Gas Safety Guide for Landlords
One of the key responsibilities for landlords renting a property is ensuring their property is safe to live in. One of the most important things in this is ensuring the property is gas safe. Landlords have a number of responsibilities in this area and this guide is designed to help landlords understand their responsibilities, the potential penalties for non-compliance, and some practical guidance on performing their duties as a landlord.
What is the landlord responsible for?
Landlords are responsible for ensuring that all gas appliances, including the installation pipe or flues are maintained in a safe condition through the entire time the property is occupied. They should be particularly mindful of this when responding to repair requests.
Landlords of rented residential accommodation must have an annual gas safety check carried out on gas appliances which they provide (and all related gas flues). This work must be performed by a Gas Safe Registered Engineer.
Once the check has been performed the landlord will receive a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate (or CP12 as it is often referred to) from the engineer.
Tenants must be given copies of the current Certificate prior to moving in. Whenever the landlord performs a follow up check, the tenant must be given a copy of the replacement certificate within 28 days of the annual check being completed.
It must be borne in mind that the offence of failing to carry out an obligation under the Gas Safety Regulations is an absolute offence subject to the limited defence available. It is therefore the landlord's responsibility to see that any such check is properly carried out. A landlord should consider putting in place a proper system of checking on whether the work has been carried out and if so if it has been done properly.
In addition, the landlord is responsible for ensuring that the installation of gas appliances within the property adhere to Part J of the Building Regulations. This means having things like boilers with a minimum efficiency of 86%. During installation the qualified engineer should perform an assessment to ensure you comply with the requirements. They will provide you with a Building Regulations Compliance Certificate to show you have met these requirements.
What are the tenant and the landlord responsible for?
The Gas Safety Regulations also impose certain further responsibilities generally upon all persons. This includes landlords and tenants. These would extend to the landlord's employees. They are:
- No person searching for an escape of gas is to use any source of ignition e.g. a match or lighter
- No alterations are to be made to any premises which would adversely affect the safety of a gas fitting so as to result in any contravention of or failure to comply with the regulations e.g. installation/removal of a window, air bricks, extractor fans or putting extra weight on hidden pipes.
- Nothing may be done which could affect a gas fitting or any flue or means of ventilation in such a manner that subsequent use could constitute a danger to any person
- Combustible material must not be stored in any meter box
- Any person disconnecting a gas fitting must seal off the outlet pipe.
- No person to carry out work unless competent
- No person is to install a meter in a locked box without supplying a key
Who is responsible for enforcing these obligations?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are usually responsible for dealing with any breaches relating to gas safety and they have wide ranging powers to enforce around this.
For contraventions of the Building Regulations the local authority will be the one responsible for enforcement actions.
What are the penalties for not complying?
Landlords have a duty of care to their tenants here and failure to perform this obligation can lead to heavy punishment.
Failure to provide the CP12 form is a criminal offence and landlords can face fines of up to £6000 or 6 months in prison for failure to provide this material to their tenants.
In addition, in England, failure to provide the current Gas Safety Certificate at the outset of the tenancy prohibits service of the prescribed Section 21 notice (Form6a). This may be rectifiable by serving the Certificate later in the tenancy, however landlords should not rely on this as it is a grey area in the law. However, some county court decisions have persuasively argued that, if a Certificate was not provided at the outset of the tenancy, the landlord cannot serve a Section 21 notice while that tenancy continues to exist.
Landlords should also be aware that this is a hazardous situation, and they may be subject to enforcement actions such as improvement or prohibition notices or emergency remedial action from the local authority.
In addition, the landlord can be held liable for having a defective premises, which can can lead to large losses through civil damages.
When, and how often should I get a new Gas Safety Certificate?
Until April 6th 2018, a Gas Safety Certificate would last for 12 months from the day the engineer performed the inspection. This meant that landlords would often end up getting a check done every 10-11 months rather than risking breaching the law.
From April 6th 2018 this position will change. A gas safety inspection performed in the 2 months prior to the expiry of the current Certificate is treated as having been performed on the last day of the existing certificate.
A gas safety inspection was performed on May 4th 2017. The certificate is valid until May 3rd 2017.
If the landlord performs a follow-up check on April 3rd 2018 this falls under the old rules. The engineer provides him with a replacement certificate that runs from April 3rd 2018 - April 2nd 2019.
