If you only take notice of one thing in your student accommodation, then it's this section on safety. Being safe and secure doesn’t really need much justification from us, and some student accommodation may not be up to standard.
Gas and Fire safety basics
By law, your landlord must:
- Make sure all gas appliances provided are maintained in good order and that a Gas Safe registered plumber carries out a safety check each year.
- Make sure any furniture and furnishings they provide meet fire resistance regulations.
A Landlord is deemed by the HSE to be a “person responsible for an electrical installation” so he must ensure that when a tenant takes over the installation (the property) it has been checked and has an adequate maintenance system is in place.
This means he must ensure regular inspections are completed as an essential part of the programme.
There is no statutory period for an inspection or maintenance, except on all portable appliances supplied by the landlord, which must be checked by a qualified electrician annually (this is called a PAT). If you are aware of any faulty sockets or continual fuses blowing it is advisable to contact your landlord in writing so he is aware of the problem and can rectify it.
Safety with Gas Appliances
All appliances have to be registered with GAS SAFE. It is a criminal offence for a landlord to evade gas safety regulation.
Gas fitters will have identity cards to show they are a registered fitter; it will also state the work they are qualified to carry out. Once any work is carried out make sure you get a gas safety certificate which should be kept at the property.
A gas safety register for all appliances in the accommodation must be provided when you move in and annually thereafter. It’s a criminal offence if this isn’t completed.
The landlord must complete any repair or remedial work immediately. It’s worth noting too that the landlord cannot place blame for the working order of these appliances on the tenants. Obviously, if the tenant has caused the damage they can be charged.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a killer, and it’s not an obvious danger either. No smell, no smoke.
There is no legal requirement for landlords to fit CO alarms as yet, so it’s down to you to get them installed. We STRONGLY RECOMMENDED you get some if none are fitted given there are cases of students who have died from CO leaks.
CO alarms do not go off falsely like smoke alarms with burning toast. If a CO monitor goes off it means there is a problem, so don’t ignore it. Open all windows and get out of the accommodation, QUICKLY. Then call your landlord or letting agent immediately.
You should also be aware of the symptoms of CO poisoning:
- A slight headache.
- As poisoning progresses, your headache gets worse and you begin to feel sick, dizzy and drowsy – a bit like flu, which makes it difficult to diagnose.
If the poisoning continues undetected, the results of even relatively low exposures can be permanent lung damage, heart damage, brain damage or death. Most victims die in their sleep from a strong leak – some in just minutes.
Rooms with Gas Appliances
Since 31 October 1998, any room converted to use as sleeping accommodation should not contain the following types of gas appliances:
- A gas fire, gas space heater or a gas water heater (including a gas boiler) over 14 kilowatts gross input, unless it is room sealed.
- A gas fire, gas space heater, or a gas water heater (including a gas boiler) of 14 kilowatts gross input or less or any instantaneous water heater unless it is room sealed or has an atmosphere-sensing device.
If a room contains any of the appliances listed above and was used as a bedroom prior to 1998 then you will need to do a risk assessment to determine if it can still be used as a bedroom. If you are unsure of the safety of any gas appliance you should get a Gas Safe Registered engineer to check it.
When leaving your accommodation for the holidays it is a good idea to turn the thermostat down to a low setting to prevent the water freezing and turn the stop tap off and you could also turn the stop tap off.
Fire Safety requirements
The 2004 Housing Act requires the landlord to do several things about fire safety:
- There has to be an adequate means of escape.
- Depending on the size of the property, there may have to be smoke alarms and fire extinguishing equipment.
- If the property is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) which is subject to licensing by your council, your landlord must also comply with license conditions in relation to fire safety.
Under the 1999 smoke alarm act, all newly built houses (newer than 1992) must be fitted with a smoke alarm, the minimum requirement being one alarm per floor.
The tenancy agreement should outline who is responsible for the maintenance of these alarms - it could be the letting agent, landlord or you, the tenants. You must be 100% sure of this before you sign. If the landlord is responsible and neglects his duties, in the event of the fire he/her is held liable.
Houses in Multiple Occupation
A summary of rules that apply to a HMO:
- The provision of an INTERGRATED smoke alarm system will be required for HMOs with more than two storeys.
- Fire warning systems such as fire alarms and heat or smoke detectors should be placed throughout the building, particularly in escape routes and high-risk areas, such as kitchens.
- Fire warning systems should be serviced and checked regularly.
- Fire equipment such as fire extinguishers and fire blankets: At least 1 fire extinguisher of the correct type should be provided on every floor, and checked regularly. At least 1 fire blanket should be provided in each shared kitchen.
- An escape route that can resist fire, smoke and fumes long enough for everyone to leave. This could be an external fire escape, or specially treated fire resistant internal stairs and corridors. All doors leading to the escape route must be also be fire resistant and must close automatically.
The Landlord must provide his/her telephone number in ‘common places' throughout the accommodation. For further information visit www.direct.gov.uk