Landlord News

The Updated Repairing Standard For Rental Properties

The Cullen Property mantra has always been that a property should be ‘Well-presented and sensibly priced’. If these two elements are present, the property will usually do well in the rental market and have minimal, if any, void periods.

We’ve carried out a lot of bathroom and kitchen upgrades and replacements during 2023, and in every case, we’ve seen a positive uplift in rental values and/or demand from tenants as a result.

Bathrooms are the most important area for the majority of tenants, with expectations of them being modern, clean, and with good fittings in terms of flooring, and lighting. Old suites with cracked tiled floors, rusty radiators, or with poor ventilation simply don’t meet the customer’s expectations. Not that they ever did, but ensuring quality in this particular room will undoubtedly help lead to increased length of leases, higher rents and happy tenants.

Kitchens are often seen as the next most important area. They don’t need to be new but must be in good order with good appliances, flooring, and lighting. If old, then a new kitchen is worth considering. However, If the carcasses and units are good then a face-lift can sometimes be a very cost-effective way of creating a ‘like new’ kitchen for half the price. This usually involves new doors and drawer fronts, side panels and pelmets etc, plus worktop, sink, hob and oven.

In the rest of the property, carpets and furniture need to be of good quality.

The Repairing Standard

This has been part of the private rented sector in Scotland since 2007.  It’s basically the main guide to how a property should be presented and maintained and sets out the minimum requirements for all material aspects.

It is regularly updated to capture new or evolving standards, and an updated version is set to become effective as of 1 March 2024. 

The key new measures are;

Safe Kitchens

There is a new requirement to have safely accessible food storage and food preparation space. This means a cupboard for keeping food at room temperature and space and a power source for a fridge and freezer or a fridge/freezer.

Fixed Heating System 

The updated version specifies that there must be a fixed heating system in a private rented house. In other words, a permanently installed system which is hard wired or plumbed in and can keep the house warm when the outside temperature is at or below zero degrees celsius.

Safe Access to Common Parts

The amendment states that where a private rented house is a flat in a tenement, the tenant must be able to safely access and use any common parts of the tenement, such as common closes, common stairs, common lifts, bin stores and drying areas. To fulfil this requirement will involve having suitable lighting and ensuring that any obstructions are removed.

Consent to Work on Common Parts

There is an amendment to make it clear that a private rented flat in a tenement does not fail the repairing standard if a majority of owners in the tenement have refused consent to carry out the work needed to comply.

Safe and Secure Common Doors

Common doors will have to be secure and fitted with satisfactory locks which allow users to open them from the inside without a key so that they do not inhibit exit in the event of a fire. Common entry doors will also need to have a secure entry system.

Residual Current Devices

The amendment to this states that installations for the supply of electricity must include a residual current device which breaks the circuit in the event of a fault.

Other Fuels

The existing duty to ensure that installations for the supply of gas and electricity in a private rented house are in a reasonable state of repair and in proper working order will be extended to any other type of fuel such as energy from solar panels, heat pumps or windmills.

Water Testing

A key element of the new repairing standard update is to ensure that the drinking water in all private residential properties meets minimum quality levels. Scottish Water is responsible for the supply up to the building, but owners are then responsible for the water pipes and fittings in their block and individual properties.

Text from the updated Repairing Standard is as follows;

The main water quality issue in Scotland relates to lead and can arise if there are lead materials or plumbing present in the domestic distribution system. The main cause of lead in drinking water is lead pipes leading up to or within the house and is more common in houses built before 1970 that have not had their pipes, tanks or fittings replaced.

The water quality regulations set a maximum permitted level of lead in drinking water at 10 micrograms per litre of water. A new standard of 5 micrograms per litre will be required to be met by 2036. However, the World Health Organisation states that there is no safe level for lead in drinking water.

Lead pipes and lead lined storage tanks or fittings should not be present in the water supply of any privately rented property from the boundary stopcock to the kitchen tap. This includes drinking water outlets, pipework to drinking water outlets, water storage tanks within the property of loft, including any common storage tanks located in tank rooms or in the roof space. 

Any lead pipes and tanks must be replaced with modern pipes and fittings. If communal, these must also be replaced unless a landlord is unable to so due to lack of consent from other owners.

Private landlords must check visible pipework within the property to assess whether the supply runs through lead pipes. The absence of visible lead pipes does not guarantee that the water is not contaminated with lead. Other sources of lead include pipes hidden from view, lead solder, lead water tanks, and underground lead supply pipes from the boundary stopcock.

If a landlord is uncertain whether there are lead pipes, or is aware of a risk, tenants must be informed, and a water sample must be taken for laboratory analysis. Water needs to be tested at all outlets where water may be consumed as lead may be present anywhere in the building's plumbing. Samples need to be taken to present a worst-case scenario, ideally at a time where no water has been used for at least half an hour. The presence of lead of about 3 micrograms per litre indicates that some lead is present in the plumbing.

Your letting agent should advise you further, and may arrange for a sample of water to be collected from properties and then laboratory tested to determine the level of any lead present in the drinking water.