Living in the UK
Is your house safe to live in?
There is a lot of legislation governing the safety of rented houses. As a student you are equally protected by this legislation and it is your landlord's responsibility to make sure the house they rent to you is safe and meets all of the standards set.
When you collect your keys, take some time to make sure that the house has all the items required below, test the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms (they all have a test button). If they do not work, inform your landlord, in writing, immediately.
Your safety is paramount!
Every landlord should have all gas appliances (boiler, hob, fires etc) serviced every year by a Gas Safe Registered engineer. Landlords must also keep a record of inspection dates, any defects identified and any remedial action taken.
As a tenant you are legally entitled to see a copy of the gas safety record to assure yourself that these appliances have been serviced, in fact the landlord should supply this to you without you having to ask. But if they have not given you one; ask! You can refuse to move into a property if you have not been given a copy of the most current gas safe certificate.
If your landlord does not carry out regular inspections of gas appliances or your landlord does not provide you with a copy of the inspection record when requested, you can contact the HSE’s Gas Safety Advice Line, or seek assistance from the Student Advice and Support Service.
Remember: safety checks are part of your legal rights. They ensure that your appliances are working effectively and guard you against the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
CO has no colour, taste or smell and is extremely poisonous. It is produced whenever carbon in gas, coal, wood or oil is burned with an insufficient air supply. When inhaled it prevents the blood from bringing oxygen into the body. You can't see it, taste it or smell it but CO can kill quickly without warning. It's the silent killer.
Gas fires and boilers will produce CO if it is not properly installed and maintained. Look out for:
- chest pains/cough
If anyone in your house has any of these symptoms when using a gas appliance, stop using the appliance until an engineer has checked it. Consult a doctor and mention the possibility of CO poisoning. More information can be found in this Gas Safe leaflet for students.
Your landlord must:
- follow safety regulations
- provide a fire alarm on each storey and a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms with a usable fireplace or woodburner
- check you have access to escape routes at all times
- make sure the furniture and furnishings they supply are fire safe
- provide fire alarms and extinguishers (if the property is a large House in Multiple Occupation (HMO))
Your landlord needs to ensure that the electrical installation and all electrical appliances such as cookers, fridges, kettles etc. are safe and pose no risk to you as a tenant. Ask for appliances to be PAT tested if you belive them to be unsafe.
It is recommended that the electrical system is checked every 5 years. Ask the owner to show you the periodic safety report. If the property is an HMO the landlord must have their mains installation inspected every 5 years.
Signs to watch out for include:
- Frayed, cut or damaged leads
- Cracked or damaged cases on plugs or appliances
- Burn marks on plugs, leads or appliances
- Blowing fuses
- Loose cord grips in plugs or appliances
If you are unsure about the safety of any electrical appliance contact your landlord/ agent. If you are not satisfied with their reply, come and speak to an adviser.
All furniture supplied by your landlord must comply with the Fire Safety Regulations: all furniture coverings and fillings should be made from fire resistant materials. These requirements cover:
- sofas and armchairs
- beds, headboards and mattresses, futons
- loose and stretch covers for furniture
- cushions and seat pads
Normally, furniture that complies with the regulations will carry a label. If the furniture in your accommodation does not carry a label, it may be that it does not comply with the Regulations. You should ask your landlord to replace it, unless they can prove otherwise.
Just because you are a student, don't think that these regulations do not apply to you. The law covers everyone, whether you are a student and in a 'student let' or not!
House in multiple occupation (HMO)
If you are in a shared house of five or more unrelated individuals, living over three stories with shared facilities, then this house is classed as a ‘property more at risk’. The landlord will need to apply for a license from the Council. The landlord will only be able to get a licence if the correct fire safety measures are in place, and there are adequate cooking and washing facilities.
If this applies to you, ask to see a copy of the licence. You can contact Charnwood Borough Council on 01509 634937 or online to check whether the property is HMO licensed and what, if any, requirements are imposed on the landlord.