Council landlord prosecuted over gas safety certificates failure

Tuesday 17th July 2012

A local council neglected to carry out annual gas safety checks on properties used to house its tenants.

As a result, the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham has been hit with a penalty of nearly £100,000 by the Health and Safety Executive.

The council has now apologised in respect of the 21 privately leased properties that had no gas safety certificates, in contravention of the law.

Landlords are required by law to arrange annual checks by a Gas Safe registered engineer and keep and maintain gas safety records for all properties. But an investigation by the HSE revealed that the council failed to provide adequate certification for appliances in scores of properties under its control between April 2008 and July 2010.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that HSE uncovered the failings after a tenant at an  emergency hostel complained that a gas safety certificate wasn’t available.

Checks at the hostel in July 2009 found that a gas safety record for the property, which contained several gas cookers and other appliances, had expired 15 months previously.

The council was asked to provide a ‘lapse table’ for other properties where annual safety checks had slipped and was given a list of 297 properties.

The HSE subsequently investigated 20 of the properties, all of which had gas cookers or boilers that should have been checked at least every 12 months.

HSE prosecuted Hammersmith and Fulham Council for nine separate breaches of Regulation 36(3)(a) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, with a further 14 breaches taken into consideration.

The council pleaded guilty to all nine breaches and was fined a total of £83,600 and ordered to pay full costs of £15,553.

In mitigation, the council told the court that a member of staff had purposely entered inaccurate data in its computer systems, which led it to believe the properties had undergone annual gas-safety checks. It has now updated its systems so management can monitor all data that is submitted.?

After the hearing, HSE inspector Nicola Maisuria said: “Carbon monoxide can kill quickly without warning and approximately 20 people die each year as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning from gas appliances and flues that have not been properly installed or maintained or that are poorly ventilated.

“As a landlord, the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham is legally responsible for the safety of its tenants in relation to gas safety. In failing to carry out the required annual gas safety checks on appliances in its properties, and maintain records of each safety check, the authority could have exposed tenants to additional potential risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.

??“The council has now instigated a new monitoring and control regime to improve safety and to meet its legal obligations as a landlord. I welcome this improvement, and I hope this prosecution sends a clear message to other local authorities and all landlords that they must ensure they carry out all necessary gas safety checks.”

Hammersmith and Fulham has apologised for its ‘serious administrative failings’ regarding the 21 private sector leased properties which did not have adequate gas safety certificates.

A spokesman said: “The council pleaded guilty to a series of serious administrative failures between April 2008 and August 2010 concerning the timely completion of gas safety certificates and would like to apologise unreservedly to our tenants in the private sector leased properties concerned.

“As a responsible landlord, there is nothing more important to the council than the safety of our tenants and, as soon as we discovered these failings, we acted decisively to rectify these unacceptable breaches.

“All of the officers directly associated with these failings no longer work for the council and we have completely overhauled our procedures in this area so that every one of these properties now has a valid gas safety certificate.”