Beware of failure to comply with letting safety standards

Gaining additional income through the residential letting of Farm Buildings or Cottages can turn into an expensive exercise if owners fail to comply with minimum security standards.

With more farmers and land owners taking advantage of a change in building and planning regulations to bring redundant farm buildings back to life, Steve Corton, of Farmers and Mercantile says many new landlords are unaware of the potential pitfalls which could land them in hot water. When considering the rental of property for residential use, Mr Corton says it is essential to establish and fulfil the necessary safety requirements, certificates and inspections to avoid rendering insurance policies invalid and even running the risk of criminal prosecution.

“There are some more obvious requirements, such as making sure all gas and electrical equipment, including fixed wiring, is safely installed and maintained, providing an energy performance certificate and generally keeping the property safe and free from health hazards” says Mr Corton. “But the devil is in the detail and the very nature of farmhouses – and indeed their appeal – is that there will likely be bespoke items and features that will need to be included in the insurance.”

Conditions

For example, it is the responsibility of the landlord to ensure window locks and doors comply with minimum security conditions. Mr Corton says while this may seem a small issue, failure to comply with landlord responsibilities could render an insurance policy void and can potentially lead to heavy losses, or even a custodial sentence in the event of a major incident in which the landlord has failed to uphold obligations.

Purchasing a new property – expert advice

If purchasing property, understanding the true insurance value of assets at point of purchase could avoid shortcomings at a later stage. Employing a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors registered chartered surveyor to undertake an overall survey is the sensible option, says Steve Corton. However, bear in mind this will not cover the reinstatement costs of other farm buildings and few will engage the services of the chartered surveyor to give accurate rebuild values on these structures. He explains: “Farm buildings are your assets, not just the land and the house in which you live.” When buying, says Mr Corton, it is important to have an idea of rebuilding costs, not only of your house, but also farm outbuildings, to be able to give an accurate figure to the insurer.

Steve Corton, Farmers & Mercantile.Steve Corton Article first appeared in Farmers Guardian