26 March, 2010
The importance of landlords adhering to the requirements of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 was underlined on 24 March 2010 at Southampton Magistrates' Court following a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution. The landlords of a property, Mr Robert Watts and Mr David Watts, were both fined £7,000 and ordered to each pay costs of £4,500 after their tenant and her daughter were affected by carbon monoxide leaks at the property.
The landlords had been warned on a number of occasions over four years that the boiler at the property needed servicing and they failed to act upon this. The gas engineer (who declared the boiler safe on three occasions when this was not the case) was fined a total of £5,000.
In December 2007 the tenant and her daughter were at the property when the child became ill and was drifting in and out of consciousness. The tenant also suffered from bad headaches and vomiting. Both were taken to hospital suffering from severe carbon monoxide poisoning. When HSE carried out investigations at the property it was said that the level of carbon monoxide produced by the boiler was so high, it was off the scale of the inspectors' measuring equipment.
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 HSE 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. Landlords must ensure that they only use gas engineers who are Gas Safe registered to carry out work.
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.
Cases such as these serve as a warning to all providers of housing, including private landlords, to ensure that they comply with all their obligations under the law. A failure to do so could lead to criminal prosecutions.
The HSE has stated that every year around 20-30 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning associated with domestic gas appliances incorrectly installed or maintained. It is therefore imperative that all necessary checks are carried out at tenanted properties in order to avoid further tragedies.