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Does the tenant type increase my insurance premium?

When dealing with your insurance it is important to let your insurance provider know the tenant type. It is very different with landlords if you have tenants that may be on either housing benefit or unemployed i.e. on universal credit.

You are no doubt aware that the Government has changed payments of housing benefit to universal credit. The whole idea of universal credit is to give tenants the responsibility to pay their own rent. If you are thus receiving money directly from the local authority you will find that this will be swopped over to universal credit and this could affect you. For instance housing benefit rules state that when the tenant goes more than 8 weeks in arrears they will no longer be agreed and you would thus need to ensure what your tenants will be doing in respect of payments and how they will be dealing with it. It would be in your favour with your insurance company because it could reduce your insurance premium if they are now paying you directly.

When you are looking to cover your property to let. Any insurance company will need to know that the premises are being used correctly under the policy that you are taking out. This includes the type of tenant who you intend to let the property to.

This is key to understanding that landlord insurance for housing benefit tenants or the unemployed is a specialist cover.

You will find that people who are on housing benefit or in receipt of universal credit are perceived by insurance companies to be higher risk. Thus they have a tendency to impose specific exclusions of letting out to these tenants.

Their argument is that where tenants are in receipt of housing or unemployment benefit they make less reliable and more troublesome tenants. They may not provide a deposit, against breakages or damages. Not all tenants arrange for their housing benefit to be paid direct from the local authority to the landlord. The benefits are also paid in arrears so sometimes it can be a problem with paying their rent. You might think it is unfair for many insurers to tar all tenants with the same brush. But this may not always be the case as often every insurance company has different criteria.

For instance, one of our provider’s only criteria is in relation to the tenancy agreement and with whom the rent is paid by. For instance if the tenancy agreement is direct with the tenants and they make payment direct to the landlord then there would not be any loading or additional premium with respect to the property. You find that some insurance companies may require references or credit checks but this is not always the case. Credit checks are now such a nature that they are almost no longer carried out within the industry because nobody can give a bad reference and credit is easily obtainable to people so credit checks don’t always give a true reflection of the tenants’ situation.

Other insurance companies may load the premium in the event that there isn’t a direct tenancy agreement with the landlord. These may come under Housing Association and/or asylum seekers, we will come on to this later.

Where the tenant is receiving local or central Government housing benefit allowance etc they must meet the following criteria:-

(a) Tenancies are arranged on an assured shorthold or shorthold tenancy agreement directly with the property owner

(b) Tenancies are for a minimum of six months or more

(c) Vetting checks are carried out before the tenant occupies and are held on file

(d) The property does not consider the tenants referred from Housing Associations

(e) The landlord has full control over who occupies the property

(f) Subletting is not permitted

(g) The risk is not an HMO as defined by the specific insurance company. If it is then this particular insurance company may add an additional loading.

What you need to know when insuring a property that has housing benefit tenants in

When you are looking to let out a property that has housing benefit or unemployed tenants there are several factors you need to keep in mind:-

1. What is your likely target market and is it likely they include tenants that may be unemployed or in receipt of benefits?

2. Have you conducted normal background checks before granting the tenancy?

3. Does the landlord insurance you have impose any restrictions?

4. Are you arranging sufficient buildings and contents cover to cover all of this risk?

5. Have you arranged adequate landlord liability insurance?

We are able to insure your property on any form of occupancy and especially housing benefit tenants. We are a specialist in this market and are able to insure them for you.

Asylum seekers – do I need specialist landlord insurance?

Yes, where you are a landlord there may be occasions where you are offered asylum seeker tenants. They are normally on a short term basis although they can be long term.

You will find that almost all insurance companies won’t cover this type of insurance.

Many private landlords like to help the refugee crisis and provide housing for asylum seekers and refugees and assist the Government in reaching a target of 20,000 Syrians being resettled by 2020. Obviously one of the biggest obstacles, however, is actually insuring them. Many insurance companies do not provide cover for asylum seekers but we can provide you with that type of cover quite easily. We are specialists in this market and are able where many others are not to provide a full insurance cover for your property.

What is the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee?

Asylum seekers arrive in the United Kingdom and submit an asylum application granting them the legal right to remain in the country whilst awaiting a decision. Did you know for instance in 2015 less than half of those submitting an application were granted asylum in the United Kingdom? The Home office is responsible for accommodating and supporting asylum seekers where an application is being processed. This is known as the national asylum seeker’s support service.

A refugee is somebody who has had their asylum accepted by the Government granting them long term or indefinite stay in the United Kingdom after having proven that they would be at risk if they were to return to their home country. Refugees are entitled under both the United Kingdom and international law to bring their families to join them in the United Kingdom.

Not all asylum seekers are granted the right to stay. Sometimes they are denied protection by authorities. Due to the inability to prove that they would face persecution if they returned to their home country they are then considered to be refused asylum. They have to leave the United Kingdom unless they can show a reason to postpone their return or appealing the decision.

These are not illegal immigrants as obtaining refugee status can often be lengthy and a complex process.

We have specialist insurance companies that deal with this type of insurance as it is not standard. It is known as a nonstandard term and there will be loading in this regard. Yet, due to the markets that we have, we are able to provide a full cover for asylum seekers to include accidental damage. This is rare and we have specific providers who are able to do this.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss what you would like to cover and how

Why not contact us on 01273 827090 to discuss your insurance.

Do Landlords Associations save money on insurance?

Whilst we agree that Landlords Associations do a great job in certain areas, we are not sure that insurance is one of them.

 

What is the cost of joining a Landlords Association?

There is no average as such on joining a Landlords Association but they normally start around the £80.00 mark per annum and upwards.  They often advertise that they can save you money on suppliers etc. but in such a competitive market we don’t necessarily believe that this is the case and it is definitely not on insurance. They are supposed to be an independent body that help you to reduce your costs but we have examples on a regular basis of where we have done quotes for clients who have their renewals through a Landlords Association and they are not cheaper.  We shall explain this later.