If the landlord performs a follow-up check on April 6th 2018 they fall under the new rules. The engineer provides him with a replacement Gas Safety Certificate that runs from May 3rd 2018 - May 2nd 2019.
Where the landlord had a brand-new installation of gas appliances (or they have bought a brand-new property) they do not immediately need a Gas Safety Certificate. However, they are required to check the appliances are working within 12 months of installation. To avoid any potential issues around the service of a Section 21 notice, landlords may find it easiest to perform this inspection and receive a CP12 notice prior to a tenant moving in.
Are there any additional requirements for a house in multiple occupation (HMO)?
Yes, under the Houses in Multiple Occupation Management Regulations, landlords must be able to provide the current Gas Safety Certificate upon request by the local authority. This applies to all HMOs, not just licensable ones, so landlords of any property with 3 or more unrelated people living in it will have to bear this in mind.
For licensed HMOs, the landlord will also be required to provide the Certificate as part of any licence application and send any replacement copies to the local authority every year.
Do I have a legal right to gain access to the property to perform these checks?
Access can be a difficult issue for landlords where the relationship with the tenant is strained. A written agreement normally allows them to access the property on a 24 hour written notice to inspect for and perform any repairs that are needed. However, where the tenant has refused access then the landlord must abide by this until either they get an injunction against the tenant or get the tenant's consent to enter.
Given the expense of injunctions however, landlords may find that the easiest route is to start eviction proceedings against the tenant under Section 21 or Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988. This should be available where they have a written tenancy agreement.
Are there any defences available if a tenant refuses access and the Certificate lapses?
The HSE has confirmed previously that they will not prosecute landlords who can show they have made at least 3 genuine efforts to access the property to perform their obligations. To do this, landlords should ensure they have written records of every attempt, including if possible confirmation from the engineer of the refusal. The RLA also provides a sample letter for contacting tenants who are not providing you access.
Landlords should endeavour to make it as clear as possible that they are obliged to comply with their contract and allow them access. They should also make it clear that the tenants are endangering themselves by refusing access and potentially leaving themselves liable for any damage that is caused as a result of this refusal.
Can anyone gain access where there is a genuine risk?
The Gas Safety (Right of Entry) Regulations 1996 give National Grid the right to enter premises where there is reasonable cause to suspect a gas escape. Their officers can enter to inspect gas fittings, flues, etc and to carry out tests. Save in emergency National Grid can only enter with the occupier's consent or if authorised by a Magistrates Warrant.
Who can disconnect the property if there is any danger?
National Grid can disconnect gas appliances or any part of the gas system in a property so as to avert danger to life or property.
If National Grid do so they must within 5 clear working days notify the consumer in writing giving details of the nature of the defect or circumstances why the power to disconnect has been used, the nature of the danger and the action taken, and advising the consumer of the right of appeal and the grounds on which an appeal can be made. The notice must also warn the customer against reconnecting the items and the penalties for doing so. At the same time as disconnecting the items the official concerned must affix a notice on the relevant items on part of the premises warning against reconnection and of the penalties for doing so.
There is a right of appeal to the Secretary of State within 21 days against disconnection. The grounds of appeal are that there was no danger justifying disconnection, the defect or circumstances giving rise to disconnection did not exist or has ceased to exist. There can be an inquiry if required.
An unauthorised re-connection is a criminal offence. There is a prohibition on re-connection without the supplier's consent. This does not apply to reconnection for the purposes of repairs or where steps have been taken to put the defect right.
If there is a dangerous situation an engineer should disconnect or disrepair with the consent of the responsible person. If this cannot be done he should label the appliance as dangerous. The person must not then use the appliance.
What if the tenant has installed these appliances?
A tenant may install a supply without telling the landlord. By definition the appliances will belong to the tenant so they are excluded from the landlord's liability. However, any installation pipe work will not be excluded and this will be the responsibility of the landlord. Consideration therefore needs to be given to a system of periodically checking supposedly all electric properties, for longer term tenants.
Problems can arise when tenants leave behind their own appliances. These will revert to the landlord and become the landlord's property. The landlord must ensure therefore that they are checked before a new tenancy commences or alternatively, that they are removed.
Are there any tenancies for which the landlord is exempt from the requirement to provide a Gas Safety Certificate?
Tenancy agreements of 7 years or more put the responsibility on the tenant rather than the landlord. However, this only applies to tenancies with a fixed term of 7 years, not tenancies that have lasted for at least 7 years.