Should your rented home have to pass an ‘MOT’?



The government has been urged recently to introduce safety tests on rented homes like a car MOT in a bid to eradicate poor quality, potentially dangerous rented accommodation? What do two local estate agents, who sell rented properties and who are members of the NDAEA, think?

Ken Shipman, Shipmans. Pic:

Ken Shipman, Shipmans. Pic:

Ken Shipman, Shipmans:

If a property is rented out with a professional letting agent, it will get checked on a regular basis,'

John Feltham, William H Brown. Pic:

John Feltham, William H Brown. Pic:

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On the surface it would seem a good idea to have an annual test on a property and it's a bit of a headline getter, the idea that rented homes should pass MOT-style tests to make sure they are fit to live in.

In reality, if a property is rented out with a professional letting agent it will get checked on a regular basis. If the property has gas there will be an annual safety certificate issued which is a legal requirement. Government is now thinking of making electrical safety certificates mandatory like gas certificates, at present there is only a duty of care to have the electrics checked, although certain types of lettings now do require a safety certificate which is a step forward. Its normal to have an oil boiler serviced every year and if there is an open fire or wood burner it is usual to have a HETAS certificate. In addition, rental properties will be inspected by the agent during the course of the year and consequently any faults will come to light then. It is already the aim of most landlords and letting agents to provide a safe and pleasant home for their tenants at an affordable rent, another layer of regulation and bureaucracy is not required.

John Feltham, William H Brown:

'If something like this was introduced nationally, this will no doubt add significant additonal costs,'

Currently it is a landlord's responsibility to ensure that their property is let in a suitable condition and there is plenty of legislation in place which a landlord must adhere to. Although all legislation must always be considered it does depend on the type of property, what is being included and how the property is heated. Essentially the basic certification required to let a property is to gain a valid landlord gas safety certificate every year and have a valid EPC with a rating of an A to E (currently valid for 10 years).

If a tenant experiences a problem with their property they can refer this to their local council who could then choose to inspect the property using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) which was introduced in the Housing Act 2004. The system provides a method of grading the severity of threats to health and safety in a dwelling, working on the assumption that a dwelling should provide a safe and healthy environment. If there is an issue then the council can enforce works on a landlord and fine them.

On the 1st October a big step forwards in creating safer housing comes into force with the introduction of mandatory licencing for all HMOs with five or more sharers over any number of floors and the introduction of minimum room sizes. What this means to many landlords is that they need to bring their property up to certain standard before applying for a licence. Therefore it is a type of self certification as opposed to an actual inspection and requires a landlord to have all the relevant certificates and information in place to be able to complete the forms. For landlords who fall under Norwich City Council this means applying online with the cost of this set at £140 for a 1 year licence. This is a great step forwards to increasing the safety and size of accommodation on offer but does not monitor the condition.

Wading through all of the legislation available can be confusing and can make it difficult for a landlord to understand what is actually required so there is definitely an argument for some sort of 'MOT' prior to a tenancy being able to start. If something like this was introduced nationally this will no doubt add significant additional costs, so if this the way forwards? A good reputable letting agent who is affiliated with the main industry bodies such as ARLA should already be able to guide you through the process and advise on improvements necessary before a property is let out. William h Brown completes a checklist on every new rental appraisal for free to ensure that a property is fit to let out and advises landlords of all of the relevant legislation.

The NDAEA is the Norwich & District Association of Estate Agents and you can read more in today's EDP Homes supplement.

What do you think?