There was some confusion on my blog earlier today, over in the Gas Safety Certificate blog post. A Mrs Tara Plumbing left a comment saying that the information on the web page was incorrect- you can only imagine how my plump ego took that. The piece of information in question was where I said a landlord was legally obligated to have a gas safety inspection annually. By “gas safety inspection”, I meant, a landlord is legally required to have a gas safety certificate renewed annually, which of course is a legal obligation for landlords. Plumbing said that an inspection is required every time a new tenant moves in. The confusion occurred because I assumed (because she gave me the impression) she was classing a “gas safety inspection” and “gas safety certificate” as the same thing. After all, the blog post was about gas safety certificates. Obviously, it was all her fault- she should have clarified :)
Firstly, to answer the question in the title…
A landlord is required to only renew their gas safety certificate annually- no more, no less. I know from experience that some folks do assume that a new certificate is required every time a new tenant moves in, but that is not the case.
Here’s what Gas Safe say on the issue
Gas safety checks: a Gas safety checks: An annual gas safety check should be carried out on each gas appliance/flue. This will ensure gas appliances and fittings are safe to use. There is a legal requirement on you to have all gas appliances safety checked by a registered engineer annually and you also need to maintain gas pipework and flues in a safe condition. This is UK law.
Record: A record of the annual gas safety check should be provided to your existing tenants within 28 days of completion, or to new tenants upon the start of their tenancy. If the rental period is less than 28 days at a time you may display a copy of the record in a prominent position within the dwelling. You’ll need to keep copies of the record for at least 2 years.
Here’s what HSE (Health and Safety Execute) say on the issue
You are also responsible for ensuring an annual gas safety check is carried out within 12 months of the installation of a new appliance or flue which you provide and annually thereafter by a Gas Safe Registered engineer. You must keep a record of the safety check for 2 years and issue a copy to each existing tenant within 28 days of the check being completed and issue a copy to any new tenants before they move in.
ensure an annual safety check is carried out on each gas appliance/flue. Before any new lease starts, you must make sure that these checks have been carried out within one year before the start of the lease date, unless the appliances in the property have been installed for less than 12 months, in which case they should be checked within 12 months of their installation date;
Clear as day, a gas safety certificate only needs to renewed once a year (per property).
Gas Safety Inspections
Now, a general “gas safety inspection” isn’t, in principle, the same as getting a “gas safety certificate inspection”, although they sound similar, besides from the fact you get a certificate at the end of one of them. However, both inspections have the same function- to check that gas appliances are sound and in safe working order.
While a gas safety certificate is only required to be renewed annually, a “gas safety inspection” is required before a new tenant moves in. All Landlords have a common law duty to ensure that gas installations and appliances supplied with their properties are safe. For the record, this is also true for any electrical appliances supplied with the property- they should be checked before new tenants move in.
Here’s what HSE say about gas safety inspections between tenants
226 When tenants vacate premises, landlords need to ensure that gas fittings/appliances are safe before re-letting. Tenants may have removed appliances unsafely (eg leaving open-ended pipes, having shut off the emergency control valve), or left their appliances in place. Appropriate checks should be carried out and any unsafe equipment rectified or removed before a new tenancy begins – see also paragraphs 216 and 218. It is also recommended that installation pipework be inspected and tested for soundness before property is re-let.
It doesn’t clearly clarify whether these checks need to be done by a qualified engineer (or if it does, I couldn’t interpret it properly). But I’ve never believed that to be the case. This is what HSE say:
This appendix gives some examples of situations which might lead to a gas appliance being considered ‘dangerous’ in terms of regulation 34. However, these examples are only intended to provide a general illustration of potentially unsafe situations; the level of risk, and whether a gas appliance is in fact ‘unsafe’ in any particular case, must be a matter for judgement by a competent person, eg a gas engineer who is, or is employed by, a member of a class of persons approved by HSE under regulation 3 (see paragraphs 198–200).
However, in most situations, the level of risk will largely depend on the individual circumstances, which need to be taken into account in any assessment. In case of doubt, the responsible person/gas engineer should seek further advice, for instance by consulting industry guidance on ‘unsafe situations’ procedures; or contacting the emergency gas service, ie for LPG, the gas supplier, or in any other case (including natural gas) the Gas Emergency Freephone Number 0800 111 999.
Are they saying, if a landlord/agent suspects any gas faults, they are then required to get it checked by someone qualified or are they saying, someone qualified should initially make the judgement? I think it’s the former, not just because that’s how I interpreted it, but also because…
- There’s a case of proving who is responsible. A landlord can’t be held accountable for any gas faults if the tenant can’t prove that it was due to the landlord’s negligence;
- on the same token, a new tenant will find it difficult to prove they weren’t responsible for negligence e.g. how could the new tenant prove it was the old tenant/landlord that left open-ended pipes? It’s all very difficult to prove.
- If a gas safe registered engineer is required for the inspections, a landlord could, in theory, need several inspections per year if they have a high tenant turnover, which seems excessive.
- If a new gas safety certificate is provided in the middle of a tenancy (which it is in most cases), the entire issue becomes void.
So, I believe it seems unlikely that a qualified engineer is legally required to make the initial checks.
An article on Landlord Zone briefly covers the issue:
A Landlord’s Duties in relation to Gas Installation
Check gas installations and appliances immediately before the start of any new tenancy, even if a safety certificate is still current.
Resource: Gas Safety
It also sounds like they’re implying that the landlord should check the appliances. But it is pretty vague.
Incidentally, on Plumbing’s website, she implies that the safety checks need to be done by someone qualified:
I suspect that if the Letting Agent have not taken responsibility for gas safety and for arranging gas safety checks then if there was a Gas Incident the blame will be pointed at the landlord. The landlord who failed to get a Gas Safety check prior to a new tenancy.
I still don’t believe that to be the case based on what I’ve read, and the logic doesn’t stack up for that to be the case. But in gas safety terms, the ideal situation would be for the landlord to get a qualified person to make every inspection.
In any case, until someone can shed further light on the issue, I’m sticking to what i’ve always believed- as long as a landlord has a valid gas safety certificate and checks all gas appliances (with or without a gas safe engineer) in between tenants, they are complying with the law.
Can anyone shed some further light on the issue?
Disclaimer: I'm just a simple landlord blogger, I am not qualified to give legal advice. Any advice I give is my opinion based on my experience. I will always recommend you seek legal or professional advice on any legal matters!