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Health and Safety Guidance for Landlords and Letting Agents:

Risk Assessments for Landlords and Letting Agents

    A Landlord's health and safety obligations are extensive and exist under a number of different statutes and regulations. Where a Letting Agent has been appointed, a Letting Agent may also be responsible for health and safety and it is important that any agreement between Landlords and Letting Agents makes specific reference to those responsibilities and who is going to do what.

    The primary pieces of legislation are the Occupiers Liability Acts, the Consumer Protection Act, the Regulatory Reform Act and the Health & Safety at Work Act. Various specific Orders and Regulations have been issued pursuant to each and have direct bearing on a landlord's responsibility for health and safety where premises are occupied by tenants, where trespassers enter onto premises and where premises are places of work.


    The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSW Act) imposes legal obligations which amount to criminal offences. Mostly they apply to businesses that have employees but "employees" is very widely interpretted for health and safey purposes and may include subcontractors and the self-employed in certain circumstances

    See our Guides for a definition of employee and employer.

    Section 2 of the HSW Act requires employers to provide and maintain plant and equipment, a place of work and systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. Landlords who engage the services of electricians, cleaners, plumbers and like may well find themselves liable under this section.

    Section 3 of the HSW Act requires all employers and all self employed individuals (whether they have employees or not) to conduct their undertakings in such a way that, so far as is reasonably practicable, people who are not employees  but who may be affected by the business (for example tenants, their guests, tradesmen and visitors), are not exposed to health and safety risks.

    In addition, people in control of non-domestic premises (that is, any premises used for business) have a duty (under section 4 of the HSW Act) towards people who are not their employees but who use their premises. Domestic dwellings are not covered by this provision but the common areas of a building divided into residential flats are covered. So are areas such as lifts which are provided for common use. Landlords are therefor liable under this clause for the safety of tradesmen called in to repair those areas and for the safety of anyone who might be using those areas.

    Remember, the Health and Safety at Work Act creates criminal offences. Breaches of the Act can result in unlimited fines and imprisonment.

    Remember also that the Health and Safety at Work Act imposes duties on everyone involved in the business, including managers and agents. They too can be found to be personally liable and in the dock alongside the owner of the business.  See our Guide for Managers for more details on the position of managers who are not owners. The same applies to letting agents who themselves breach safety regulations or who connive in breaches of health and safety regulations by landlords.

    In order to meet your obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act, Landlords and Letting Agents must conduct risk assessments and you must have a health and safety policy that sets out the organisation and arrangements necessary to ensure the safety of your employees and those likely to be affected by your operations. See our guide to minimum requirements for all employers. If you have more than five employees, all of this must be written down.

    In addition you must make the premises safe, so far as is reasonably practicable.

    Everyone has a legal duty to ensure that their acts or omissions do not cause injury or damage to third parties to whom they owe a duty of care. You owe a duty of care to anyone whom it is reasonably foreseeable could be injured by your actions or by your failure to act. Landlords therefor owe a duty of care to their tenants, anyone who enters onto their property with their explicit or implicit permission, such as tenants or guests of tenants, and even to trespassers. The obligation also extends to tradesmen on the premises.

    Where the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires you to do all that is "reasonably practicable", the common law of negligence applies a slighly different test. It requires you to do what is "reasonable" to keep people safe from the consequences of your acts of omissions.

    Letting agents have exactly the same level of care in relation to their actions and omissions and the contract between the Letting Agent and the Landlord would not change that. Both remain liable for their own actions or omissions.

    The Occupiers Liability Act 1957 translates the common law of negligence as it applies to premises into statutory obligations. The Occupiers Liability Act 1957 sets out the duty of care to those on your premises with permission (express or implied) and the Occupiers Liability Act 1984 extends the obligation - to a slighly lesser extent - to trespassers.

    An occupier of premises has the duty to do all that is reasonable to ensure that all visitors to the premises will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purpose for which they are invited or permitted to be there. The duty applies to tenants, their guests, tradesmen, visitors and all those legitimately on the premises. The obligation is to make the visitor safe, not the premises, the difference being a fine but important distinction.

    The Acts define "Occupier" by reference to control and it is possible that more than one person is the Occupier - for example, in different parts of the premises or for different purposes. A landlord with a tenant can still be an occupier for this purpose.

    A failure to comply with the Acts is not a criminal offence but it can lead to a cause of action by any individual who is injured or who suffers financial damage. This would include financial damage as a result of a fire on the premises spreading to other premises.

    The Consumer Protection Act creates a right to statutory damages caused by defective products. All kinds of goods are included in the definition of product and the duty extends to anyone who manufactures or supplies it.

    "Supply" includes hiring out or lending or providing for any consideration other than for money. This would include providing any goods as part of a tenancy agreement.

    Electrical and gas supplies are also included. Both must be safe.

    As with the Health and Safety at Work Act, the Consumer Protection Act creates criminal offences.

    In addition, the Act requires landlord's to provide information and instructions on how to use the goods which, if not provided, can also amount to a criminal offence.

    A secondary function of the Act was to enable the Secretary of State to issue Regulations requiring that specific product safey standards are met in relation to individual products. The well-publicised Gas Safety Regulations are an example.

    Many such Regulations have been enacted and failure to comply with the Regulations is also a criminal offence.

    The Housing Act 2004 imposes safety and licensing requirements on houses in multiple occupation with Local Authorities given the power to enforce it.

    Failure to hold an HMO license can result in fines of up to £20,000.

    Failure to comply with any improvement or prohibition notices served by the Local Authority is also a criminal offence.

    The Housing Act specifies two categories of safety issues that together comprise a broad range of safety issues that must be taken into account in any situation giving rise to a multiple occupation.

    The Fire Safety Order imposes obligations on the responsible person to conduct a fire risk assessment of all commercial premises and to ensure that there are adequate systems and procedures in place to prevent injury through fire.

    Landlords will be considered to be "responsible persons" for this purpose in a great many instances and so may the Letting Agent.

    The Fire Safety Order applies to commercial premises. Common areas of residential premises are commercial premises for this purpose.

    The responsibility can only be discharged fully by conducting a fire risk assesment, carrying out the recommendations in it and reviewing the risk assessment at least once per annum or whenever circumstances change.

    Failure to comply with the Fire Safety Order is a criminal offence.

    The law does not expect you to eliminate all risk, but you are required to protect people as far as is "reasonably practicable" under the Health and Safety at Work Act and to do all that is reasonable to keep people reasonably safe under the other provisions referred to.   The only way you can know if you are meeting this standard is to assess the risks by conducting a risk assessment and then to put into place a plan to control any hazards. 

    When thinking about your risk assessment the two important things to remember are:

    Hazard – a hazard is anything that may cause harm, such as chemicals, electricity, working from ladders, an open drawer etc;

    Risk – a risk is the chance, high or low, that somebody could be harmed by theses and other hazards, together with an indication of how serious the harm could be.

    What is a Risk Assessment?

    You must conduct an assessment of the first aid needs of your employees.  You are not obliged to provide first aid for your guests or tenants but if you are providing holiday accommodation you may wish to consider them when conducting your assessment.

    Requirements for First Aid in the Work Place

    You will be required to report certain accidents, including certain accidents involving your tenants under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR).


    The above list is not exhaustive. In particular, you should also consider the water supply.

    Those providing self caterting or tourist accommodation should refer to our tourism pages and bear in mind any regulations relating to the provision of caravans or mobile homes and the very extensive regulations governing catering.

    Help is available from your local authority and we will be happy to help you. Email us with your queries for a free quote.

We will be happy to help you conduct a full risk assessment of your business: Email the We'll Do It For You Team.

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