Survey highlights safety failings in rental sector

Survey highlights safety failings in rental sector

Following a nationwide survey this summer, AXA Business Insurance has revealed the biggest concerns of the UK’s 8.3 million residential tenants. 

AXA warns of poor risk awareness among landlords, but challenges the popular image of a hostile tenant-landlord relationship.

It claims that tenants are most concerned about high energy bills as a result of poorly insulated properties and old heating systems.
The survey also says that gaps in essential repairs put tenants and landlords at risk: it says only 30% of landlords carry out the annual gas inspection required by law and 58% do not have a fire alarm fitted, among other safety failings.

The improvement to their current rental demanded by most tenants was better energy efficiency (through insulation, newer boilers, double-glazing, green technologies, etc.). This concern is unsurprising given government estimates that one in five tenants live in fuel poverty.

Tenants are not the only ones concerned about poor energy arrangements in rental properties: the government is also looking to introduce new energy legislation for landlords.

For instance, by April 2016, landlords will be obliged to introduce any ‘reasonable’ energy efficiency measure (like insulation, double-glazing, etc.) that a tenant requests. Meanwhile, by 2018, it will be an offence to let a property in the lowest energy efficiency categories (F and G), which currently applies to one in ten rentals on the market.

After poor energy performance, tenants’ top complaint was that their landlords do not pay enough attention to routine maintenance. 17% even said that their landlords had outright refused to carry out essential repairs when requested.

More worrying was the number of tenants who reported that the most basic safety features were absent from the properties. Key findings include:

• 60% of rental properties have no carbon monoxide alarm fitted.
• Only 30% of tenants said their landlord arranged an annual gas inspection, despite it being a legal requirement.
• 58% of rental properties do not have a fire alarm fitted.
• 73% of properties do not have locks on all external windows and doors; one in five tenants said that this was their number one security wish.

While the survey highlighted key areas of dissatisfaction among tenants, it did go some way to dispel the media image of a hostile landlord-tenant relationship.

Half of tenants had a high opinion of their landlord as an individual: given a list of options, 29% said he/she was ‘helpful’, and a further 20% described their landlord as ‘trustworthy’. Meanwhile, a minority – 13% – described their landlord as ‘greedy’, and 4% said he /she was ‘ruthless’.

Darrell Sansom, managing director at AXA Business Insurance, said:  “It’s easy to present modern Britain as a world of greedy landlords on the one side and resentful tenants on the other – that’s certainly been the stereotype. However, we’ve found that their attitude to their landlords is largely positive, indicating that the problems aren’t caused so much by a bad attitude on either side, but just poor awareness of who is responsible for what.

“There are simple things landlords need to do to comply with the law and ensure decent safety standards for their tenants. Keeping an eye on your property must come first: we know that a third of landlords never visit their rental properties after a tenant moves in, and quarterly checks are only conducted by 17%.

“Too many landlords are leaving themselves open to serious property risks, and even prosecution, by not maintaining adequate fire and gas safety measures. Arranging annual gas inspections and ensuring tenants aren’t at risk of fires from old wiring are one part of the picture. Landlords are also going to face increased pressure from government to update their heating and energy systems in order to keep tenants’ bills down.”