Gas Safety – Facts are Stubborn Things

Steeles Law Property Disputes Associate Jean Parkinson and Trainee Solicitor Laura Tanguay discuss the recent gas safety prosecution of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

The most recent statistics available from the Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) reveal that there were 264 gas related incidents in the last recorded year, causing a total of 18 fatalities and 399 non-fatal injuries. But despite these tragic outcomes – and indeed, the serious consequences of flouting gas safety legislation – we are presented with another example in the news of a local authority landlord in breach of its obligations.

Following on from our article, “Safe as Houses? Required Gas Safety Checks for Landlords”, we are prompted to revisit this topic by the recent prosecution of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

On 11 July 2012, the local authority was fined £83,600 for failing to arrange annual safety checks on gas appliances in its tenanted properties. Investigations by the HSE revealed the authority failed to provide adequate certification in respect of appliances in many of its properties between April 2008 and July 2010.

At the hearing, Westminster Magistrates' Court heard evidence that the various breaches had been uncovered following a tenant complaint that gas safety certificates were not available. Upon inspecting that property, it was found that the gas safety record had expired on 4 April 2008 – 15 months previously.

By law, landlords are required to arrange annual gas safety checks (undertaken by a Gas Safe registered engineer) and maintain gas safety records for every tenanted property in its portfolio as per the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 (the “Regulations”).

The local authority in this instance was prosecuted under Regulation 36(3)(a) of the Regulations. Under Regulation 36(3), landlords must:

1. check every gas appliance for safety within 12 months of being installed by the landlord and every 12 months thereafter;

2. check every gas appliance owned or installed by the landlord for safety within the 12 months prior to a new lease commencing; and

3. keep records in the manner prescribed by the Regulations of appliances checked and retain these for a period of 2 years thereafter.

The authority pleaded guilty to all nine breaches of the Regulations and was fined a total of £83,600 and ordered to pay full costs of £15,553. At the Crown Court, a breach of these Regulations can in fact be punishable by imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

There are a host of further gas safety requirements in addition to the above to which landlords must adhere, a summary of which can be found on the HSE website. Should you have any further questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact Jean Parkinson on JParkinson@steeleslaw.co.uk.

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