Court case highlights the danger tenants face from compliant landlords
The recent case of an English landlord who was fined £12,000 for failing to maintain a rental property, is just one example of growing problem of dangerous properties that are putting tenants at risk, according to the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC).
Ravinder Singh Takhar, 57, was prosecuted under the Housing Act and Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act for failing to comply with regulations in respect of managing HMOs and one of failing to provide information in respect of a property.
Takhar, a millionaire, owned and let a house which had been converted into four flats. The fire extinguisher had not been tested since November 2006, the rear garden had become overgrown with several discarded household items in it and a gap in metal railing at the front of the house was wide enough for a small child to fall through and down to the basement flat.
The most common dangers found in properties are severe damp and mould, bare wiring, broken windows, dilapidated sheds, overgrown gardens with concealed barbed wire, broken glass and holes in the ground, large wardrobes and cupboards not securely fixed to the wall, unserviced and faulty boilers, damaged and leaning brick walls, no keys for window locks and no smoke alarms fitted.
‘It is an unfortunate truth in the UK, many disadvantaged tenants are put in danger by unscrupulous landlords who exploit their vulnerability. Some of these tenants have to live in properties, full of dangerous hazards which put their safety at risk,’ said Pat Barber, chair of the AIIC.
‘We have seen no end of dangerous hazards in a range of properties including faulty gas boilers and fires, excessive mould throughout the property, exposed electric wiring, gardens littered with rusty car parts and other metal items and faulty fire alarms,’ she explained.
She gave as an example how during an end of tenancy check out inspection the inventory clerk discovered a completely overgrown garden pond which was so hidden, she almost fell into it. The garden shed was so dilapidated that it leant at an alarming angle and could have collapsed at any time. It was impossible to open the door to reach any gardening equipment and also posed a serious safety hazard to the tenants.
‘Many families and young children are at risk from negligent landlords, all of whom have a duty of care and as such, should be making regular visits to properties, every three months, to check health and safety,’ added Barber.
The AIIC has outlined the recommended time scales for landlords to respond to a request for repairs. Depending on the problem, some need to be treated more urgently than others. An emergency response it needed for gas and water leaks and serious electrical faults while a 24 hour response should be put in place for heating and water systems and other non life threatening electrical problems such broken windows if not caused by tenant negligence.
Kitchen appliances and other items that affect the daily life of a tenant should come under a 72 hour timescale and less urgent response might be needed for things like broken lawn mowers, a fallen fence panel or a dripping tap.