Gas leak in managed apartments endangers tenants
It is always worth reminding developers and building management companies that clients are just as liable as principal contractors or sub-contractors for building safety – that is, the safety of workers, and (as in this case) the safety of building users and the public at large.
This is a situation where multiple gas boiler management faults in a London apartment block caused two related companies to appear in court, with all the unwanted attention, management diversion and cost that this brings.
Valbond Management Ltd and Holbond Ltd acted as landlords in the Hampstead, North London building. Complaints from a particular Valmont–managed flat went unheard, and the tenants were so frustrated and worried about their safety due to the landlord’s lack of action that they moved away.
When a registered Gas Safe engineer did finally visit the installation in question, he uncovered a leaking flue joint in the void above the ceiling. In the absence of the (legally-required) annual safety inspections, the leak could have been emitting dangerous gas for up to 5 years.
Failure to maintain gas installations
This led the way to a full investigation of the whole building by the Health & Safety Executive. Their inspectors found that a Holbond flat, and another of Valmont’s, lacked gas safety certificates and had not received their annual maintenance.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court fined the two companies a total of £48,000 and levied £864 of costs.
As the HSE commented, it was very fortunate that the boiler in the first flat was working well, or the leaking flue could have released serious levels of carbon monoxide, which can kill whilst people are asleep. And to quote the inspector:
Landlords have an absolute duty to ensure the gas systems at their properties are safe so they do not put their tenants at risk. They have a similar duty to have them checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer every year.
It is also worth stating that such is the danger from improperly handled gas, no-one other than a Gas Safe Registered contractor may deal with gas installations or servicing: for full information, visit www.gassaferegister.co.uk.
And in case anyone in a position of responsibility for tenants is in doubt, these are the key requirements within the Regulations:
1. “Every landlord shall ensure that there is maintained in a safe condition any relevant gas fitting, so as to prevent the risk of injury to any person in lawful occupation or relevant premises.”
2. “A landlord shall ensure that each appliance and flue to which that duty extends is checked for safety within 12 months of being installed and at intervals of not more than 12 months since it was last checked for safety.”