 

Will the cost for the landlord Association increase?

Now that the RLA (Residential Landlords Association) and NLA (National Landlords Association) are merging there is a serious doubt on whether they will be able to sustain their current module and their costs will only increase.

By merging together there will be some cost savings but overall it is more than likely that the cost over a period of time will start to go up.

 

Are they truly independent?

Yes of course they are an independent body, but this is only to a point.  For instance, on services and suppliers you will find that they use their own people and there is no guarantee that these are actually cheaper.  They will receive a commission as most will from their insurance which obviously helps the Association itself but does that mean that you are getting the best reasonable deal as well as the correct cover.  They have standard policies as most Landlords Associations do and this might not necessarily cover exactly what you want on your individual case.  We have policies that we can individually design for clients to include their own special circumstances as well as being substantially cheaper with more cover.

A good example in relation to one area is accidental damage. This is not in the standard policy with the NLA and therefore as such you have to take out a higher policy to have it covered. The NLA state that members save 30% on a standard policy and 15% superior policies but are they as cheap from day one?

We enclose some examples of clients that have saved substantially through ourselves so are they truly independent and worthwhile?

 

Example A

Block of 29 leasehold flats

Extremely high level of cover

Managing Agents premium = £26,198

iInsure365 premium = £19,321

Total saving for our client: £6,877 with the same level of cover!

 

Example B

Block of 9 leasehold flats

Managing Agents premium = £5814

iInsure365 premium = £3106

Total saving for our client: £2708

 

Example C

Portfolio of 10 properties

Landlord Association’s premium = £3,294

iInsure365 premium = £2,584

Total saving for our client: £710

 

Example D

2-bedroom Mid terrace house

Current insurers premium = £360

iInsure365 premium = £275

Total saving for our client: £85

 

Example E

£10,000 tenant contents only

Letting Agents premium = £240

iInsure365 premium = £104

Total saving for our client: £136

 

Surely if they were truly independent and giving the best possible price, they would have two or three supplier i.e. be able to go to the market as we would.

 

Do they not provide us with news?

Yes of course they provide you with a lot of information that is exceptionally helpful.  They will keep you up to date with the new laws which can be changed on a regular basis.  Did you know that the letting industry has had 127 law changes in the last five years?  However, we supply a huge amount of news doing at least a minimum of two articles every week through our news section of our website.  We also provide a monthly newsletter giving you access to more articles on up to date law and any changes that may take place.  The articles are written by the Managing Director Mark Harrington who has in excess of 25 years through the Law, Property and Lettings Industry. His knowledge is wide ranging and we are able to provide high content news information for you.

 

Should I not join a Landlords Association?

There is no reason why you cannot join a Landlord Association and get all of the benefits of the scheme.  However, just make sure with a second quote that will take no more than two minutes to ensure that the Insurance that you are getting from them is actually the best cover and at the best possible price.

 

Could you save more than what your membership fee is?

Yes, of course, there is a high likelihood you may save a lot more than your membership fee so in real terms the savings you make through our insurance can even pay for your annual membership fee in any event.  You therefore get the best of both worlds!

 

Why should I use iInsure365?

We generally believe not only can we save you money but can provide you with a much better cover than you currently have.  Our Company mission is as follows:-

  • Low cost insurance doesn’t compromise on cover
  • An unrivalled reputation for customer service
  • Flexible payment terms
  • Individual policies to suit individual requirements
  • Quality and a commitment to excellence
  • The facility with our clients to ensure that they have no surprises within their policy
  • Personal contact with the same people on a regular basis
  • To be transparent for all of our costs including commission with no hidden charges

 

How long will it take to get a quote?

It can only take literally a couple of minutes of your time in order to get a quote.  If you are going to save hundreds of pounds then a few minutes of your time is worth it.

If you forward us a copy of your policy/renewal then we will be happy to look at it and show you that we can do better for you.  In the event that we can’t we will tell you straight away.

 

How can we help you with your cover?

Not only do we have a large panel of insurers that we can go to, but we have specific policies for landlords.  These policies are not only comprehensive on cover but also low in price.  We are totally independent and therefore not beholden to any individual group etc.  We would be happy to give you an independent quote looking for the best possible price and cover for you.  We are happy to tailor the policy for each individuals needs and ensure that the process is as smooth as is possible.   You will always speak to the same person in the office and you will never speak to a call centre.

Why don’t you read our testimonials on what we can do?

 

‘Charlotte was pleasant, quick, efficient, answered all my queries and a policy was in place in less than 24 hours……3 different quotes, when she wasn’t sure of an answer, she checked and rechecked. I hope not to make a claim, but, if claiming is as painless as purchasing insurance….. Excellent, professional service, highly recommended!’

S.N Bouganim

 

‘Charlotte was my advisor. Very professional and helpful. Been with this company for a while now and never had any issues.’

Louise Williams

 

‘Friendly staff and the do what you ask them to do.

Prices are competitive and I would recommend them to anyone.’

Sally Hornsby

 

‘Brilliant service, these people are efficient and knowledgeable. And luckily for me they remind me when I need my property’s insuring “great weight off my mind“

Thankyou illnsure365’

Sherie Haines

 

‘First class service, all my problems sorted very quickly.’

Alan Dakin

 

‘Iinsure have looked after our rentals for many years and have always matched any competitive prices. We haven’t yet had to make a claim so can’t speak to their effectiveness on that score. However, we need cover in any case for mortgage purposes and tbh buildings cover is always a reassuring thing to have for what might be one’s biggest investment (apart from children!)’

Peter Lemer

 

‘Fast, friendly insurance at a very competitive price. 100% recommend!’

