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Legal changes

Easing of COVID restrictions — gas safety & the associated risks

During the pandemic it's been increasingly difficult for landlords to carry out their obligatory gas safety checks, especially for high risk tenants.

Following the recent announcement from the Government, COVID restrictions are gradually easing in England. 

During the pandemic, landlords have had to find a balance in ensuring the safety of their tenants when considering the annual gas safety requirements, against the risk of COVID-19, in particular when dealing with vulnerable tenants. In our experience, landlords have found it more difficult to ensure prompt compliance with their obligations under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 (Regulations). 

Obligations and risks

Landlords’ duties include repairs and maintenance to gas pipework, flues and appliances, together with annual safety checks of gas appliances. This seeks to minimise associated risks such as a gas leak/explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Where a gas safety check has not been possible, e.g. due to periods of self-isolation/failure to allow access or shortage of gas certified engineers, landlords will be expected to be able to demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the Regulations and that they are seeking to arrange the safety check as soon as all parties are able.

Should a landlord fail to carry out the appropriate safety check, they can face criminal proceedings leading to a fine and/or custodial sentence. It is a defence to show that a landlord has taken ‘reasonable’ steps to comply with their obligations and therefore landlords are recommended to keep a record of all communications with the tenant and full details of the engineer’s attempts to gain access in the event that further action is necessary and/or to advance a defence to any action against them.  

Next steps

In the absence of a willing tenant to allow access to a property, there are a number of options open to a landlord to take further steps, and the appropriate step will depend on the individual circumstances of a case.

One of those options is that a landlord can apply to court for an access injunction to gain entry to their property to carry out the annual checks, together with an order that the tenant pays the landlord’s costs.  To avoid continuing access issues, further options may also include a forced entry order, substituted service and/or an unlimited timeframe order.     

The Weightmans Property Litigation Team regularly deal with access issues related to gas and electrical safety inspections and have adapted a streamlined process for landlords experiencing difficulties in complying with their obligations. For further information, please contact a member of the team.

Contact our social housing solicitors for dedicated advice and support from our expert Property Litigation Team.

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