07 November, 2013
Last month, the Homes and Communities Agency urged social landlords to take legal action against tenants who refuse access gas safety engineers access to their properties.
Many Registered Providers have an excellent record when it comes to tackling gas safety issues. However, the HCA intervention highlighted below clearly demonstrates the adverse consequences which can flow from a failure to tackle tenants who fail to allow access.
In October 2013, the HCA issued its first 'regulatory notice' on a serious detriment case against Gallions Housing Association ('GHA'). The regulatory notice stated that GHA had failed to meet the HCA's 'home standard' and this created a 'potential for serious detriment' to its tenants.
A tenant of GHA contacted the HCA and claimed that a gas safety inspection had not been carried out at the property for the last 3 years, in breach of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. The HCA conducted an investigation and found that the tenant's home had not been serviced for more than 2 years.
Whilst the HCA accepted that there were access difficulties at the property, they found that GHA had not sought to resolve the issue by way of legal intervention until 2 years after the previous gas safety inspection had been completed.
The HCA found that the delay in taking legal action against the tenant to gain access to the property, led to the tenant and their neighbours, being exposed to the potential dangers of an unserviced gas boiler for an unnecessarily long period of time.
In conclusion, the HCA found that as a result of GHAs' failure to carry out a gas safety inspection, the potential resulting harm met the threshold for 'serious harm' and this met the 'serious detriment' test.
Whilst the HCA found that there had been a breach of the home standard, the tenant in question did not actually suffer any harm and a gas safety inspection has now been completed. Additionally, the HCA confirmed that GHAs' overall compliance with the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations was satisfactory and the breach was not a systematic failing which would affect other tenants.
GHA has been named and shamed by the HCA for putting one of their tenants at a serious risk of harm. As a result not only has Gallions' gas safety procedures been reconsidered but its governance rating is also under review.
This instance should serve as a wake up call to the social housing sector to ensure that not one property slips through the net. In this case there was not a large, systematic failure on the part of GHA but a failure to carry out a gas safety inspection on one single property. Given the serious danger an unserviced gas boiler presents to both the tenant of a property and their neighbours, it is crucial that legal action is commenced on all properties where there are access difficulties.
Social landlords need to ensure that they have robust policies and procedures in place to monitor gas safety inspections and to highlight the need for legal action to be commenced without delay. Failure to employ such robust policies and procedures could put tenants in serious danger; run the risk of the landlord facing criminal proceedings and now the risk of a Regulatory Notice being issued against the Registered Providers.
It is important that Social Landlords have effective means of managing the information about their own stock and have a clear understanding of which properties have out of date certificates. Opportunities to gain access to properties should not be missed. Inter-department communication is vital and the use of a flagging system on the Social Landlord's IT system is often an extremely effective means of ensuring access opportunities are maximised.