Landlords urged to fully understand safety laws as new research finds worrying discrepancies

Property Reporter
30th March 2021
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Discrepancies in how social housing and private landlords deliver resident safety have become apparent following a new tenant survey from Plentific.

The property management software specialists found that 46% of tenants living in privately rented accommodation in the UK do not believe their gas appliances have been checked in the last 12 months, compared to just 18% of social housing residents. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, landlords are required to ensure sufficient attempts are made to inspect gas appliances and failure to do so can result in a fine or even a prison sentence.

While many renters may be unaware, landlords also have a responsibility for their resident’s safety and must put in place measures to ensure that. The research report ‘What really matters to residents? Perceptions within UK housing’, includes the results of a survey, conducted by 3GEM, of 1,000 social and private housing renters. The research found that in addition to failing to carry out gas safety checks:

27% of renters do not have a smoke alarm on each storey of their home; private renters (32%) are less likely than social (20%) renters to have them. Almost half (44%) of all renters do not have a Gas Safety Certificate; significantly higher for private (52%) than social (32%) renters.

51% of all renters do not have a carbon monoxide alarm; significantly more likely for private (56%) than social (44%) renters. Two-thirds (66%) have not seen their home’s Electrical Performance Certificate (EPC), which is significantly higher for social (73%) than private (61%) renters.

Cem Savas, CEO and Co-Founder at Plentific said: “Resident safety should be of paramount importance to landlords and failing to comply with legal requirements could put both residents and landlords at risk. There are a number of complexities involved and landlords must ensure they understand the rules and different requirements of legislation to ensure they do not fall foul of the law.”

Condition of the UK’s rental properties

Despite concerns around safety, in general, UK renters are happy with their accommodation. Most respondents (83%) say they feel safe in their homes and local area, while just 7% rate their home as being in poor condition. However, the vast majority (86%) of renters have requested repairs or maintenance from their current landlord at some point. The most common issues are:

Damage to the garden (26%)

Damage to the property (24%)

Property maintenance, not due to damage (21%)

Electrical issues (20%)

On average, it takes approximately 10 days for requested works to be completed. Private landlords are often much faster at getting the work done, with 40% of private renters having work completed within three days - compared to 33% of social housing residents.

Residents taking matters into their own hands

Despite landlords completing works relatively quickly in the majority of cases, more than a third (37%) of renters in the UK have taken it upon themselves to organise contractors to carry out repairs on their behalf, including 20% who had permission from their landlord and around 16% who did not.

The services people are most likely to arrange themselves are plumbers (31%), electricians (31%) and handypeople (25%). Three quarters (75%) say they have had to resort to taking action because it was an ‘emergency’, including a third (34%) who felt it was very urgent. Interestingly, social housing residents who have done this are more likely to feel it was not an emergency (39% vs. 19%).

Savas concludes: “Residents should not be required to act on maintenance issues themselves and the fact that plumbers, electricians and gas engineers are amongst the most frequently used professionals in these circumstances suggests that something is going wrong.

“Renters should be able to rely on their landlord to provide the repairs and maintenance services that they need and, if they do not, it not only impacts resident satisfaction but also leaves landlords without oversight. Without a level of control of the work taking place within their properties, landlords will have little idea of what to expect when they take the property back, which could be a costly mistake.”

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