In this article:

  • Electrical safety
  • Gas safety
  • Fire Safety
  • Other Health Hazards
  • Structural instability
  • Damp and mould
  • Sanitation
  • Space and water heating
  • Asbestos
  • Where to go for help
"Property owners need to maintain and keep in good working order (safe) the utility systems. This includes the basic installations for electricity, gas, water and heating"
- The Landlord and Tenant Act from 1985 (section 11)

Electrical safety

Landlords must maintain the electrical systems and wiring. Switches, power sockets, fuse boxes and electrical appliances must be in good functioning order. The law requires them to make regular checks of the electrical supply.

For HMO properties, this electrical check must be made at least once every five years and performed by a certified electrical engineer.

If there is a malfunctioning electrical appliance, it must be turned off and disconnected from the network immediately. Property owners need to repair the basic equipment for preparing food and heating living space.

Note: Any non-essential electrical equipment like the TV may or may not be repaired at the landlord’s discretion.

Signs to look for:

  • Light bulbs that pop frequently
  • Light bulbs that blink or flicker
  • Switches that don’t work or make bad contact
  • Power sockets that spark or output unstable current
  • Dark yellow or brown burn marks around light switches or power outlets
  • Burned or molten plastic covers
  • Tripped fuses
  • Exposed electrical wires
  • Appliances which give you a shock upon touch
  • Loud buzzing or crackling sounds from power boxes and electrical appliances
  • Frequent power jumps or failures

The above are all signs that the electrical supply or part of it, or a particular appliance malfunctions. If you see signs, don’t wait for an accident to happen. As a tenant, you have a legal responsibility to notify your landlord of the smallest issues with the electricity wiring.

Tip : When viewing a property, look for any of the above listed signs. Take a phone charger with you and test all the sockets. It’s best to avoid properties with obvious electricity problems.

What to do in case of an electrical emergency:

If you’re experiencing an emergency, it’s important to cut the power to the problem area. If it’s an appliance, pull it’s power plug out. If you cannot safely unplug it, or turn it off, you should deactivate the fuse for the given room, or the main fuse for the entire property. A short circuit can produce fire in the property. If you’re attempting to fight the fire, DO NOT use water. If it’s not safe for you to fight the fire, exit the property immediately and call the fire service, and subsequently, your landlord. Electrical safety is paramount for tenants. Landlords should treat the matter with due diligence.

Gas safety

Landlords are required to maintain any and all gas issues in their property. Annual gas safety checks of the supply and equipment are a legal requirement.

This safety check needs to be performed by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Engineers who work with gas systems, but are not part of the Gas Safe register, are working illegally.
Any gas safety check performed by such a worker is also illegal and invalid. When the check is finished, and if everything is fine, the engineer will issue the landlord with a gas safety certificate. It’s an essential document required for legally letting a property on the market.

Tip: Ask to see the Gas safety certificate when viewing a property. Your landlord or managing agent is required to supply you with a copy of the certificate no later than 28 days after signing the tenancy agreement. 

The gas safety certificate will contain information regarding:

  • The name, signature, registration number and contacts of the gas engineer
  • The contact details of the landlord and the address of the property
  • The model, description and location of all gas equipment in the property
  • Defects and irregularities with the gas supply and equipment
  • Recommended and due repairs
  • Repairs done on the spot
  • The next service date and confirmation of the performed safety checks

Without this document (and it’s confirmed validity), your landlord is in serious breach of the Gas Safety Act of 1998. It’s validity is one year, after which, a new gas safety check must be performed.

Note: Improper gas installations can exhaust the very dangerous Carbon monoxide gas. It’s subtle and extremely lethal. It has no colour, smell, taste or scent. A human cannot detect it on their own, only its effects on their health.

Signs to look for:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Breathlessness
  • Collapse
  • Loss of consciousness

These symptoms should appear at home or around a faulty gas appliance and get better outside. If you notice such a behaviour, you must take action immediately.

What should you do in case of a gas emergency:

  • Shut down the appliance immediately
  • Open all doors and windows in the room
  • Shut down the gas supply at the main valve
  • Exit the property
  • Contact the National Gas Emergency number: 0800 111 999
  • Contact the landlord and explain what happened
Note: Carbon monoxide alarms are required in rooms and areas where solid fuel is burned (e.g. a fireplace in the living room).

