Badly installed or maintained gas appliances in properties can pose a significant danger to the occupants; between 30 and 40 people die each year due to carbon monoxide poisoning. If there is inadequate ventilation for the appliance or the flue becomes blocked, carbon monoxide may be released into the room. A build-up of carbon monoxide can be fatal. The most dangerous gas appliance is the ‘open flue’ boiler as the unit is no sealed and toxic gases can escape into the room very easily.
The governing legislation is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and this is supplemented by the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and the Gas Cooking Appliances (Safety) Regulations 1989 (which cover second hand as well as new appliances).
The 1998 Regulations revoke the previous regulations; the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1994, the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) (Amendment) Regulations 1996 and the Gas Safety (Installation and Use)(Amendment)(No. 2) Regulations 1996.
The maximum penalty with non-compliance with the legislation is six months imprisonment, a fine or both.
Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998
These Regulations apply to all gas appliances in the property (other than any which are specifically excluded by the regulations), any associated gas pipework leading to the appliances and any flue leading from the appliances. They include portable heaters and other gas appliances fed by bottled gas, or from an external gas storage vessel at the property.
Certain categories of gas appliance cannot be installed in certain parts of the living accommodation of a dwelling house.
The Regulations apply to tenanted property in both the private and public sector, and the landlord cannot ‘contract out’ of his obligations by stipulating on the lease that the tenant must arrange for the servicing of gas appliances. However, they do not apply where the lease is for a term over 7 years or to gas appliances installed or owned by the tenant.
Where the landlord’s property is managed by an agency, the management contract should specify who is responsible for the maintenance of gas appliances. Where it can be shown that a breach of the Regulations by a landlord is due to their managing agent, the agent may be prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 even if proceedings are not taken against the landlord. An agent, whether or not they are managing the property, has a duty to inform the landlord of all relevant safety legislation that may apply. Failure to do this may result in the agent being held negligent.
The person responsible for a premises shall not use or permit to be used a gas appliance that is suspected to be faulty or incorrectly installed. Where there is an escape of gas the person responsible for the premises must take reasonable steps to prevent further escape, and is obliged to inform the gas supplier immediately in gas continues to escape after the supply has been cut off.
Testing and Maintenance
The Regulations require that an annual check is carried out in all rented properties, and specify the nature of the tests to be carried out during such checks.
All landlords must ensure that the gas fittings and flue are maintained in safe condition.
Any work done on gas appliances, including new installations, repairs, maintenance and the safety check must be done by a competent and suitably qualified engineer. Until 1st April 2009 this person had to be registered with the Council for Registered Gas Installers, but since April the engineer used must instead be registered with Gas Safe.
Any person in control of works affecting existing gas fittings must take all reasonable precautions to ensure that the gas fittings are not brought out of line with current regulations. Such works include those where the effects on gas appliances are not obvious, such as the installation of double glazing which may include the removal of air bricks.
The owner of, or the person responsible for, the premises has a duty to keep a record of the gas appliances in the property, the dates of inspection, the defects identified and any remedial action taken. These records must be available to be inspected by any tenant who so requests and who may be affected by the use or operation of any appliance.
Previous, but still in force, regulations, state that the landlord must provide a copy of the record to any new tenants before they move into the property.
Gas Cooking Appliances (Safety) Regulations 1989
These Regulations apply to all gas cooking equipment which is ‘supplied’ in the course of business. Any gas cooker, whether new or second hand, must be undamaged and working correctly. The supplier is also liable where there is a risk of injury due to an escape of gas, the stability of the appliance or the lack of appropriate English instructions. These Regulations are less significant following the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.
New gas appliances placed on the market after January 1997 must also show the CE mark, as required by the Heating Appliances (Fireguard)(Safety) Regulations 1991.