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Gas safety checks: what every landlord should know

Wednesday 25 March 2015

NHS figures show more than 200 people end up in hospital in the UK every year and 40 of those die due to carbon monoxide poisoning and the consequences for landlords who do not meet their responsibilities for gas safety in their buy-to-let properties can be serious.

In 2014 two brothers from Dudley were ordered to pay fines and costs of more than £3,000 after they failed to obtain a gas safety record for a property they rented out.

Although investigating Health and Safety Executive (HSE) officers found no trace of gas in the property, Dudley Magistrates’ Court was told how the pair had admitted not having kept a gas safety record for eight years after one was requested by the HSE.

With the above in mind, Simple Landlords Insurance has produced a guide to gas safety and landlords’ responsibilities for it.

What are the laws governing landlords’ and gas safety?

Guidelines which protect tenants’ safety are contained in the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, while more wide-ranging gas safety rules for landlords can be found in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

What are landlords’ responsibilities under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998?

Landlords must be sure that gas fittings and flues are kept in a safe condition. Appliances must be serviced as set out in manufacturers’ instructions. Otherwise, they should be serviced annually unless a Gas Safe registered engineer advises a different course of action.

An annual safety check must be carried out on each gas appliance or flue. Inquiries should also be made to confirm checks have been carried out within one year before the start of a new tenancy agreement unless the appliances in the property have been installed for less than 12 months.

Landlords must ensure that installation, maintenance and safety checks are carried out by a Gas Safe-registered engineer, keep a record of each safety check for at least two years and issue a copy of the latest recorded safety checks to tenants within 28 days of their completion. New tenants should be given a copy of the latest check before they move in.

The above safety checks and maintenance do not cover appliances owned by tenants, flues or chimneys connected to an appliance the tenant owns but they do cover appliances at relevant premises. So, boilers which heat tenants’ homes but are not installed there would be covered.

Gas safety checks under the 1998 regulations do not apply to gas appliances, such as gas fires in shops for example, which are only used in an area of premises not used for residential purposes.

Who has responsibility for gas safety checks if I am a landlord in a building owned by someone else?

Landlords in these circumstances must make sure the building owner checks that any communal gas appliances, flues and pipework your tenants might use are safe. They should also be sure that evidence of these checks is available to them and any Gas Safe registered engineer carrying out maintenance and annual checks in their properties.

Can a room with a gas appliance be used as a bedroom?

As of 31st October 1998 when the law changed, any room used as sleeping accommodation should not contain gas fires, gas space heaters or gas water heaters, including gas boilers with more than 14 kilowatts gross input unless they are room-sealed.

Gas fires, gas space heaters, gas water heaters, including gas boilers of 14 kilowatts gross input or less or any instant water heaters are also banned unless they are room-sealed or have atmosphere-sensing devices.

In cases where a bedroom containing one or more of the above appliances was used as such prior to 1998, landlords would need to conduct a risk assessment ascertaining whether it was still safe to be used as a bedroom.

Can responsibility for gas safety be transferred?

Tenants cannot be responsible for gas safety except when a contract is drawn up between a landlord and tenant for the installation of an appliance in the non-residential part of a property.

Where a letting agent is used, contracts should state who has responsibility for maintenance and safety checks but landlords have overall liability for sticking to safety guidelines.

In circumstances where a property is sub-let the original landlord and the sub-letters should work closely together to understand where their responsibilities lie in order that legal duties are met.

Who can undertake gas safety checks and maintenance?

Only Gas Safe registered engineers can be used for maintenance and safety checks on gas appliances in private rented properties. The Gas Safe Register is an official list of all gas engineers qualified to work safely and legally on boilers, cookers, fires and all other gas appliances in the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Guernsey.

Its engineers carry Gas Safe Register ID cards with a licence number. Landlords should ask to see these cards before any work is started.

Landlords can search for Gas Safe registered businesses on the Gas Safe Registerwebsite.

Gaining access to a buy-to-let for a gas safety check

Tenancy agreements should allow landlords access for maintenance and safety check work. If tenants refuse access, landlords should keep records of all attempts to gain access in order to demonstrate ‘all reasonable steps’ have been taken.

Written notice should be given and if access is still not forthcoming court action may be necessary, but landlords should never try to access their rental property through force.

What is the penalty for failing to maintain tenants’ gas appliances?

Landlords who neglect their duties with regard to gas appliance safety checks and maintenance risk criminal prosecution which could result in imprisonment or a fine of up to £20,000. Where cases are referred to Crown Court the maximum penalty may be imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both.

If you found this guide useful please visit the Simple Landlords Insurance News section for more helpful tips and advice.

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