Fire Safety

Fire safety is the result of many other factors. Obviously, the top of the list are electrical and gas safety, which we talked about already.

There is no fire safety certificate and few laws relate to the matter in rented properties. The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations from 1988 sets the conditions for furniture and upholstery items in the property. They must be manufactured from flame resistant materials. If not, the manufacturer has to treat them with flame retardant coatings. Otherwise, your landlord cannot let you the property (legally). Check the manufacturer’s non-removable label and read about the materials and coatings used to create each item.

This regulation is valid for:

  • Sofas
  • Three piece suites
  • Futons
  • Sofa beds
  • Arm chairs
  • Convertible furniture
  • Furniture for a nursery
  • Beds
  • Headboards
  • Divans
  • Bed bases
  • Pillows
  • Garden furniture
  • Scatter cushions
  • Pads for seats
  • Stretch covers, loose covers and fitted covers for items of furniture
Note: The landlord is not responsible for tenant-owned furniture, loose mattress covers, sleeping bags, pillow cases, curtains, bed covers, duvets and carpets and antiquities (made before 1950s).

To ensure tenant safety in case of a fire emergency, the law requires all landlords to install a minimum of one smoke alarm on every level of the property. HMO properties also require more alarms in the shared facilities and the designated emergency exits.

Tenants play a huge role for maintaining fire safety at the home. Since most fires happen due to bad exploitation and unsafe practices, tenants are expected to follow the basic rules of fire safety.

You need to use all electrical and gas equipment only for their intended purposes. Highly flammable materials need to be kept away from all sources of ignition, best in a sealed, flame resistant container.

Tip: Tenants should test the smoke alarms on a monthly basis and replace dead batteries when needed.

What should you do in case of a fire emergency:

  • Fight the fire, using a provided fire extinguisher
  • Limit the fire by surrounding it with non-flammable objects and materials
  • Remove all possible fuel and combustible materials from the fire’s reach
  • Call the fire service – 999
  • Warn your housemates and neighbours and escape the property with them
  • Call your landlord and inform them of the accident

Other Health Hazards

Health hazards are not limited to extreme, life threatening emergencies. Everything that has a negative impact on your’s and your family’s health is a hazard. The landlord is required to remove it and prevent it from reoccurring.

Structural instability

The landlord must secure the property – both its interior and exterior for any dangerous objects like:

The landlord has a responsibility to repair the property. The lack of it can produce unsafe conditions, where you can get harmed in an accident.

Damp and mould

This is the most common problem in rented properties. In the majority of cases mould is caused by condensation which has been created by excess moisture and inadiquent heating. However, bad construction and serious structural defects are contribute to damp and mould in the property.

Although not seriously dangerous, mould is detrimental to the health and respiratory system and should be removed the first chance you have.

Read more about mould and how to safely remove it


The law is very clear. The property owner has to supply running water and facilities for sanitation – toilet, bathroom (shower), sink and other equipment. The lack or disrepair of the listed will interrupt you to maintain basic personal hygiene. It’s the leading cause for disease, illness and pest infestation.

The lack of sanitation facilities makes a property uninhabitable and your landlord holds the responsibility to not allow this to happen.

Space and water heating

To live a normal life, you need to have access to hot water and heat your living space. The law demands for rented properties to facilitate these conditions, or it is not fit for human habitation. During cold months, lack of heating can cause a variety of common illnesses. For families with children, it’s unthinkable to continue living in such a property.


Asbestos is a highly toxic material that can cause permanent damage and even death after prolonged inhalation of asbestos fibres. Tenants need to know that if their properties have been built prior to 2000 and no major asbestos removal has been done over the years, then their property is likely to contain asbestos in some form.

Learn more about Asbestos

Where to go for help

If you cannot get your landlord to remove the hazard, you can seek help from the Environmental Health Department in your local council. They can enter the property and do emergency repairs and even provide you with a temporary accommodation if your rental is deemed unfit for living.

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