Established patterns of residential letting have been completely overturned in recent years as the challenging housing market has reduced people’s ability to buy their own home. Landlords need to respond to these changes to accommodate a new kind of tenant and ensure that their properties are appealing to today’s renters. Furthermore, when it comes to providing a safe and healthy home environment, they must think carefully about the needs of their tenants.
According to the National Landlords’ Association (NLA), families are, for the first time, the most common household type in the private rented sector (PRS). Comprising 48% of the market, they have just overtaken young couples (47%). This is a dramatic shift from four years ago when young single people made up the majority (53%). During the same period, 220,000 retired people have entered the PRS, an increase of 13%.
Families: more people, more bathrooms
Properties aimed at the family market are likely to have more bathrooms and shower rooms. They may also be in heavier use which, in a hard water area, could increase the build-up of limescale. It’s important to ensure that showerheads and taps are descaled regularly as scale is a potential food source for Legionella bacteria.
While children aren’t a high risk group for Legionnaires’ disease, if they have an underlying medical condition such as asthma or diabetes, they are more susceptible to the bacteria. If they develop pneumonia-type symptoms, a simple urine test can confirm the diagnosis.
People over 45 are in the high risk group for Legionnaires’ disease so if you’re renting to older or retired people you must take this into account when assessing the risk of Legionella. One of the simplest measures to use is temperature control of any stored water (i.e. under 20°C or over 60°C), which should prevent bacteria from flourishing.
With over 2m students in higher and further education in the UK, the market for student accommodation is significant. One feature of university life is long holidays and as a result many student properties are left vacant for several weeks at a time. During void periods landlords should flush the water system on a weekly basis, leaving taps and showers to run for a couple of minutes to ensure that any stagnant water or bacteria are expelled.
Some religious faiths stipulate certain washing practices. For instance, Islam requires its followers to use a douche after toileting so, with 2.8m Muslims in the UK – the majority (57%) of whom live in rented accommodation – that means a lot of bathrooms need adaptation. We have seen many properties where tenants have made their own plumbing alterations to install a douche, but all too often they don’t comply with water regulations on the prevention of backflow.
If you are renting to Muslims it’s very important that there is no cross-contamination between douching water and drinking water. Use a qualified plumber to make any installations and remember to include a clause in your rental agreement preventing tenants from making unauthorised adaptations.