Gas Safety Week, the annual awareness campaign run by the Gas Safe Register, was established to highlight the importance of checking and maintaining gas appliances.
Following last week’s news that carbon monoxide poisonings have increased by 32% since 2014, the campaign is more important than ever. Around 50 people are killed by carbon monoxide each year and the latest figures from UK Fire Services show incidents of poisoning rose from 2,450 incidents in 2014 to 3,249 in the last 12 months.
As a landlord you have a responsibility to keep your tenants safe - badly fitted or poorly maintained appliances can be a silent killer in your rented home. It is obviously important for you to understand your legal obligations as a landlord, but outside of these, you have a duty of care to your tenants to ensure they are not put in any danger in your property.
Follow these tips to keep your tenants safe - and you within the law.
Fit a carbon monoxide alarm - even if you're not required to by law
An estimated two-thirds of homes do not have a carbon monoxide alarm, leaving around 40 million people at risk, many of whom are in rented accommodation.
Currently, the law in England, Wales and Northern Ireland only requires landlords to fit carbon monoxide alarms if the property has a solid fuel burning appliance.
But campaigners, including many landlords, believe all homes with gas should have mandatory alarms. While you may not be obligated by law to fit an alarm, installing carbon monoxide detectors in your property will ensure your tenant's safety for as little as £10. If you are reluctant to provide carbon monoxide detectors yourself, flag this up to your tenants and encourage to install their own.
Alarms are particularly important in the case of carbon monoxide as you can’t see, smell or taste carbon monoxide, which is why it is so often called the silent killer.
Get appliances tested regularly
In a rented property, it is the landlord's responsibility to ensure all equipment is properly maintained. This applies to any heat-generating appliance, so cookers, boilers etc, regardless of the type of fuel it uses. Flues which extract fumes also need to be checked.
The Gas Safe Register says appliances should be tested on an annual basis, advice most manufacturers of appliances agree with.
Ensure you use a certified engineer - the Gas Safe Register has a list of approved contractors, and make sure you are given all the correct safety certificates and paperwork once the work is done. You will need to supply a gas safety certificate to a tenant to prove the appropriate appliances have been checked.
Check for signs of a leak
While the gas may be silence, there are some signs that should look for that indicate a leak:
- A tired-looking orange or yellow colour flame rather than crisp blue one
- If the pilot light in a boiler always seems to go out for no obvious reason (ie a draught)
- Keep an eye out for soot or black or brown scorched areas on or around an appliance
- Excessive condensation on the windows or a musty smell in the air are signs there could be an issue
Ensure rooms are well ventilated
Check that all rooms with gas appliances have adequate ventilation. This means not blocking air inlets to prevent draughts, or obstructing flues and chimneys.
Know the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning aren’t that easy to distinguish from other complaints, particularly in the elderly, young or vulnerable. But if a tenant complains that they feel unwell whenever they are inside the property - or if you notice any of the following symptoms during an inspection - then it’s important to act quickly.
- Generally feeling unwell are common
If you or your tenants experience any of the above, call 999 immediately and contact the Gas Emergency Service line on 0800 111 999, before you return to the property.
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