A landlord in north-west London is under investigation after two tenants died of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at the property, which was also an unlicensed HMO. The news brings to the fore the vital need for landlords to know the rules about property safety.

Harrow Council is investigating the landlord of the property in Edgware where the two inhabitants died, while five other occupants were also taken to hospital with alleged carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty boiler.

Two separate Romanian families shared the house, which was one of a number of properties rented out by the landlord, but the home did not have the correct HMO (houses in multiple occupation) licence to operate.

The rules around safety in rental properties

By law, carbon monoxide alarms must be installed in rooms where there is a solid fuel appliance, which includes log and coal burning stoves and open fires, whether they are in use or could be used. Meanwhile, smoke alarms in working order must be fitted on each storey of a residential premises where a room is used wholly or partly as living accommodation.

Contrary to popular belief, as gas is not a solid fuel, it is not a legal requirement to have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted near a has boiler, although it is advisable for added safety.

Where the property is a licensed HMO, the licence-holder must ensure that all mandatory conditions in relation to alarms are complied with.

Exceptions include where the landlord or landlord’s relative lives in the premises and shares a toilet, washing facilities, a kitchen or living room; a long lease tenancy which grants right of occupation; student halls of residence; hostels; care homes; hospitals; healthcare accommodation.

Landlords must carry out checks on all alarms on the day a new tenancy begins to ensure they are all in working order, and take action if there are any issues.

What about HMO licences?

An HMO is classed as a property rented out by at least three people who are not part of the same household (or family) but share facilities such as the bathroom and kitchen. Such properties only need licences under certain circumstances, such as if they fall under a selective licensing area.

Large HMOs, which are currently classed as those that are rented to five or more people from more than one household, are at least three storeys high, and have shared facilities including bathroom and kitchen, require a licence to operate. However, the rules around HMOs are set to change in October this year – you can read more about this here.

Licence applications and more information can be found on the government’s website.