With so many regulations to keep track of, there’s always a risk of some legal obligations and responsibilities of land and property ownership being overlooked. John Robson, a director of Robson & Liddle chartered surveyors in Cumbria, provides a recap on some of the main compliance issues for property owners to address.
Gas and electrical safety
If you have tenanted property remember that all gas appliances must be inspected annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Not having a Gas Safety Certificate for appliances such as boilers, ovens and heaters, is a criminal offence. You have a responsibility to check that contractors installing, servicing or repairing any gas appliances are Gas Safe registered.
While there’s no legal requirement for an annual safety certificate for electrical appliances, again as a landlord you should ensure any electrical systems or appliances you provide, such as those in a furnished property, are safe. You should have a registered competent person conduct safety checks of electrical systems at regular periodic intervals, such as every five years, to reduce the risk of electrical shocks or fires.
Tree and woodland safety
Whether its storm damage, or simply nature taking its course, there’s always going to be a time when trees fall and branches break. If you are the owner of the tree you are at risk of prosecution in the event that a tree causes injury to another person or damages their property. By having a qualified tree specialist carry out tree safety surveys at regular intervals, you can reduce the risk of trees becoming a danger. Accidents will always happen, but having trees regularly surveyed shows a proactive and considered approach to minimising risk that could also reduce the threat of prosecution.
Fire and carbon monoxide risks
Recent legislation has made it compulsory for landlords to have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors fitted on every level of the properties they let out from October 1st, 2015. Meanwhile, many insurance policies require chimneys to be swept at least once a year as with let properties the responsibility for chimney sweeping always lies with the landlord. Even if a tenancy agreement is reworded to make it a tenant’s responsibility, this will not stand up in court. Given the damage chimney fires can cause, it’s in the interests of property owners to take responsibility for chimney sweeping.
Adequate insurance cover
Public and employer’s liability cover is now a standard part of many insurance policies. However, the risks to property owners from serious personal injury claims being brought against them means careful scrutiny should be given to the limits of that cover. Insurance experts now recommend many larger land holdings have a minimum level of cover of £10m, especially where potentially hazardous activities, such as shooting, might increase the risk of injury.
Environmental pollution issues
Be it fuel spillages from farm vehicles, leaks from septic tanks, or diffuse water pollution from agricultural activities, the environmental risks for landowners and farming businesses are numerous and varied. Robust systems and procedures need to be in place to mitigate the risks of environmental law breaches and potentially damaging prosecutions.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of compliance issues for property owners and we recommend a wider overall strategy be formulated for dealing with health and safety and other compliance matters. Professional advice should also be taken at early stage to ensure you are taking all necessary steps to mitigate compliance risk.
For more information on maintaining a compliant estate, call John on 01768 254 354.