This article will tell you about gas, electricity and fire safety within private houses and flats.

It is important to know what is expected from your landlord and yourselves, when viewing a property and during your tenancy to avoid danger.

Electrical safety in private housing

The landlord is responsible for maintaining the installation for electricity supply, including electrical sockets and wiring.

Accidents with electricity are rare, but it is important that you check for the following:

  • check flexes and cables – look out for wear, damage and loose connections
  • overloading of sockets – ideally there should be one socket for each appliance
  • check all electrical appliances are in good working order, and where possible PAT tested
  • ask the landlord if the electrics have been tested recently

Danger signs include:

  • switches that give off sparks
  • plugs that heat up
  • frayed installations

If it becomes necessary for you to change a fuse in an electrical appliance, always make sure that you use the correct amp.

For further information regarding electrical safety, view the Health and Safety Executive website or contact your electricity supplier.

Gas safety in private housing

The landlord has a legal responsibility to ensure that all gas appliances they own in a rented property are maintained in good order and are checked for safety by a registered Gas Safe engineer at least every 12 months.

When viewing a property, it is important to check that the appliances have been inspected and that the landlord provides you with a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate. Landlords are required by law to keep a copy of the safety record and show this to tenants upon request.

Tenants should be issued a copy of it before, or when, they take up residence.

An existing tenant should expect to receive a copy of a new certificate within 28 days of issue.

If you have not seen a copy of the gas safety certificate

Ask your landlord to provide you with a copy. He/she should do this within 28 days of the check being carried out.

You must ensure that the details provided are correct, the correct number of appliances have been tested, all appliances are safe for use, the certificate is current (certificates are valid for a year from the date of testing).

Ensure that the inspection has been conducted by a Gas Safe Engineer. The engineer who carried out the check’s name, registration and signature must be on the Gas Safety Certificate. 

If you are unsure if the engineer is registered, you can contact the Gas Safe Register on www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk or call 0800 408 5500 (the Gas Safe Register replaced CORGI gas register on 1 April 2009).

If your landlord fails to provide you with a certificate or you think your landlord isn’t gas safe

Write to your landlord requesting a copy of the current certificate, stating that you wish to receive it within seven to ten days from the date of the letter.

If all attempts fail

Call the Health and Safety Executive gas safety advice line on 0845 3400 363.

Failure to follow gas safety requirements is a criminal offence and the HSE can issue a formal caution and may prosecute your landlord.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by faulty or badly installed gas appliances. Excess carbon monoxide is produced when gas does not burn properly. This is toxic and can kill quickly with no warning. It is tasteless, invisible and odourless, making detection difficult.

Six main signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • breathlessness
  • collapsing
  • loss of consciousness

If these disappear or become less noticeable when away from the house, then this could be a sign that carbon monoxide may be present in your student house. Poisoning can arise as a result of several factors including:

  • poor appliance installation
  • blocked chimney/flue
  • inadequate fresh air in the room
  • poor servicing/infrequent safety checks
  • defective performance of the appliance

There are a number of steps that you can take to reduce the risk of poisoning:

  • If you think that the appliance is not working properly, for example if you see soot stains around the appliance or orange/yellow flames, or if the pilot light keeps going out, do not use the appliance.
  • Do not cover an appliance or its vents, grilles or air bricks.
  • Do not cover outside flues.
  • Turn it off and let your landlord know immediately if there is a problem or if you are worried that a gas appliance is unsafe.
  • Make sure the landlord has shown you how to turn off the gas supply.
  • If you suspect a gas leak, stop using the appliance immediately. Turn off the gas supply, ventilate the room and contact The National Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111999. Do not operate any electrical items or lights.

Fire safety in private housing

Make sure that smoke detectors are fitted and in working order. Try and test them when viewing and regularly when in the property. All furniture and furnishings supplied by a landlord, whether old or new, should comply with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. All furniture, whether secondhand or new, should have an appropriate label. Check to see that the furniture provided displays a fire safety label. If it does not comply with these regulations, demand that the landlord replaces the furniture. Furniture produced prior to 1950 is exempt from the regulations.

Articles covered by the regulations are:

  • beds, headboards and mattresses
  • sofa-beds, futons and other convertibles
  • nursery furniture
  • garden furniture which is suitable for use inside
  • scatter cushions and seat pads
  • pillows
  • loose and stretch covers for furniture

The regulations do not apply to:

  • bed clothes (including duvets)
  • loose covers for mattresses
  • pillowcases
  • curtains
  • carpets
  • sleeping bags

There are two types of labels: permanent and display labels. Furnishings purchased after 1 March 1990 should have attached labels.

Means of escape

When viewing properties, it is important you ensure there is adequate means of escape from a fire. You must ensure the landlord provides keys for all lockable windows, doors and any access to means of escape are clear. You should look whether there is a fire door to the kitchen and the lounge, particularly in properties above businesses such as restaurants. Contact Portsmouth City Council who can give you further details on means of escape.

If you have any doubts about fire safety visit the Government website or the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service website.


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