Landlord requirements

Equal opportunities

Please note that the University is committed to the promotion of equal opportunities for all staff, students and applicants. This policy extends to accommodation offered to students from the student accommodation database, and therefore you are required not to discriminate against any groups or individual, either directly or indirectly on the grounds of gender, race, colour, disability, religion, age, occupation, marital status or sexual orientation. 

Safety requirements for approved accommodation

We are looking for safe, suitable and most importantly, well-managed houses for students. The accommodation must have the correct number of rooms and facilities for the number of students intended for the property, be in a good state of repair and be free from damp. We require that you sign and support our landlord’s guidelines which provides recommendations for student-friendly management.

There will be an inspection of each property - with you - prior to registration on the Plymouth University database of approved accommodation which will cover all safety and management issues. Please note that property will not be offered until all the safety requirements are in place.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has produced some information on the new Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) as introduced in the Housing Act 2004. This can be found on gov.uk.

Since 1 November 1995 the law requires all gas installations and appliances to be checked once a year by a gas safe engineer (find more information on the Gas Safety Register website). Fines for being unable to provide your tenants with a current Gas Safety Certificate (GSC) are up to £5,000 in the Magistrates’ Court and unlimited in the Crown Court. A gas service contract is not sufficient. You must send in a copy of your certificate for the property when you send your application for registration.

We do not knowingly advertise any property where we have not received a copy of the current Gas Safety Certificate.

If you are registered with us we require you to send us updated certificates following issue, and ensure every tenant has a copy, or one is adequately displayed in the property. May we remind you that the law requires that these run concurrently and are kept for two years.

In any bedroom containing a boiler or gas appliance a mains wired carbon monoxide alarm will be required.

If you need further advice ring the Health and Safety Executive, HSE Gas Advice Line on +44(0)800 300363 or go to the HSE website.  

Electrical safety

It is a requirement that for all new properties wishing to register with us, an electrical installation certificate is provided.

As a person hiring out electrical goods in the course of business (letting a property is a business), you must supply goods which meet the essential safety requirements, are in good condition and comply with the latest British standards. It is advisable to have all electrical appliances checked on a regular basis by a qualified electrician, and obtain documentation to confirm that this has been done. This is called Portable Appliance Testing (PAT).

In all bathrooms and shower rooms we require an enclosed light fitting to a minimum IP44 waterproof rating.

All electrical appliances such as fridges and washing machines need to be behind the fire door of the kitchen and not in corridors or under staircases. 

Regulations governing work to an electrical installation

Since 1 January 2005, any work on an electrical installation, not part of an existing circuit or within a wet area such as the kitchen, bathroom or on an external circuit, must be carried out by a government approved electrician. Alternatively, the local building authority should be notified before the work is carried out, an appropriate fee paid and on completion the work can then be certified.

The installation of mains linked smoke alarms to a new circuit, and not as part of an existing lighting circuit, would fall under these new rules and should be carried out by a government approved electrician, for example NICEIC approved.

For further advice please ring the Plymouth Trading Standards Office on +441752 304141 or visit the Trading Standards website.

Please note, you have a responsibility to maintain the supply of electricity to the common areas in all types of houses in multiple occupation (HMO). The use of key or card meters in such circumstances is not considered appropriate. 

With regard to electrical sockets, we expect to see the minimum of three double sockets per letting bedroom.

Fire precautions

Encompassed within the Housing Act 2004 is the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). This legislation covers all property available for letting and includes accommodation located on two storeys. The Student Accommodation Office will be happy to advise you of these requirements and may, if appropriate, refer an individual property to the Private Rented Team for their input.

Within all properties there should be provision of adequate means of escape in the case of fire. Escape routes should be free from obstruction and potential causes of fire, including electrical appliances such as freezers.

  • Mains linked smoke alarms with battery back-up should be installed, as a minimum in the corridor on each level, with a heat detector in the kitchen.
  • For all three storey properties, not just those subject to a HMO licence, there needs to be a smoke detector or sounder in every room on the top floor.
  • There should be a fire blanket in the kitchen located away from the cooker.
  • There should be a 2 kg dry powder fire extinguisher, wall mounted on each level in the main hallway.
Under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, fire is one of the hazards, and therefore Plymouth City Council state that there should be reasonable precautions in place to ensure the safety of the tenants. This would include a substantial door or fire door to the main kitchen area, which would effectively separate this area from the main ‘means of escape’ which would be the stairwell. We ask for a fire door to be fitted in all properties, but will accept a substantial door if the property is let to five or fewer tenants.

It is important that there is an alternative means of escape from a room where access is through a room of higher fire risk, for example where a bathroom is off the kitchen. A tilt and turn window of suitable size would be acceptable for a ground floor room in this location.

Properties with more than two storeys or housing larger numbers of students will be referred to the Private Rented Team at Plymouth City Council prior to registration as there may be additional safety requirements. Properties are assessed individually but the requirements may include hard-wired fire detection and emergency lighting, manual call points and fire doors.

For further advice please email the Plymouth City Council Private Rented Team or Telephone +441752 307079.   

Furniture

All student bedrooms will require a bed, wardrobe, chest of drawers and study desk with chair.

