Property owners who have been forced to rent due to an inability to sell a house may not be fulfilling the legal duties that are required of them, according to a new survey.

Not only are ‘accidental landlords’ putting their tenants at risk but they could also be setting themselves up for a financial loss by not taking out  specialist insurance policies that protect those letting out a property.

A report published by AXA Business Insurance states that around 70 per cent of landlords rent just one property and that a third of this figure are what is known as an accidental landlord.

The report suggests that some of these landlords are not doing what they are obliged to in terms of property maintenance.

Checking both the boiler and gas appliances less than yearly are perhaps the most serious breaches on the list complied by the AXA survey.

Legally, a boiler should be checked once a year, however, 23 per cent admitted to only getting it checked once every two to three years. A similar figure applied to gas fitting, which is required to be checked once a year in a rental property.

Fire safety was also an issue as around 50 per cent of landlords checked their smoke alarms every year. Fire escapes, extinguishers and fire proof furniture were also checked infrequently according to the survey.

Darrell Sansom, managing director of AXA Business Insurance, said: “Accidental landlords are, as the name suggests, people who never really intended to take on a rental property.

“And it seems that many are not really aware of the responsibilities that come with the role, leaving themselves and their tenants extremely vulnerable. Things like gas and electrics are potential killers and need to be taken seriously,” he continued.

Landlords who find themselves in this position may wish to seek advice about what is legally required of them. Not only could it help to protect tenants from unnecessary harm, but it could also prevent an insurance claim being turned down.