Edward Makgill

 

‘We use iInsure365 and will often speak with Charlotte when contacting them. Charlotte is always ready for action, and will take something on immediately when requested. We have also dealt with Joseph who was keen and willing to help when i have a situation needing some urgent quotes to send to a client. I could not advocate for a more reliable and efficient company to help with insurance needs, all our customers love how quickly things are resolved when iInsure get involved.’

Sian Bell

 

‘Dave and Charlotte are great! Both are very helpful and resourceful to find best products and services. Many thanks!’

Seonghwan Kim

 

‘Outstanding work every time! We’ve used iInsure for all our personal properties & our landlords working with our letting agency, they never disappoint – would recommend to anyone!’

Nick McCance

 

‘Always excellent customer service and very helpful staff. Provide a great service to me.’

Carys Rachel Dickinson

 

‘Great value for money and friendly helpful service every time.’

John Colwell

 

‘Very professional experience. I insure a few properties with them and they will contact me each year at renewal to discuss alternative options. Good if you do not simply want to auto-renew with the same supplier each year at an ever increasing premium. This way they always make sure you are on the best deal for your needs. Thank you for your help, Scott.’

Scott Dockerill

 

‘Iinsure are a treasure! Been using their brokerage for landlord´s insurance for three years now and they consistently find cover at unbeatable rates. All wrapped up in knowledgeable and efficient customer service. Thoroughly recommended!’

David Allen

 

‘Excellent company. I have used them for some years, and I feel that they have my back. I appreciate the care and attention to my insurance requirements.’

Paul Samson

Fire Risk Assessment

Even if you have a right to manage or managing agents. You need to ensure that you have a fire risk assessment in relation to your property at least every five years. It is important when managing a property that you are controlling the fire risks. You have to protect against risks of fire. The first step is to identify these risk and this is where the risk assessment comes in. There is a legal demand for non-domestic fire risk assessments i.e. commercial as well as on residential.

 

What is the law?

The law comes under the regulatory reform (fire safety) Order 2005. This came into force in October 2006 and replaced more than seventy pieces of different regulation on fire risk. It applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales. Including the common parts of blocks of flats and houses in multiple occupation.

 

What does the Act say?

The Act lays out that a responsible person must ensure that a fire risk assessment has been undertaken by a competent person. It must implement and maintain a fire risk management plan. This must include with a generic risk assessment, or undertaken separately by a fire risk safety specialist. However, you need to have qualifications to do this to ensure that it is correct. You need to ensure that the assessments has been undertaken. An up to date fire management plan has been implemented every time this takes place which should be every five years.

It states that either an employer, a person who has control of the premises in connection with business or trade or the owner of the property is responsible to do this.

There are various Government Departments that deal with this being the local Government Regulation, the Department of Communities and local Government Guides, the local Government Association and the Health and Safety Executive which is the most important.

The Health and Safety Executive state that there are various problems as follows:-

  1. General Fire Safety Hazards
  2. Fires are normally started by three things, a source of ignition, a source of fuel and oxygen.
  3. Sources of Ignition for instant could include heaters, lighting, naked flames, electrical equipment, smoker’s materials, electrical installation and anything else that can cause heat or cause sparks.
  4. Sources of fuel include wood, paper, plastic, rubber, foam, loose packaging materials, waste, rubbish and furniture. The oxygen is in the air around us.
  5. What do the Health and Safety Executive say I have to do? They need you to carry out the following:-
  6. A fire risk assessment
  7. Keep sources of ignition and flammable substances apart
  8. Avoid accidental fires e.g. make sure that heaters cannot be knocked over
  9. Ensure good housekeeping at all times avoid the build-up of rubbish that can burn
  10. Consider how to detect fires and how to warn people quickly if they start i.e. smoke alarms and fire alarms.
  11. Have the correct firefighting equipment for putting out a fire quickly
  12. Keep fire exits and escape routes clearly marked and unobstructed.
  13. Ensure your workers receive proper training on procedures.
  14. Review this on a regular basis and at least every five years.

They also state that dangerous substances can cause fire and explosion. You have to ensure there are none of these items. This includes any form of storage of chemicals, vapours and dusts and anything that can burn easily.

 

What are the key points to remember from the Health and Safety Executive?

They state that you need to look at the following:-

  1. Think about the risk of fire and exposure from substances you use or create
  2. You supply safety details on any form of sheet or anything that is flammable
  3. Make sure that there is nothing flammable stored at the property
  4. Keep sources of ignition and substances that burn apart
  5. Get rid of any flammable or explosive substances
  6. Renew your fire risk regularly and at least every five years

If you are managing your building under a right to manage you need to ensure that if you are managing the property then you carry out a fire risk assessment. You are in control and thus it is important that you carry these works out.

You need to have a qualified person to do the fire risk assessment and they will attend the premises and check the common area and services. They will then compile a report that lays out recommendations that have been followed through.

 

What do they take into account in the report?

They take the following into account:-

  1. The property
  2. Occupants
  3. Occupants at risk
  4. Fire loss
  5. Relevant information
  6. Relevant fire safety and station of method
  7. Electrical sources of ignition
  8. Smoking
  9. Arson
  10. Portable heaters and heating installations
  11. Lightening conduction
  12. Housekeeping
  13. Hazards introduced by outside contractors and building
  14. Other fire hazards
  15. Means of escape from fire
  16. Measures to limit fire spread and development
  17. Emergency lighting
  18. Signs and notices
  19. Fire alarms
  20. Extinguishing
  21. Management procedures and arrangements
  22. Records
  23. Fire fighter safety and access
  24. Fire risk assessment matrix

They will then have an action plan together with photographs.

