mayor of London is considering in detail the expanding rental market within London. The Mayor has already indicated he would like 10 Landlords Commandments to apply (where landlords have a number of obligations to their tenants regarding repair and upkeep of the property).
This is commendable and is certainly a big step in the right direction given the growing rental market in London, but this should go further and very real thought needs to be given by the Government to arranging a licensing arrangement of landlords.
In 2012 the Welsh Government published proposals for a national mandatory registration and licensing scheme and the London Borough of Newham have already introduced and did so some time ago, a licensing arrangement so that every landlord in that borough must have their property licensed for rent, failing which a landlord is not allowed to rent out their property within this London Borough.
It is a short step from the Mayor of London’s “10 Commandments” and ensuring landlords are licensed on the back of what is happening in Wales as well as the London Borough of Newham and elsewhere.
Action taken by the Health and Safety Executive against landlords who do not comply with appropriate Regulations to ensure that their tenants remain as safe as possible, should lead to more to assist in arguments with the Mayor and to ensure that a system is in place to licence landlords and to make sure properties are kept to a reasonable standard, failing which we face a risk of a slippery slope to the draconian rental market we had in London in the 1950s & 60s.
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