Buy to let landlords are ignoring fire and gas safety in millions of homes they rent out, according to a leading insurer.

The insurer, AXA, claims that many landlords are breaking the law after asking 2,000 private renters about safety standards in their homes.

The research revealed 42% of rented homes had no gas safety certificate despite the law demanding a qualified engineer should carry out an inspection every 12 months.

Another 41% of homes had no smoke alarms, even though landlords must fit them to each floor of a rental property.

Only a third of rented homes had a carbon monoxide alarm. Regulations were introduced in October 2015 calling for an alarm in every room in a rented home with a solid fuel appliance, such as a log burner or stove.

The firm’s research also found 19% of private renters had no written tenancy agreement, 66% were not given an energy performance certificate (EPC) by their landlord and 85% were not given a copy of the government’s ‘How to Rent’ guide at the start of their tenancy.

Landlords who have not supplied tenants with a gas safety, EPC or a copy of the guide cannot evict a tenant under no-fault Section 21 guidelines.

However, the insurer explains buy to let safety is improving.

“Landlords are more professional, and we are seeing standards rise in British rentals, driven by legislation and desire of landlords themselves,” said AXA Insurance managing director Gareth Howell.

“ We know that many start out as ‘accidentals’, and there is a big learning curve for them at the start, particularly as legislation changes so often. We find that both landlords and their tenants lag, so public awareness campaigns are vital to correct myths and promote new rules and standards.

“Gas and fire safety should be the priorities here: our research suggests that millions of properties are not compliant with today’s laws.”