Are Private Landlords So Bad at Gas Safe Checks?

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In my previous working life, part of my role in working with private sector landlords was to ensure that annual Gas Safe checks took place and that copies of the certificate were held on my files. 

The vast majority of landlords I worked with were organised and efficient, diarised when checks were due and, where possible, had all the gas safe checks for properties in the portfolio done at the same time.  Some of the portfolios were extremely large and the checks might take a few days (depending on how far out the properties were).  Only once did a landlord send a certificate through that said the property had failed the Gas Safe checks. A tactful conversation ensued, where it was explained that a test that said the appliances had failed was not what I expected to see! Repairs were undertaken and a new certificate were received with speed.

Why am I telling you this, you may wonder? You all know the importance of the Gas Safe checks. You know that safety checks can save lives, or at least very disturbing illnesses. You will also know the wrath of Enforcement Officers who do not see a current gas safe certificate, who will forcefully remind you of your responsibilities to keep your tenants safe. The private sector landlord is always expected to maintain a standard at least on a par with the social landlords. Aren’t they?

A recent article in ‘Inside Housing’ revealed the differences in treatment of private sector and public sector landlords. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is investigating East Kent Housing (EKH), an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) which manages approximately 17,000 homes for Canterbury, Dover, Thanet and Folkestone & Hythe councils. It was found that they did not carry out hundreds of gas safe checks at the required time. The result? EKH issued an apology to tenants.

If only private sector landlords could issue apologies and have the matter forgotten!

James Brokenshire, the communities secretary, has been contacted by the MP for Canterbury, Rosie Duffield, who believes that action should be taken by the Government and the Regulator of Social Housing as she believes that the situation is ‘simply unacceptable’, putting the number of homes that were affected on 7th June at 924. This was disputed by EKH who said 384 homes had expired gas safe certificates on that date.  That is a relief – ONLY 384 tenancies at risk of gas leaks and Carbon Monoxide poisoning!

EKH have taken steps to have the situation investigated and will implement any actions that are recommended to ensure this does not happen again. Since EKH’s birth in 2011, it is the only ALMO that manages properties for more than one council. This worrying report will make others question whether authorities should be joining one company, for the economies of scale this would bring, are worth the risk when the size makes it inefficient to this degree.

Private sector landlords can be proud of their safety record and the efficiency of their management; many of them have additional careers and professions but ensure that their tenant’s safety is a priority. I think EKH will in future!

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon

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