As a landlord, renting your property to tenants with young children can be a daunting prospect, with specific regulations you must adhere to.
Victoria Whitlock, writing for Homes and Property, articulates the anxiety of a landlord trying to child-proof a property whose tenants have young children – no doubt a sentiment shared by many.
With the Labour Party proposing to allow pets in rental properties from February this year, there is a general trend towards UK landlords taking steps to make their houses and flats more accessible for a wide range of tenants – more information on how to find out if you are allowed a pet in your flat here.
Such measures are sensible for a country in which an increasingly large percentage of the population rents. Nonetheless, they can prove arduous for landlords to implement.
Landlords must do what they can to ensure that properties are child-friendly in order to comply with current laws, which state that it is a landlord’s responsibility to take all necessary safety measures. This extends to childproofing.
How to childproof your property: legal requirements
You may not be able to alter your residential property substantially in order to make it child proof. This is often the case with period properties, where certain structural features are difficult to change.
Victorian terraced properties, for instance, often have very steep staircases that are difficult to fit with safety gates without using heavy duty screws. If you own a listed property, the alterations you can make to it are very limited.
If your house or flat is fundamentally ill-suited to tenants with young children, you may wish to make this plain when advertising your property to avoid disappointment and wasted time.
While it is illegal for a landlord to refuse potential tenants on the grounds that they have children, you should warn any prospective tenants of any child-unfriendly elements of the property which cannot be fixed.
If there are any alterations to the property which could be made but which your tenants elect not to make/allow you to install on their behalf, you should insert a clause into the tenancy so that you are not found liable in the event of an accident.
How to childproof your property: safety hazards
There are certain features that prospective tenants with young children will be looking for when viewing a residential property and it is likely that safety will be a high priority.
40,000 under-5s are hospitalised annually after accidents, many of which are sustained at home. As a landlord, you are likely to be found liable for failing to take appropriate security measures should anything happen within your property.
If your residential property attracts primarily tenants with young families, you should consider permanent solutions to the following hazards:
- Any form of loose cord can present a strangulation risk to very young children. If you have Venetian blinds or other forms of curtain with long trailing cords, install cleats to wrap them around to keep them out of reach
- If your property has bannisters or railings that are more than 2.5 inches wide, this can represent a choking hazard. Stop the gaps with boards or cover them with safety netting to prevent babies from putting their heads through
- Fit any low windows with safety catches to prevent lethal falls. Also move any low furniture, which young children may climb onto, away from higher windows
- Place stair gates at the top and bottom of each staircase in the property to prevent falls. Although pressure gates that adhere to the walls without damaging them do exist, they are simply not robust enough to put at the top of a flight of stairs. If you don’t want to drill into your walls, see if a pressure gate can be installed at the bottom and block the top with a freestanding gate that can be tied in position
- Low furniture with sharp corners can hurt young children, particularly toddlers just learning to crawl who can fall against them. Cover them with corner protectors
- If your property has a pond in the garden, bear in mind that a baby can drown in just 2 inches of water. Fence ponds off or cover them securely
- Extension cables may be a must for students or young professional tenants, but they present countless hazards to young children. Keep all cables well out of reach to avoid strangulation and provide plug guards to any sockets within reach to prevent children putting their fingers in
- Ensure that all glass in the property is safety glass – marked with the British Standards (BS) kite symbol – which has a higher shattering point than standard glass. Where possible avoid using any glass furniture in the property if you let it on a furnished basis
- If there is a functioning fireplace in the property, make sure it is appropriately guarded. The fireguard should enclose the whole fireplace and be secured to the wall on either side
- Ensure that any low cupboards used to store dangerous substances (for instance, bleach may be kept under the sink, within easy reach of a toddler) are sealed with magnetic locks. If you don’t want to damage the woodwork with permanent locks, apply adhesive strips
- It is easy for young children to get their fingers trapped in doors. This is particularly true in older properties, where the doors are often heavier and easier to slam. Install door holders to prevent them from closing on hands
- If the front door to the property can be opened from the inside without a key and is within reach of a child, install a child lock or door knob cover to prevent children from leaving the property
- When children first begin to walk they may grab onto anything they can reach and pull it down onto themselves. Ensure that tall heavy items such as bookshelves are attached to the walls to prevent this
- If you are a pet-friendly landlord and there is a pet door installed on your property, be aware that these can pose significant dangers to young children. There have been many incidents in which young children have sustained fatal injuries after escaping houses through pet doors. Remove the door if you can or warn your tenants about it
If you have any queries about anything discussed in this piece, then please get in touch with the Redbrick team to learn about our approach to residential property management in London.