02 November, 2009
In the latest of a series of prosecutions conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a landlord has been punished for breaching the laws concerning gas safety in domestic properties. Due to the fact that there have been gas safety cases in 2009 where custodial sentences have been handed down, landlords and gas engineers alike should be fully aware of their legal obligations.
On 28 October 2009, Helen Jayne Beckett, a landlord from Ilkley, was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,500 after she pleaded guilty to breaching the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations and for disobeying an improvement notice previously served on her.
It was heard by the court that between July 2007 and January 2009, Ms Beckett had failed to ensure that a gas fire at her rented property in Cleethorpes had been subjected to annual safety checks. It was also said that despite being served with an improvement notice by HSE in November 2008, she failed to have the necessary checks carried out by the required date. Doing this meant that the life of the tenant was put at risk.
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.
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 checked by authorised gas engineers. It may also be beneficial to install carbon monoxide detectors in the property as a precautionary measure.
Landlords are under a duty arising from the 1998 Regulations to carry out a safety check of all gas appliances in tenanted properties on an annual basis and a failure to do so is a criminal offence.
Prosecutions such as in this case serve to show that the courts take breaches of gas safety rules very seriously and that imprisonment is an option which cannot be ruled out.
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 for tenants from such dangers in the future.