The report will lay out the general information stating exactly what type of property it is, how it was built and the approximately square footage of the building. It will state how many people live in the property. It will lay out the legislation that it comes under. Including the HMG fire safety sleeping and accommodation guide 2006 and LACORs housing fire safety 2008.

We will lay out the electrical hazards and whether there is any work that is required in these. Layout where there are any issues in respect of arson and portable heating installations and whether they need to be checked or not. The rest of the report will deal with the main management of the building. The signs together with any form of lighting and fire alarm system that may be required. It is important that you are aware that this report includes means of fire escape at the property and may have recommendations in this regard which we outline later.

The report will layout at the end full details of any improvements required within the property. These have to be carried out within a specific period of time and are done by way of a fire risk assessment matrix. This is laid out as slight harm, moderate harm and extreme harm. There are low, medium and high risks and these need to be taken into account. They will lay out exactly which item is which and give an action and time scale of when these items should be carried out. They often include recommendations as follows:-

  1. Any boiler and electrical intake consumer units or distribution on escape routes normally enclosed in a 30 minute fire resistant material to include intumescent and cold smoke seals to any opening.
  2. An EICR report which please see our previous article on which has to be carried out every five years.
  3. Smoke free legislation signs that need to be put up in relation to the property
  4. Arson which normally relates to an anti-arson letterbox etc.
  5. Fire doors – there are various fire doors in relation to properties. Most are required to be a minimum FD30 which is a minimum of 30 minutes in order for them to burn through the door. These would include cold smoke seals and intumescent strips at the top and edges of the door to prevent the passage of smoke and fire. These all come under a British Standard BS8214:2008 and hinges under BSEN1935:2002: minimum grade CFD30
  6. Compartmentation. This includes any protecting of pipes or cables or services through floors and is at least 30 minute fire resistant.
  7. Fire alarm system – there are various fire alarm systems that they may recommend depending on the type of property but normally this is a category LD2 grade D automatic smoke detection within the common areas including integral sounders and heat detectors in each flat in the ceiling.
  8. Fire extinguishers – may also be required
  9. Fire safety arrangements – this is normally a detail of what needs to be done by the tenants etc. This needs to be kept in the building.

The above is only a guide of what may be required as each individual property is different. It is something you need to check.

There is also a guide form LACORs that come under Housing and Fire Safety and we have detailed this out under a separate article

It is so important that you are aware of what your legal requirements are. As in view of recent events that have taken place we expect that these may change over the years. If you do not have a fire risk assessment you should have one carried out and have any recommendations done within the time limit. They differ from property to property so it is important that you use a professional to do this.

Fire Safety – Part 2 (Do I require fire doors?)

Introduction to fire doors

Fire doors are now a legal requirement in almost all commercial buildings, most accommodation premises – including blocks of flats, sheltered accommodation, housing in multiple occupation etc and even some larger owned houses.

 

Why are they important?

You first need to understand the difference between compartmentation and passive fire protection. Compartmentation is the idea behind passive fire protection. The process of stopping an active fire from spreading further. It is a structural design principal requiring areas of the building to be sealed off from each other by fire resistant materials. So if a fire occurs in one area it cannot or will take a long time to spread to the other area. This is for the purpose of protecting escape routes for occupants of other areas and to hope to prevent the premises from burning down.

 

What is a fire door then?

A fire door is a door that stops the spread of fire. They are constructed from material designed to resist fire for a certain amount of time rather than a normal door. The most common types are either 30 or 60 minute fire resistance although you can have specialist doors made up where they have four hours of fire resistance.

You will often see fire doors around buildings where they have a blue circle on with white text stating “fire door keep shut” these signs are mandatory and identify doors within a building. Another common indicator is the existence of a door closer which is mandatory on most fire doors.

 

Essential items of fire door furniture

Any component of a fire door other than the actual door leaf and its frame will fall under the term “fire door hardware” or “fire door furniture” including hinges and edge guards and some pieces of furniture are considered “essential items” these are all mandatory for doors. The most important items are hinges, appropriate signage, and either a lock or an automatic door closer.

Fire doors have components such as furniture and aesthetic components which penetrate the surface of the door – or wrap around the door from one side to the other – must be fire rated. This includes hinges onto the frame such as intumescent seals and strips as well as a door closer fitted at the top.

For example it is no use hanging an FD60 fire door with a standard lock.

 

Intumescent seals and smoke protection

When hanging fire doors intumescent materials are often used to swell and enlarge when exposed to heat. This thus seals any gaps in and around a fire door blocking the path of a fire or smoke. Intumescent fire seals are required around the edges of doors although they can be attached to the frame as well.

Strips of intumescent material may be required between frame and hinges as well as the hinge in the door. Intumescent sealant is often used as an expanding foam between the frame and the wall and other gaps to be filled. The intumescent seals around the edges of the doors and frame will often have integrated smoke brush to stop the spread of smoke and these are called cold smoke seals.

You should be aware that smoke has a tendency to spread a lot quicker than fire. It often will not provide enough heat to activate intumescent seals allowing it to flow around the door within its frame. This often can’t be avoided but you should speak to the manufacturer. Fire doors leading to fire escapes often have a policy that they would need cold smoke seals.

 

Fire door retainers

Fire doors are put in properties to stop the spread of fire within buildings and they are absolutely essential. The whole purpose of fire doors are equipped with fire door closers so that when people pass through them they automatically close.

Fire door retainers are used when there is a free flow of people throughout a building and can hold a door in its position and release the door in case of fire allowing the door to close the door shut. They are an alternative but you should check whether they are acceptable in your area.

There are various different types such as electro magnet fire door holders and acoustically activated fire doors.

There is a third option which is a premium choice and includes free swing door closers. They are battery powered and acoustically triggered as a free swing door closer. The door closer mechanism remains inactive as standard and will only activate on hearing the fire alarm.

