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Landlords urged to recognise gas safety responsibilities
Following 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, landlords are being urged to recognise their legal gas safety obligations to their tenants.
Matthew Claxson, a specialist health and safety lawyer at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said: “In light of this recent HSE prosecution and with just five days to go to Gas Safety Week 2013 (16-22 September), 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 Matthew, a partner with the firm. “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 Matthew. “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.”
With more than 21 million households across the UK using gas for heating, cooking and hot water, it is easy to take for granted that our boilers, cookers and gas fires are safe. As well as carbon monoxide poisoning, badly fitted and poorly serviced gas appliances can also cause gas leaks, fires and explosions. It is estimated that there are over 7,000 illegal gas fitters currently operating in the UK with over 200,000 illegal gas jobs being carried out each year.
“Although there is a vague awareness that gas appliances need to be annually checked for safety, many of us either don’t ensure this is done, or have appliances that have never been checked at all,” said Matthew. "Unchecked gas appliances do become unsafe over time and with autumn fast approaching and many people renting our their properties to returning students, it is crucial that landlords recognise their legal duty and ensure they are not exposing their tenants to possible serious injuries or even death.”
How can Fentons help?
If you or a family member has suffered an injury as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, you could be entitled to make a claim for compensation.
If you think that you have a case or require further information, contact Fentons on 0800 019 1297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.
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