Over the last 20 years we have seen a significant tightening of regulations in relation to all types of rental accommodation. These regulations relate to not only private rental properties but also social housing in its many forms. One area which has become extremely prominent in recent times is that of gas safety checks and the legal obligation on landlords to ensure they are carried out on an annual basis.
Areas of responsibility
To ensure that everything is above board and all parties are aware of their legal obligations the authorities have clarified three areas of responsibility for landlords:
- Maintenance of gas appliances
- Annual gas safety checks
- Maintaining safety records
These legal obligations are set out under the Gas Safety Regulations 1998 Act and failure to abide by the regulations can lead to a fine of up to £5000 or six months imprisonment.
Gas safety checks
All gas checks must be carried out by a qualified Gas Safe Engineer to ensure the highest levels of safety are maintained. When carrying out an inspection this will include an array of different items such as:
- Gas fires
- Gas cooker
- Any other gas appliances
It is worth noting that legally the landlord is only responsible for gas appliances and equipment already fitted at the time the tenancy began. If a tenant took it upon themselves to fit additional gas appliances this is not legally the responsibility of the landlord. However, a tenant can request that a landlord add the additional appliances to their annual gas safety check. As safety is obviously of the upmost importance it is in the landlord’s best interests to ensure all gas equipment is tested annually.
Inappropriate use of gas appliances
As a means of improving the quality of private rental accommodation the authorities have also issued guidelines regarding inappropriate use of gas appliances. It is not advisable to locate gas appliances in rooms where people sleep. This not only takes in bedrooms but also living areas which are perhaps used as makeshift sleeping accommodation. These guidelines also advise against installing boilers in bedrooms and bathrooms.
If there are extreme circumstances why gas appliances, boilers, etc are located in bathrooms/bedrooms or other sleeping areas, carbon monoxide detectors must be fitted. These detectors must also be checked on a regular basis as carbon monoxide poisoning can be life-threatening.
Gas safety certificates
Under the Gas Safety Regulations there should be no gap between consecutive gas safety certificates. There may be extreme situations where it is not possible to carry out the checks, such as the tenant has refused entry, and these must be documented. In this situation it is probably an idea to write to the tenant, keeping a copy of correspondence, clarifying the situation and the fact they were not able to enter the premises to carry out the checks. Unless a landlord is able to prove they attempted to carry out the annual gas safety checks then criminal charges will likely follow.
All tenants must be issued with a copy of a valid gas safety certificate before they enter the property together with subsequent certificates within 28 days of issue. In HMOs there is also an additional legal obligation to display a copy of each valid certificate on the premises as well as supplying individual copies to tenants.
Actions required where there is a fault
The regulations take in a degree of common sense where faults are found with gas appliances and equipment. The gas safe engineer will request permission to disconnect the faulty equipment from the tenant. In the event that permission is refused the appliance will be labelled as “unsafe” and the tenant advised not to use the equipment. It is also the obligation of the gas safe engineer to advise the landlord as soon as possible of any safety issues which they must address immediately.
It is worth noting that reconnecting a faulty appliance is a criminal offence whether carried out by the landlord or the tenant.
Failure to carry out annual gas safety checks or any other breach of gas safety regulations is a criminal offence. The landlord could be fined up to £5000 or face a prison sentence of up to 6 months. It is also essential that documentation relating to gas safety checks is retained for a minimum of two years. Many landlords choose to retain gas safety paperwork for 6 years in line with general letting record requirements.
You could also read our article "A Landlord's Guide to Gas Safety"