 

Summary for fire doors

Fire doors are an absolute crucial defence against the spread of fire. You should check with your local fire brigade on whether they are required. They are designed to contain a blaze for long enough in order for the occupants to be able to escape the property safely whilst also limiting the damage caused by the fire. They can be crucial barriers in a building.

This may change once the report comes out on the recent fire that took place on a block of flats and at the present time this is the situation.

There are different types of door retainers such as:-

  • Door mouse – they are cheap retainers and have no batteries. They are installed at the top or bottom of the door or at the back of the door.
  • Door guard – they are a quick install and holds the door open in its position and are perfect for a retro fit. They are triggered by loud continued noises and either installed at the bottom or the front of the door.
  • Agrippa – can be fitted for a specific fire alarm sound they are installed at either the top or the bottom of the door.
  • Geze T000EF – they are battery operated and very easy of opening a door. They are installed at the top of the door and the bottom at the front or the back of the door.
  • Freedor – these are a cheaper installation and requires a battery change and are at the top of the door or the bottom.
  • Agrippa free swing – again a cheaper installation and can be installed at the front or back of the door.

It is important as a landlord, freeholder, managing agent or right to manage that you take everything into account. Most fires can be prevented by taking some basic and common sense precautions. There are specific guidelines for shared or rented properties.

 

Did you know?

  • About 200 people die a year in accidental fires at home.
  • Not having a working smoke alarm makes the risk of dying in a fire at least four times greater.
  • Faulty electrics (appliances, wiring and overloaded sockets) cause around 6000 fires in the home each year.
  • 2 fires a day are started by candles
  • What are your landlord’s obligations to keep your home safe from fire?
  • It is your responsibility to meet the safety requirements under the law. This includes making sure gas and electric appliances are safe and in a good working order.
  • You must ensure that your property has at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home used as living accommodation.
  • You must check that all gas appliances have a gas safety every year and are served on the tenant within 30 days and are acknowledged.
  • All electrical appliances must carry a British Safety standard sign.
  • As a landlord you must ensure that all furnishings are fire resistant and meet safety regulations
  • You must show that you have a fire safety certificate so that you can tell the tenants and so that they can see when the gas and electrical appliances were last checked.
  • You must ensure that carbon monoxide alarm is present in all rooms containing solid fuel burning appliance and are used as living accommodation. Landlords must test these and are required to have smoke alarms on the first day of the tenancy.
  • Landlords need to ensure that there is a planned escape route at the property and that everybody knows it.

It is important that a fire risk assessment is carried out every five years in relation to your property to ensure that you are secure.

Fire Safety – Part 1

What type of fire equipment do I need within my properties?

If you are a landlord, freeholder, Right to Manage or rent property you need to consider what type of fire equipment that you need to have in your property. It is always difficult to know but you should really have a fire risk assessment which should lay out to you exactly what is required.

We will list out below some items that might help you:-

Carbon monoxide (commonly known as Co), carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, tasteless poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon based fuels including gas, oil, wood and coal. Carbon based fuels are usually safe to use however when the fuel does not burn properly excess co2 is produced which can be poisonous and it is a killer. When co2 enters the body it prevents the blood from bringing oxygen to the cells, tissues and organs.

Unfortunately, you cannot see it, taste it or smell it but co2 can quickly kill without little warning. There are least 50 people a year that die from co2 poisoning. This is caused by gas or solid fuel appliances and flues that have not been installed properly, properly maintained or they are poorly ventilated. Lower co2 levels do not cause immediately and can cause serious harm to health if breathed in over a long period of time. In extreme cases paralysis and brain damage can be caused as a result of prolonged exposure to co2.

 

Do I need to take preventative measures?

It is important that you do take some form of preventative measures such as the following:-

Ensure that any work carried out in relation to gas appliances in your domestic premises is undertaken by a gas safe registered engineer and that the work is competent.

The Health and Safety Executive advises that gas appliances and/or flues are installed and serviced regularly by a gas safety registered engineer. The law is that these need to be carried out with a gas safety certificate and produced every year. Served on the tenants within 30 days and acknowledged by them (see our previous article on this). It is a landlord’s legal duty to carry out an annual gas safety and have the gas appliances maintained.

If you have a wood or coal burning stove fitted make sure that it is fitted HETAS approved installer. Make sure that the chimneys are swept at least twice a year. Always make sure that there is enough fresh air in the room containing your gas oiled solid fuel appliances for your chimney or flue.

Make sure that none of your properties have paraffin heaters and cabinet heaters in your house.

 

Is it worth considering putting a co2 carbon monoxide alarm?

The Health and safety executive recommends and it is a legal requirement for landlords to put in an audible carbon monoxide alarm. They are an important precaution for tenants in the event there is an escape of co2. You should ensure that any co2 alarm complies with British Standards EN50291 and carries a British Approval mark such as a kite mark. They should be installed, checked and serviced in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Please note that tenants can be at risk from co2 poisoning when they are asleep because they may not be aware of the early co2 sensors and it is absolutely vital that these are installed.

 

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

There can be various early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. They can often mimic common ailments and can easily be confused with food poisoning, viral inspections, flue or simple tiredness such as:-

  • Headaches
  • Breathlessness
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Collapse
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Tiredness
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Pains in the chest
  • Stomach pains
  • Erratic behaviour
  • Visual problems

 

How would I know if my tenant is at risk from carbon monoxide?

Although carbon monoxide is colourless, odourless and tasteless. There can be signs that indicate incomplete combustion that can be recurring such as yellow or orange flames rather than blue, soot or yellow brown staining around appliances, pilot lights that are frequently blown out and increased condensation inside windows.

 

How do I purchase a co2 alarm?

