28 October, 2009
A landlord from Cambridgeshire has recently been sent to prison for 16 months after breaching the laws relating to gas safety. It is the latest instance of housing providers being punished for failing to comply with their legal obligations. The verdict in this case should act as a warning to other landlords across the county.
Istiaq Ahmed had been acting as a landlord on behalf of the owner of a rented property in Huntingdon when he committed four health and safety offences in August 2007. When inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive visited the property in October 2007, they found ten defects with the gas appliances. Three of these were classed as 'immediately dangerous' and three were deemed as 'at risk'. The problems included two gas leaks and a very poorly maintained open-flued gas fire which was located in a room where a young couple and baby slept.
Mr Ahmed was charged with failing to comply with an Improvement Notice served by the Health and Safety Executive which required gas safety checks to be carried out as required by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was also charged with three breaches relating to failing to maintain gas appliances, failing to carry out annual checks and failing to remove gas appliances from a room used for sleeping.
The problems were exacerbated for Mr Ahmed by the fact that he was also due to be sentenced for other health and safety offences from earlier in the year, when he instructed his Counsel to present a 'Landlord Gas Safety Record' as part of his mitigation. Investigations by the Executive revealed that the document in question was in fact false and that Mr Ahmed had obtained a bogus, back-dated certificate from a local gas engineer, which brought about the offence of perverting the course of justice.
At Peterborough Crown Court, after pleading guilty, he was imprisoned for 16 months for all of the offences in October 2009. This comprised of 12 months imprisonment for perverting the course of justice and a further four months (to run consecutively) for failing to comply with the Improvement Notice.
All providers of housing are under a legal duty to arrange maintenance of all gas pipe work, appliances and flues which are used by tenants by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Landlords also must arrange for an annual gas safety check to be carried out every 12 months by a Gas Safe registered engineer. When such a check is carried out, a record of the inspection must be held for two years and a copy must be provided to each tenant within 28 days of the check being completed. A copy must also be issued before a new tenant moves into a property.
From April 2009, the Capita Gas Safe Register is the only gas installer registration scheme approved by the Health and Safety Executive under the 1998 Regulations and replaced the previous CORGI registration. All installers (including those used by landlords) wanting to undertake domestic gas work will need to be registered with the Gas Safe scheme in order to be able to lawfully carry out any work on both gas fittings and appliances in a property.
Carbon monoxide has no smell or taste which makes identifying its presence very difficult. It can kill people without warning. In order to avoid this happening, it is advised that all residential gas appliances are properly maintained and that an annual safety check is carried out. It may also be beneficial to install carbon monoxide detectors in the property as a precautionary measure.
In 2007/08, 14 people died in the United Kingdom from carbon monoxide poisoning and there were more than 230 non-fatal conformed carbon monoxide poisonings. These figures show that the risks potentially posed by gas appliances are real and lethal. Landlords and other housing providers should ensure that they do all they can to reduce the risks of their tenants from such dangers in the future.