When was the last time you heard a gas explosion being reported on the news? They seem to happen with surprising frequency, and as a landlord, these reports serve to remind me how dangerous gas can be to me, to my tenants and to my business.
Most professional landlords know that anyone renting out residential property is required by law to have all gas appliances checked at least every 12 months by a qualified plumber who is registered on the Gas Safe Register (previously CORGI Registered.) Yet I often find when I go to view a possible house purchase that is currently tenanted, there is no available record of a recent gas check. I can only presume that there must therefore be landlords who either don’t know (or don’t care) that they are putting their tenant’s lives at risk.
A landlord I met recently described gas safety checks as “a licence for plumbers to print money”. But the real cost is in not getting the safety checks done. In 2009 a landlord in Staffordshire was fined £40,000 after a tenant died from Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning, and according to the HSE, the danger posed by CO is greater than that of explosion or fire. CO detectors are now relatively inexpensive. They work in a similar way to smoke detectors and I have started fitting them in my properties as a matter of course.
However, there may still be ways the current system of gas safety checks can be improved. Could something be learnt from the annual car safety check (or MOT as it is known)? How about a three year exemption from annual checks for new boilers – surely modern boiler technology is such that we don`t expect a new boiler to develop a fatal fault within 3 years? Secondly, the price of a gas safety check could be limited to, say £50. It certainly takes my plumber less time to check my boiler than it takes my mechanic to MOT my car. This might encourage those landlords fed up with overpriced plumbers to get their gas check done.
It’s worth noting that there are rule changes coming in at the end of next year. These mean that landlords will have to ensure there’s suitable access to boiler flues – some properties have been built with boiler flues hidden behind walls, ceilings, etc. So make sure you check yours out in good time.
Whatever you think about the annual gas safety check (and you can let me know by commenting below), make sure you get yours done – the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.
The NLA Is supporting Gas Safety Week, starting on 12th September 2011. NLA members can access further advice on Gas Safety through the NLA Library, which can be viewed via the NLA website: www.landlords.org.uk