Most alarms can be purchased from reputable contractors and currently last between 7 and 10 years. Some co2 alarms do not warn when they reach the end of their life. Which means that they might not function or give the impression of protection and it is important that you make a note of these. We would suggest that Kiddle or Fire/Angel co2 alarms have a sensor life for 10 years and a 10 year guarantee. The kiddle sensor alarm also gives a warning when they are at their useful life so it may be worth looking at this.

 

Fire extinguishers

Not all fire extinguishers are the same. They are all different and have different effectiveness depending on the fire. So before buying a fire extinguisher it is important that you look carefully at what type of fire it could be used on.

There are five main types of extinguisher used:-

  1. Water
  2. Foam
  3. Dry powder (ABC rated)
  4. Carbon dioxide (co2) and dry water mist

There also are some smaller wet chemical fire extinguishers but these aren’t normally used for household but for deep fat fryers etc.

 

What are the differences and the strengths and weaknesses of each individual fire extinguisher?

Water fire extinguishers

These are good for tackling fires including burning paper, wood and soft furnishing as the water soaks into the materials and cools them whilst extinguishing the fire. It does not contain any form of harmful chemicals but has very low firefighting rating. They are normally quite large and heavy to overcome so they do have a lack of firefighting power. It is also important to remember that water is an electrolyte and conducts electricity so it is important that you are careful when using these or accidental use on exposed power cables. They are free of harm or substances and water fire extinguishers are especially suitable for households where children’s have access to an extinguisher and it reduces the accidental discharge.

Foam fire extinguishers

These type of extinguishers have a smothering film of foam over the fire which starves it of oxygen and puts it out. The foam penetrates porous materials and cools the fire through evaporation of the water content of the foam. It creates a type of foam carpet on burning liquids like petrol and is suitable for liquids and areas where the main fibres of soft furnishings and carpets might be liquefied under the intense heat. They are often used for electrical equipment as well.

Co2 (carbon dioxide) fire extinguishers

These are pressurised co2 gas and thus leave no residue. The type of extinguisher is suitable for fires including burning liquids but it also a good solution for dealing with computer equipment and other electrical appliances. They do not cause damage to electrical items. It is important to remember when using these that there is a possibility once smothering the gas has floated away the fire might re-ignite at source. This depends on whether the materials are extremely hot or not. These are not fitted with swivel horns and therefore can cause your fingers to freeze to the horn during the deployment of an extinguisher. It is extremely important on how you use them to use the guidelines on the equipment itself. They are not suitable for deep fat fryers.

Powder fire extinguishers

Powder fire extinguishers are suitable for firefighting any form of class A, B and C fires. A, B and C fires are such as A – suitable for paper, wood and textiles, B – suitable for thermal liquids, C – suitable for flammable glasses. The powder does not smoke into materials and does not have a good effect on cooling of the fire. This can always result in re-igniting. Care must be taken when using such extinguishers to ensure that you do not inhale the powder. They are small and should not be used in confined spaces where there is a risk of inhaling them. They are not allowed in offices and if you do have them in accommodation they should now be removed.

Water mist extinguishers

Dry water mist extinguishers discharge a jet of mist which wets and cools the surface of the burning item. They are fine mist and partly evaporate when close to a burning surface and it massively expands as a result of steam expelling oxygen from the area thus starving the fire of oxygen. As the water droplets are very light they do not sink below the surface of the hot burning liquids thus avoiding the explosion reaction of ordinary water extinguishers used on burning oil or fat. The water mist can be used on fat fryers.

Wet chemical fire extinguishers

These are specifically designed for kitchen fires involving burning oil and deep fat fryers. The extinguishers come with special long application arms which allows you to safely lay out a cooling layer of foam on top of the burning oil.

 

What points should be taken into account when tackling a fire?

  • Don’t attempt to use a fire extinguisher on a fire unless you feel it is safe to do so
  • Position yourself where you can to get it quickly like the hall
  • Buy extinguishers that you can carry easily
  • Don’t position the extinguisher over the heat to a fire but do fix them to a wallMake sure that you have a fire risk assessment carried out in relation to the property so that you are aware of what requirements you have for these.

Thinking about Short Term Letting?

There has been a lot of news and discussions about short term lets recently. The housing charity, Shelter, recently conducted some research on short term living. Their research found that 12% of parents who rent privately feel as though short term lets may leave their children feeling unsettled.

Short term let is the name given to a tenancy agreement of less than six months. Any tenancy agreement less than six months is not governed by the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 so there is no form of protection for a landlord and/or a tenant. Short term lets are rare as they are only suitable for very specific situations.

Who uses short term lets?

Short term lets are rare as they are only suitable for very specific situations. Someone might be living away from home for a few months due to work commitments. Or they may be waiting for a new house to be built for them to move in to.

Recently there has been a rise in demand for letting on a short term basis. This is mainly through the increased popularity of holiday let websites such as Airbnb. It often works out that it is cheaper to rent a property through an Airbnb than it is to have a hotel, hence their growing popularity. However, often landlords don’t appreciate that their current insurance policy won’t cover this type of let.

What are the benefits for landlords?

There are a lot of benefits to tenants but what are the benefits to landlords? Well they give landlords another option when thinking about selling or reletting. The landlord can let the property on a short term basis while they make their mind up. Then also short term let while the property is on the market and the sale is progressing. Having an empty property is usually not an attractive prospect to landlords so a short term tenancy provides an income in the interim.

What are the issues with Short Term Letting?

There is no legal backing for landlords with short term lets. Also if the tenants then refuse to leave the property getting them out can be tricky as there is no legal process or contract. It may be that a longer term let is more preferable for the landlord. People often don’t appreciate that short term lets are completely different from a typical long term tenancy. This is because the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 governs all tenancy’s over six months long.

