Landlords life and death
Carbon Monoxide Safety In A Rental Property
No landlord could fail to be moved by the tragic events on the Mediterranean resort island of Corfu back in 2006. The death of two young children, Christianne and Robert Wood from carbon monoxide poisoning highlights the potential danger represented by poorly functioning heating systems. The deaths underline the importance of carbon monoxide safety in a rental property.
Landlords should be aware of their responsibilities for the safety of their tenants. The Gas Safety (Installation & Use) 1998 makes every landlord responsible for having a gas pipe work and appliances certified as being in safe working condition. The inspection process has to be carried out at least once a year. All inspections must be done by a Gas Safety registered installer. The regulation is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
There are severe penalties for non-compliance that can be imposed and deaths can result in manslaughter charges for landlords and agents. Non compliance is a criminal offence and courts can impose unlimited fines and custodial sentences. This may also invalidate your landlord property insurance which could subsequently lead to claims for civil damages. Awards in these cases have proved to be very high indeed.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is widely known as the silent killer. Highly poisonous, CO cannot be detected by the senses. You can’t see, smell or taste it, but exposure to even low levels of CO can cause brain damage and death. CO is produced by the incomplete combustion of gas, solid or liquid fuels. It arises from badly installed or poorly maintained gas appliances. Insufficient ventilation to the appliance or away from the appliance (flues and chimneys blocked) will also cause CO build up.
Signs of CO are: yellow or brown stains around the appliance, pilot lights which blow out frequently and increased condensation inside windows.
Symptoms of CO poisoning are: Fatigue, headaches, flu like symptoms such as nausea, chest pains, sudden giddiness when standing up, sickness, diarrhoea and stomach pains, erratic behaviour.
In the UK there are approximately 20-30 deaths each year caused by CO poisoning from heating devices each year. The trend is reducing and the proportion of deaths in private homes and council rented property is 5 times and twice that respectively found in private rented accommodation.
Landlord carbon monoxide safety checklist
- Implement a system of annual checks and maintenance for all gas appliances and flues.
- Use only Gas Safe registered engineers for installations, maintenance and gas safety checks.
- Maintain safety check records, keeping copies for at least 2 years, and issuing copies to each tenant within 28 days.
- If you use a managing agent make sure the contract makes it clear who is responsible for managing gas safety checks.
- Make sure that appliances are safe and have been checked within 12 months before re-letting.
- On re-letting, remove any suspect appliances which may have been left by previous tenants and issue the new tenant/s with a copy of the safety check record on entry.
- On re-letting, even if a safety certificate is still current, inspect the gas installation and appliances. A leaving tenant may have left the system in an unsafe condition.
- Work closely with tenants in gaining access for maintenance, repairs, safety checks and the early reporting of faulty appliances.
- If you experience difficulties gaining access make sure you fully document this to show you have taken all reasonable steps – beware accusations of harassment.
- Ensure that all appliances meet the regulations; in particular in bedrooms and bathrooms where appliances must be of the room-sealed type. Since 1 January 1996 there are restrictions on appliances fitted in bedrooms and bathrooms. Appliances such as heaters must be of the room-sealed type. Non-room sealed types can only be fitted if they are below 14 Kilowatts and have cut off devices which automatically turn off the gas when toxic fumes build up. Also, since 31 October 1998 it has been illegal to install instantaneous water heaters which are not room-sealed or fitted with a safety device which automatically turns off the gas supply when toxic fumes build up. If in doubt seek advice from an installer registered by the Gas Safe Register.
- Do not use second hand gas appliances.
- Ensure that tenants have emergency instructions and ready access to the gas meter and the gas cut-off valve.
- Provide copies of all appliance manufacturers’ operating instructions to your tenants.
- If alterations are made to the rental property make sure the person responsible takes into account the affects on gas appliances such as flue outlets, ventilation etc. and that they have the appliances re-checked by a Gas Safe Register installer.
Other useful information: