01 May, 2020
We are seeing an increasing number of cases recently where tenants will not allow their landlord access to complete a gas safety inspection. Why? Because of Covid-19.
Understandably, people are anxious about letting others into their homes during this scary time, but landlords must still comply with their duties under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. Regulation 36 requires landlords to maintain in a safe condition any relevant gas fitting and any flue and ensure that each appliance and flue is checked for safety every 12 months.
The HSE has commented that "during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, there is a balance between ensuring people, including the vulnerable, are protected from potentially fatal risks arising from carbon monoxide exposure or gas explosion, while doing what we can to protect people from Covid-19." It has made clear that landlords should not suspend all gas safety checks at this time as it will unnecessarily put tenants at increased risk, particularly as people are spending more time at home.
Regulation 39 provides an exception to liability for failure to comply with Regulation 36 where the landlord can show he took all reasonable steps to prevent contravention.
Therefore, so long as a landlord takes 'all reasonable steps' to carry out its obligations under Regulation 36, it is unlikely that the HSE would prosecute and if they did, the landlord could raise a defence.
Although it recommends dealing with each property on a case-by-case basis, the HSE has provided some example scenarios to help landlords understand what might be considered as reasonable steps to take.
For example, your tenant tells you they don't want anyone coming into their home as they fall into the Government's vulnerable person category and are at an increased risk of severe illness from Coronavirus. The HSE says you can delay completing the gas safety check until after your tenant's isolation period has ended but you must arrange for it to take place as soon as possible afterwards.
On the other hand, if your tenant and their family with no vulnerable people are socially distancing but with no symptoms, you should arrange to complete the gas safety inspection and adhere to Government guidance on working in people's homes.
We would therefore recommend that landlords continue to keep records of their attempts to carry out gas safety inspections and write to tenants to explain that they must still allow access, unless they provide details of an underlying condition that puts them at greater risk of contracting Covid-19.
For more information contact Sarah Rogers in our Housing & Regeneration department via email or phone on 01772 220161. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.