You also have to ensure that you have the right insurance in place. A typical landlord insurance policy is unlikely to cover the potential risks that short term lets create. These can include malicious damage by tenants and other risks. Whilst you might potentially get a higher income it is very important to understand your responsibilities.

Two big issues for landlords with short term lets are void periods and wear and tear. Short term lets may bring flexibility but they also bring uncertainty as to when the property will be relet. It is the nature of the beast.

There will also be additional costs for wear and tear due to the endless stream of tenants coming and going. With tenants staying for short periods they are unlikely to take as good care of the property as long standing tenants.

Lastly, the landlord will need to cover the costs in a short term let that would otherwise be paid by the tenant in a long term let. These include utility bills, internet, TV license, and council tax. The property would need to be fully furnished and well equipped. These all need to be considered when looking at short term lets.

Landlord Responsibilities

Renting out a property is one of the best ways to make a profitable passive income. You can gain from the rental income and make a healthy return on your investments. Rental income can be a source that can see you through to your retirement. But it is not just a case of sticking your property on the books of a letting agency. You may have invested in a Buy to let, or plan to rent a property of your own. But there are some important landlord responsibilities that you may not be aware of. It is, for instance, important that you have the correct tenancy agreement. That you have carbon monoxide alarms and that you are aware of all Government approved schemes. That you have an assured shorthold tenancy. That your property is energy efficient and you understand what a Section 21 Notice is (now due to be abolished).

Health and Safety regulations

As a residential and commercial landlord, you will need to ensure that your property is safe to rent. You will need to make sure of whether there are any signs of damp and mould which often means that there is condensation. As a landlord, it is your responsibility to maintain the structure and the exterior of the premises including the drains, gutters and external pipes. If the property is a house the whole structure including the land it sits on is the landlords’ responsibility such as steps in the street, structures on the exterior, garden paths and steps. It is important to inspect water and gas pipes and electrical wiring together with basins, baths, and toilets. As well as all fixed heaters and water heaters.

Mould is the most common complaint from students as they believe that mould is growing on their property and they think it is “damp”. Water ingress causes damp, either from roofs, leaks, blocked gutters, rising damp and cracks in internal walls.

Condensation can also cause mould. It is caused by poor ventilation in the property and moisture on the building and walls and around windows. Condensation looks like black spots on the walls and is an easy problem to solve by simply opening the window on a regular basis. You may find that this is not necessarily a landlord responsibility but for a tenant to ensure that it is wiped down.

Gas Safety Certificate

All gas appliances within the property require a gas safety certificate. It must be carried out by a gas safety engineer. This is to ensure that the installation is correct. It also ensures that the boiler has no carbon monoxide emanating from it which means that it could kill. You must provide a copy of this certificate to the tenants and have it acknowledged within 30 days of the gas safety taking place. This is now law.

EICR reports i.e. electrical installation condition reports

These start to become compulsory from the end of the year and landlords should ensure that they do. The check is to ensure that all electrics i.e. lights, sockets, and wiring follow the electrical equipment safety regulations. They need to done by a qualified electrician every five years.

It is the law to now install smoke alarms on every floor of the property. A Co2 detector is also required in any room that has a solid fuel burner. This does not mean a boiler i.e. a gas combination boiler but it is always safe to do so. If the property has an HMO license i.e. a house in multiple occupation. It may require fire alarms and fire extinguishers. Each individual local council will let you know what their regulations are.

If you are renting out a furnished property. Then you must ensure that all soft furnishings adhere to the furniture and furnishing regulations. This includes such items as beds, sofas and mattresses and even cushions. Each item must have a carelessness causes fire label attached to ensure that they are compliant. This is critical to ensure that you are legally compliant.

Energy Performance Certificate

All rented properties now have to have an energy performance certificate which lasts for a period of ten years. This outlines the energy efficiency rating and whether the property requires any improvements if any. It contains information on energy costs and energy efficiency. Together with recommendations on resuming energy consumption. They are carried out every ten years. At present there is a rule for landlords to have a minimum rating of E. This will change over the next few years and you need to ensure that you are compliant.

Tenancy Deposit Protection

All Deposits paid by tenants are now put into a tenancy deposit scheme. There are various schemes that are all backed by the Government. Legal documentation has to be served on the tenant to ensure that they are aware of their requirements. It is critical that landlords understand what needs to be served on tenants. If for instance, you wish to evict a tenant in future the paperwork has to be correct. In the case of Cardon Property limited –v- Monty Shooltz. The court held that a Section 21 Notice could not be served on the tenant unless all the other documentation was carried out first. In this case, a gas safety had not given to the tenant at the start of the tenancy before the tenant took up occupation. The court held that the tenant did not have to follow the Section 21 Notice as the landlord had not served the gas safety at the time.

It is so critical if you are unsure of what you should be serving on a tenant when they take the property. Or when they go on to a month to month contract i.e. at the end of their term. That you check with your solicitor or your letting agents.

Landlords insurance

You will need to insure the whole building. This will include the bricks and mortar, roof and foundations. There may be a certain amount of contents which will need to be accounted for, such as carpets and blinds or curtains. Tenants will need to insure their own contents separately. There will be insurance for third party liability i.e. where something falls off the building and hurts or injures somebody. It is important that you are aware that as a landlord you are responsible for insuring the building on a comprehensive basis.

Landlord insurance will cover fire, flood, accidental damage and malicious damage. If you lived there before then your current home insurance wouldn’t cover you. It is important that you are aware of the actual insurance that you need. If you are buying a property on a buy to let basis then you will need the correct landlord insurance. To make sure that you’re covered and to provide this to your mortgage company before you let it out and complete. Why not talk to us to discuss your requirements and to get you the best policy at the best rate.

Residential Landlord Insurance – What does it cover?