Communal space is important within a property and we look for lounge areas with enough comfortable seats for all of the occupants to sit together at the same time.

Many students prefer to bring their own cutlery, cups, plates and pans as we do not provide this in halls and we therefore do not expect it to be provided in private accommodation.

With effect from 1 January 1997, all upholstered furniture must comply with regulations covering flammability. Furniture that complies will carry a permanent label with the statement “CARELESSNESS CAUSES FIRE” and details of the manufacturer. All furniture bought new or second hand from a shop should now comply. Mattresses may not have the same label. Upholstered bed heads, upholstered dining room chairs etc., all come under the legislation.

If you need further advice contact the Plymouth Trading Standards Office on +441752 304141 or visit the Trading Standards website.

Plymouth Trading Standards have created a leaflet entitled Furnished accommodation and the safety of the furniture and other items provided which may be of interest.

Security

Locks with thumb turn operation should be fitted to front and back doors to enable occupants to easily exit without the need for a key and locks should be provided on ground floor and other high-risk windows. Louvered windows on the ground floor should be replaced with another style of glazing or the individual slats glued into place.

Locks should be fitted to bedroom doors and we advise that you install thumb turn locks that can be opened without a key from inside the room (roller bolt night latches are suitable for this purpose).

All bedrooms require natural ventilation and a means of getting fresh air without compromising security is required. If the room only has French doors, an opening window above these will be required.

For further advice please contact Plymouth City Council Private Rented Team or call +441752 307079.

Glazing

BS 6262: Part 4: Code of Practice for Glazing for Builders requires certain types of glass to be installed in 'critical locations' and we may recommend other glass panels to be protected with film, to prevent broken glass from shattering on to the floor. 

Environmental health

To comply with Environmental Health Regulations there must be at least one set of kitchen facilities for every five students. There must be two separate dishwashing facilities where there are six or more students sharing a kitchen. There must also be one bath/shower room and separately located WC for every five students.

Houses not complying with this may be removed from the database.

Separately located WC’s must have their own wash hand basin. Flooring in bathrooms and WC’s must be readily cleansable and carpet should not be used.

Background heating should be provided and most properties are now offered with gas central heating and double-glazing.

Minimum bathroom and toilet requirements:
1-4 people - one bathroom, one WC can be combined​
5 people - one bathroom and one separate WC with wash hand basin
6-8 people - two bathrooms and two WCs (separate WC not essential)
9-10 people - two bathrooms and two WCs (one WC must be separate)
11-12 people - three bathrooms and three WCs (separate WC not essential)
13-15 people - three bathrooms and three WCs (one WC must be separate)

HMO licensing

HMO (houses in multiple occupation) are defined as a building (or part of a building, such as a flat) that is occupied by more than one household and more than two persons.

The Housing Act 2004 introduced mandatory licensing for certain HMO properties where the property has three storeys or more, and houses five or more tenants. This legislation became effective from 06 April 2006.

Does your property need to be licensed under the Housing Act 2004?

Plymouth City Council has issued guidance on what they consider to be a licensable HMO. For further information please see the Plymouth City Council website.

Operating an unlicensed HMO, or allowing a HMO to be occupied by more persons than a licence allows, could incur a fine of up to £20,000. Breaching a licence condition or supplying incorrect information could incur a fine of up to £5,000. In addition, if you operate an unlicensed HMO you can be made the subject of a Rent Repayment Order (RPO) by a Residential Property tribunal. This would require the repayment of rent received by you over a period of up to 12 months.

Plymouth City Council are able to offer definitive advice on this issue and we recommend that if you have a property housing five or more students on three or more floors you should read the information they provide. We have added links to the leaflets that Plymouth City Council have produced on our useful links page. Alternatively, email their Private Rented Team or telephone them on +441752 307079 as soon as possible for advice.

Technically, properties do not need to be licensed whilst empty. However, as soon as a tenant moves in, it would be an offence for the property not to be licensed.

The website of the Department for Communities and Local Government has detailed information on the Housing Act 2004. Please visit their website. The information can be found under ‘Housing’. 

Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP)

The Housing Act 2004 required the government to introduce mandatory Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) for all deposits taken on assured short-hold tenancies in England and Wales. The implementation of the scheme was effective from 6th April 2007 and will be valid for all new tenancy agreements from this date.

There are two main aims:

  • To ensure good practice in deposit handling, so that when a tenant pays a deposit, and is entitled to get it back, they can be assured that this will happen.
  • To assist with the resolution of disputes, each scheme will have an Alternative Dispute Resolution service (ADR). This will encourage tenants and landlords to incorporate best practice methods of, for example, agreeing on the condition of the property and using inventories.
In summary:

  • If you take deposits, you will be required to join a statutory tenancy deposit scheme.
  • These deposits are then safeguarded.
  • Tenants will get back all the deposit that they are entitled to.
  • Each scheme offers ways of resolving disputes which aims to be faster and cheaper than taking court action.

Find out more information on the government services website

You will be able to choose between two types of scheme: a custodial scheme and (two) insurance-based schemes.

Please note – you must secure a tenant’s deposit within 30 days of receiving it.

If you have any queries regarding the letting of your property, please do not hesitate to contact the office.