Landlord blog: With letting property comes with great responsibility

Published: 26/02/2014

Rob’s latest blog sadly takes a sombre tone this week as he highlights the devastating events that can happen when landlords fail to live up to their responsibilities.

“I opened yesterday’s Metro as I do every morning on my daily commute. Everything was fine as I flicked through the pages, checking the daily ‘Learn to Speak Cat’ cartoon to brighten up the journey, until I read about the story of 8-year-old Aaron Dearden who suffered a fatal asthma attack in his home in Ramsbottom.

“As I read on it revealed that Aaron’s mother, Rachel Turner, believed his condition had worsened as a result of their ‘mouldy and damp’ home and was trying to get her family re-homed. While there is no conclusive evidence that the condition of the property caused or contributed to this young boy’s death – an inspection of the property deemed it to be in ‘good condition’ - it should remain a stark wake up call for all landlords and it for this reason why I’m writing this week’s blog on this tragic story.

“Sadly Aaron’s story is not a one off; in June 2012 a landlord faced prosecution after he failed to carry out improvements on his property where tenant Stacy Bowman lived. Despite being issued with an enforcement notice by council officials, the landlord did not carry out the work and Stacy died after suffering a series of chest infections. She was 5-month pregnant with her second child.

“These are both incredibly heartbreaking stories and it’s certainly not a topic I relish writing about but I believe they are stories which should be told. You can bang on about how landlords have legal responsibilities to provide tenants with a safe environment to live in and that they need to carry out safety checks of the property on a regular basis. But often these messages fall on deaf ears. You can’t be blasé about stories like these though.

“So let’s get back to basics and run through everything a landlord must do not just because it’s the law but because a person’s life is in your hands.

Tenant safety check list

  • • Have a gas safety certificate for all gas appliances (annually)
  • • Regularly PAT-test all electrical appliances
  • • Make sure all furniture meets fire safety standards
  • • Repair any damages to the property
  • • Keep gas, electricity and water supplies in safe working order.

If you let a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) property, you must also:

  • • Have an electrical safety check (every 5 years)
  • • Get a written fire assessment
  • • Install a mains operated fire alarm system and provide at least one fire blanket and/or fire extinguisher.

“In both Aaron and Stacy’s stories the health and safety issues was around mould and damp. This is typically caused when warm, moist air penetrates the cooler parts of the house. This creates a dampness which is the perfect growing environment for mould.

“There are a number of things a landlord and tenant can do to prevent mould and damp:

  • • Check for leaks both inside and outside the property
  • • Ventilate ‘wet rooms’ such as kitchens and bathrooms for at least 20 minutes after use
  • • Dry all surfaces especially windows, windowsills and kitchen worktops
  • • Install extractor fans and ensure they are efficient (if they can’t hold a postcard to them then they aren’t working properly)
  • • Keep the inside temperature consistent
  • • Try and dry clothes outside whenever possible and don’t hang wet clothes on radiators
  • • For properties prone to condensation, it may be a good idea to buy a dehumidifier.

“Our infographic – Condensation Cometh – can explain things better than I can and can be downloaded and passed on to tenants.

“We’ll never know for sure if their living conditions contributed to the death of these tenants but one thing’s for sure – I wouldn’t want to be the landlord with that on my conscience, evidence or no evidence.”

Rob DenmanRob Denman is a solicitor and Head of GW LET (Landlord Empowerment Team), specialising in such landlord legal issues as rent arrears, tenant eviction and tenancy deposit disputes. In his spare time Rob enjoys watching football and running. He is currently training for his second half marathon.

Content correct at time of publication

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