Clarification of Grey areas in current Rental Property Legislation

I have had some very interesting and fruitful conversations with Newcastle City Council recently.  Following some discussions regarding recent legislation we had discovered some potential “GREY AREAS” that needed clarifying, as they could have severe repercussions for non-compliance.

Our main concern was regarding the recent Carbon Monoxide (CO2) regulations which states that, a Carbon Monoxide detector must be present in any property that has solid fuel heating.

Where we identified a “grey area” was that (in particular), there are many thousands of “Tyneside” flats in the Newcastle area that have open fireplaces. These fire-places are 99% aesthetic as the properties all have gas central heating and our tenancy agreements clearly state that tenants or guests are not allowed to use the fireplace without the written permission of the landlord.  However, in principle these fire-places could still be used as they have not been blocked off.  We suggested that in addition the landlords could put a notice in the property in addition for want of a better expression, to provide “Belt and Braces” approach.

The council thought that was a good idea, however they also confirmed that;

“If the fireplace was not capped off (So potentially despite notices tenants could still start a fire), that the council would expect a carbon monoxide detector to be present, as that is the legal requirement.”

So please be aware that if you have such a fireplace that it needs either to be blocked off or you do need a Carbon monoxide detector fitted otherwise you could be fined for non-compliance.  Please note that is based on the fact that no one has actually used the fireplace. If you have an incident resulting from the fact that there was no detector there then the fines we were informed, would be considerably greater!  So please act now and be pro-active to avoid any potential incidents and / or, financial penalties.

The second query we had was regarding an article on HMO’s on the council website

“HMO Licensing guide for Landlords August 2018”

On page 19 12.3.2 it says;

“Demand references from persons who wish to occupy the house before entering into a tenancy. The reference must be kept for the duration of the licence” i.e. Not just the let.

We are still waiting for final clarification on this, but we are led to believe based on our conversations that this is a legal requirement for HMO’s so please be aware that this is the case. The consensus currently is that the referencing refers more to the character and previous conduct of the tenants and we are just waiting to see if there is a financial element to this as well as it could be argued that if the tenants do not have the ability to pay, that they could be suffering stress as a result.  We will keep you in the picture.  If you would like to discuss this matter or require any help in renting your property(s) then please call me at our head office (Mondays and Fridays) in Jesmond on 0191 212 2020 or at our Durham Office (Tuesdays Wednesdays and Thursdays) on 0191 212 6970