For most setting out as property investors, thoughts will be initially focused on the cost of property, the kind of tenants to be sought and the long-term plan for expanding the portfolio - but there is more to it than all that.
In particular, you need to be aware that you have a wide array of legal responsibilities towards your tenants.
One of the most important of these is to make sure the electrical equipment and fixtures in the property are kept safe and in working order. The consequences of failing to do so can be severe, both in terms of the danger posed to the people living in the property and the penalties that can be imposed on the landlords.
Two specific areas are the landlord's responsibility. One of these is that the system as a whole is safe - things like sockets and light fittings. The other is the appliances themselves, like cookers and kettles, should these have been provided by the landlord.
Some of this depends on common-sense use of electrical circuitry and appliances. Clearly there should be no overloading of sockets - and that can be caused by the actions of tenants - and the maintenance of equipment does at least partly depend on the tenants; clearly it is not the landlord's fault if, for instance, a tenant places something metallic in a microwave.
For landlords, the key to safety is ensuring that everything has been inspected and passed as safe. An electrical condition report (MOT) should be carried out every five years and it must be done by a properly accredited person.
Such an individual will be accredited to UK national standard BS 7671 and will have a certificate to show for it. Landlords should always make sure they check this accreditation before letting an inspector or engineer anywhere near an electrical appliance or fitting, as any unqualified person could pass a system as safe when it needs repair - with potentially dire consequences.
Those who are qualified and accredited will be registered with one of five government schemes. These are: BRE Certification Ltd, the British Standards Institute, ELECSA, NAPIT Certification Limited and NICEIC.
Use your eyes
As well as making sure formal checks are carried out, landlords would also be wise to carry out a visual check on the electrical fittings and appliances any time they do come round to a property they own. If anything appears amiss, an extra inspection should be made. This check can also help establish if any appliances are not working well. For instance, if the kettle or microwave is not in good condition, it should be replaced.
Similarly, if tenants report that these items are not working, it is important to respond swiftly. After all, if an appliance like a cooker or washing machine is not working it will not just be an inconvenience for tenants, but might breach the tenancy agreement, as their provision is included in the items they are paying their rent for.
Of course, landlords should never feel they are left to make such judgements themselves. By contacting the Electrical Safety Council via the web or phone, they can get advice and guidance. By doing so, they can ensure they meet all their electrical responsibilities.
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