Gas Safety Week 10th – 16th September 2012
Gas Safe Register, the official list of registered gas engineers, is launching the second annual Gas Safety Week from 10th – 16th September 2012, aiming to raise awareness of gas safety in rental properties and around the home.
Paul Johnston, chief executive at Gas Safe Register said: “Every year, far too many people suffer from preventable gas related accidents, such as gas leaks, explosions, fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. In the last year alone 18 people died and a further 399 were hospitalised. With Gas Safety Week we want to encourage the public to only use Gas Safe registered engineers to fit, fix and service their gas appliances and to raise awareness of the importance of having an annual gas safety check. If maintained and installed properly, gas appliances are safe. If neglected, gas appliances can kill. In Gas Safety Week we want everyone to find out when they last had all of their gas appliances, including cookers, fires and boilers, checked. If this was over a year ago, you should get them checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer as soon as possible to help ensure your family and home is safe.”
Sim Sekhon, spokesman for specialist landlord services provider, Legal 4 Landlords commented: “Gas Safety is a legal requirement for all UK landlords and Gas Safety Week gives all property owners, not just landlords and tenants, the opportunity to put gas safety at the top of the priority list. Landlords making sure gas appliances in a rental property are safe to use could save a tenant’s life”.
The Gas Safe Register want landlords to understand the real risks posed by unsafe gas work and help all property owners to stay gas safe, as well as be prepared for the changes to the building regulations affecting landlords, property owners, leaseholders and property management companies that come into effect at the end of the year.
Garry Jones of Manchester based engineers “Quality Gas” explained: “The introduction of fan-flued gas appliances in the mid-1990’s allowed gas central heating boilers to be installed away from external walls. This meant that in blocks of flats, builders were routing flues to boilers through ceiling voids and stud walls between the flats to make better use of space. In 2007, the then gas watchdog, CORGI, issued the original Technical Bulletin (TB 200) which required new installations with a flue routed within a void to have appropriate means for gas engineers to visually check the flue. This was to be achieved by the installation of inspection hatches located in the ceiling”.
The 31st December 2012 is a date all landlords, home-owners and leaseholders should have in their diaries because if inspection hatches have not been installed prior to this date, and a Gas Safe engineer cannot view the boiler flue along its length, they will advise the property owner or managing agent that the installation is considered “At Risk” and will turn off the gas supply, leaving the property and tenant without a gas supply.
This requirement will clearly impact on landlord and leaseholder obligations and will cause extra work for property management agents as well as causing unnecessary stress for tenants.
The main change indicated by the technical bulletin was the requirement of inspection hatches to be fitted retrospectively to properties where the boiler flue was concealed within a void and cannot be directly accessed for inspection.
Gas safety is the responsibility of the landlord or property owner. However, in certain circumstances…
1.Where a property is less than 2 years old, a homeowner should contact the original developer and/or builder for assistance with retro-fitting inspection hatches and repairs of the flue defects. Failing that, the homeowner should be advised to contact their home warranty provider. The main warranty providers in the UK are NHBC, Premier Guarantee and Zurich Building Guarantee (for older properties).
2.Where a property is between 3 and 10 years old, the owner should contact the home warranty provider;
3.Where a property is 10 years or older a Registered Gas Safety Engineer should be contacted.
In demised premises, one must first and foremost always consider the provisions of the Lease. Most inspection hatches will need to be installed into the ceilings of flats.
It is therefore important to identify which party under the lease the ceiling and ceiling void have been demised to and which party is responsible for maintenance of these parts.
It is also usual for leases to include provisions within them requiring the leaseholder to obtain landlords and/or managing company’s consent prior to making alterations (structural or non-structural) within their demised premises.
From a landlord’s perspective, whilst consents cannot be unreasonably withheld, landlords may need to give consideration to several issues:
1.Whether they would consider reducing charges for providing consent as, arguably, all leaseholders must undertake the works to comply with legislation and statutory requirements; and
2.It is possible that the original plasterboard ceiling will have been designed to provide fire protection and, in many cases, acoustic/noise protection too. The hatches will of course need to be fitted to provide equivalent fire/noise protection to the ceiling they are replacing. It may be that the landlord considers appointing one contractor to install inspecting hatches within their developments to ensure consistency and a minimum standard of safety.
Another important thing to remember is responsibility for ongoing maintenance (if any). Which party to the lease will be responsible for the maintenance of the inspection hatch once installed?
It will arguably come down to the party responsible for the ceiling under the terms of the lease as it is highly unlikely that the lease as currently drafted will incorporate specific provisions for inspection hatches. Lease variations may also need to be considered in certain circumstances.
Whilst there is no legal duty on private homeowners to have inspection hatches installed, there is a long-standing legal duty for gas engineers to be able to visually inspect flues to ensure safety.
Getting the works completed may take time, especially if the property owner needs to make contact with the original building and/or home warranty provider.
To avoid the risk of having gas turned off from 1st January 2013, action must be taken now.
Landlords also need to start considering, (if they have not already done so), the policies they have to put in place for providing consent and ensuring a minimum standard of safety across their portfolios.
Whilst 31st December 2012 seems a long way off, it is worth remembering that 18 people died from gas related incidents in the UK last year and 399 non-fatalities were reported (Source: HSE RIDGAS statistics 2010/11 (provisional)