When you rent out a property, in whatever capacity, you need to have the right insurance in place. For both you and your tenant. It is important that you understand that this is not home insurance as you would perceive it to be and that the level of cover you have is correct. Often you will find that if there is a fire or flooding home insurance would not cover your property if let out. The contents may also not be covered by a standard home policy.

There are different types of landlord insurance cover. Such as commercial landlords insurance, business insurance and insurance for unoccupied properties. There are various areas covered such as employers liability insurance and public liability insurance. It is important that you know that the buildings insurance cover you have is correct.

Renting out a property brings a new set of risks, see our article on Landlords responsibilities. You need to ensure that your investment is secure and protect it as much as possible.

Residential Landlords Insurance and Commercial Landlords Insurance covers risks your home insurance wouldn’t. There are various levels of cover available. You should ensure that there is contents cover, fire and flooding cover. Unoccupied properties cover, employers liability and public liability insurance if required. It is important that you make sure that your investment is secure and protected. Also that you don’t run the risk of having a claim rejected. If you are trying to make a claim on residential insurance that is not correct for rental properties.

There are differences between residential building insurance and commercial landlords insurance contained in other articles.

Landlord insurance covers everything from residential insurance such as buildings insurance and contents. Tailored and extended to cover your tenanted property and take on all the risks as follows:-

Rehousing costs/Loss of Rent/Alternative Accommodation

This type of cover comes into effect where there may be fire or flood at the property rendering it inhabitable. It could be any such insured events even earthquake. It would enable you to make sure that you’re insured for loss of rental income and alternative accommodation. If you have a standard residential policy on your building it would not cover this as they are not for commercial landlords. Landlord insurance can also be extended to cover non-payment of rent by defaulting tenants. But this is separate insurance and you would need to speak to us on this.

Most landlords insurance policies have a period where the property can be vacant when having a changeover of tenancies. This can range from thirty to ninety days dependant on your policy. But thereafter it is your responsibility to make sure that the insurance company’s informed. You would then go onto a limited amount of perils known as FLEA fire lightening earthquake and air crash. It is important that your property is not unoccupied for any length of time because it could affect your policy but you need to speak to your insurance company or ourselves.

Malicious Damage and Theft

Landlord insurance cover often covers wilful damage caused by tenants. This could be for instance where they have left the property and stolen certain items. Such as an oven etc. It could be a boiler or anything else within the property that they may wish to take. It is important that you understand that as this is malicious damage it isn’t covered by every policy. But by most and you should check. Residential/home insurance would be unlikely to cover you for this or any acts of vandalism.

Accidental damage will also be in some policies. It is the cost of repairing or replacing property or contents damaged as a one-off incident. This cover will come under your landlords’ contents insurance. So it is important that you check your level of cover. Not all Insurance Companies have this within their policy. But we can confirm whether this is the case or not. It can be a one-off by some insurance companies and you should check your policy. Accidental damage will not cover wear and tear of an item over a period of time. It is there for one-off events such as a tenant dropping red wine on a carpet. It will not cover the tenants own furniture or belongings within the property. They need to have their own tenants’ contents insurance.

It is important that you familiarise yourself with your policy. To understand what it includes and does not.

Liability Insurance

It is important that you understand your landlord responsibilities. You have a duty of care to your tenants. Residential insurance will not cover you for public liability. If someone injures themselves as a tradesman or a guest then you are responsible. It is important that you have the correct cover. Landlord buildings insurance covers you for any accidents and injuries to your tenant. It can be the case that there are serious injuries as a result of a landlords negligence. Such as loose tiles, water leaks, burst pipes, broken floorboards or ripped carpeting. Which could result in a hefty claim from your tenant. Your landlord insurance would cover you for the cost of this. An insurance company would pay them directly.

If you did not have the correct cover or the right insurance then you could end up facing a crippling bill. That could affect your cash flow. It is not the compensation that has to be paid but all legal expenses by the tenants or contractors solicitors. The landlords responsibilities have increased again by the recent Human Habitation Bill that has become law. It is important that you understand your responsibilities. 

Legal Expenses cover

Did you know as a landlord that your property qualifies as a business? You thus need to have the right insurance for any legal liabilities. Often landlords don’t expect there to be disputes with right of ways or with neighbours. But it can be that this is covered by your landlord building insurance. If a tenant makes a claim against you as outlined above then you would be insured for legal expenses. Not all policies cover the landlords fully. It is important that you understand what is included in your policy.

Legal expenses will not cover you for taking any tenant to court for non-payment of rent. This is a separate rent guarantee scheme that would need to be taken out and we can give you a quote for this.

Landlord Insurance protects landlords from risks associated with their rental property. It usually includes buildings and contents insurance. But it can also include specific cover as we have outlined above such a property owners liability, loss of rent and tenant default insurance. It is important that you have the right cover. Landlord insurance will also cover you for the cost of repairing or rebuilding your property if the structure is damaged or destroyed. It can be extended to various optional extras such as furniture and rental payment insurance.

Do I need landlord insurance?

If you have one or more rental properties, it is important to make sure that you have got the right insurance in place. A standard home insurance policy won’t cover you for risks associated with renting out your property. Whilst landlord insurance isn’t a legal rule it is often needed by mortgage lenders.

There is no legal obligation for a landlord to take out a dedicated insurance policy. But, conventional home insurance won’t cover you for rental activities. If you have a mortgage on your property it is very likely that your lender will need you to take out insurance before you take on tenants. It’s important to note that you will need written permission from your mortgage lender before you let the property. Failure to get this may mean that you may be breaking the terms of your mortgage.

You can choose a range of cover designed for landlords, including property owners liability insurance, contents insurance and buy to let buildings cover. Learn more about the difference between standard homeowner insurance and landlord insurance by reading our various articles. Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your requirements.

We are landlords insurance specialists and can offer tailored policies to cover all your requirements. Compare landlord insurance with iInsure365.

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