This week (16-22 September) is Gas Safety Week and landlords are being urged to make sure they comply with the law.
The warning follows a recent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution of a landlady for failing to provide evidence that a gas safety check had been carried out at one of her tenanted properties.
Matthew Claxson, a specialist health and safety lawyer at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said: “In light of this recent HSE prosecution, it is crucial that landlords are aware they are legally responsible for the safety of their tenants, and that tenants in turn, are aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.”
When a request by Lichfield District Council for a Staffordshire landlady to produce landlord’s gas safety certificates for boilers at two properties she owned in Burntwood went unanswered, the council referred the matter to the HSE.
“Landlord’s certificates are required to confirm that gas appliances, installation and flues at a property have been checked annually for safety by a suitably qualified Gas Safe registered engineer,” said Claxson,“Gas safety laws are there to protect us and the law requires that all landlords who provide a domestic gas service to tenants have those services checked to ensure they meet the requirements of the Gas Safe register.”
South Walls Magistrates' Court was told that despite numerous requests the landlady failed to provide the certificates. As a result, the HSE served two Improvement Notices requiring her to arrange for a competent gas fitter to carry out an inspection of the gas appliances in the two premises and produce a certificate for both.
After the court heard that she complied with one of the notices but failed to immediately provide a certificate for the second property despite repeated requests by the HSE, the woman pleaded guilty to breaching gas safety regulations and was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay costs of £3,209.
“Although some landlords choose to put the safety of their tenants at risk, it was fortunate that in this case no-one was killed,” said Claxson, “Faulty gas appliances and flues are responsible on average for 20 carbon monoxide-related deaths in the UK every year. Many more suffer serious health effects from inadvertently inhaling the highly toxic gas – which can be extremely hard to detect without proper equipment as it has no colour, odour or taste.
“If inhaled, carbon monoxide can quickly enter the bloodstream and affect breathing causing, drowsiness, unconsciousness, coma and even death.”
As well as carbon monoxide poisoning, badly fitted and poorly serviced gas appliances can also cause gas leaks, fires and explosions.