Landlords and the health and safety of contractors
Friday 15 January 2016
If you are a homeowner, especially of an older property, it can sometimes feel like maintaining its repair is similar to righting a never-ending war against the elements.
And if you are a landlord with a few properties it might feel like you’re fighting that war on multiple fronts, with gales blowing tiles off the roof on one side and leaky pipes causing a sub-aquatic mess on the other.
Though we would all love to have the time and resources to fight multiple battles simultaneously, it’s more likely that a greater part of the building work required in the maintenance of a property will need to be outsourced with contractors.
And most landlords probably don’t need reminding, but, especially with bigger jobs, the risks to health and safety are many and under the Health and Safety Executive’s Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) they are responsible for managing any risks during a building project.
Commercial clients and domestic clients
This is because the guidelines classify landlords as business or ‘commercial clients’ and deems them to have a ‘crucial influence over how projects are run’, as opposed to ‘domestic clients’ in whose case the responsibility passes to their contractor.
And failure to handle these responsibilities in the right way can in some cases result in an unlimited fine or two years’ imprisonment or both.
One landlord who showed careless disregard of the rules was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay court costs of £4,129 after failing to ensure scaffolding was in place while having his roof replaced – though he didn’t pay as dearly as the building contractor who lost his life falling from the property’s roof.
The CDM 2015 guidelines state that, irrespective of a project’s size, a commercial client has contractual control, appoints designers and contractors, and determines the money, time and other resources for the project.
Landlords' duties under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations
And because they fall within this definition commercial clients are responsible for ensuring their project enables those carrying it out to manage health and safety risks in a proportionate way. This duty is broken down in the following areas:
Appointing contractors and designers (including principal designer and principal contractor on projects involving more than one contractor) while making sure they have sufficient skills, knowledge, experience and organisational capability
Allowing sufficient time and resources for each stage of the project
Making sure any principal designer and principal contractor appointed carries out their duties in managing the project
Ensuring suitable welfare facilities are provided for the duration of the construction work
But, aside from organising suitably-skilled personnel, setting reasonable timeframes and providing a safe environment, landlords must ensure clear, detailed project plans are set out and updated and constantly review health and safety as a project progresses. They must:
Maintain and review the management arrangements for the duration of the project
Provide pre-construction information to every designer and contractor either bidding for the work or already appointed to the project
Ensure that the principal contractor or contractor (for single contractor projects) prepares a construction phase plan before that phase begins
Make certain that the principal designer prepares a health and safety file for the project which is revised as necessary and made available to anyone who needs it for subsequent work at the site
The path of the private landlord is beset on all sides by obstacles and these are set to increase during the next few years after George Osborne’s bombshell summer budget.
And those who are shrewd enough to have negotiated them this far are shrewd enough to know that with Health and Safety laws taking shortcuts is just asking for trouble and the CDM 2015 guidelines should be followed to the letter.
For more information and a downloadable guide click here.
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