Bevan Brittan is reminding housing associations, during Gas Safety Week, that failure to comply with gas and other safety standards can result in tough sanctions by the social housing regulator, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

Under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, all landlords are required to carry out annual safety checks on gas appliances and flues. A failure to ensure that checks are timely represents a ‘serious detriment’ – and recently a number of associations have received an HCA regulatory downgrade and placed on a watch-list.

Bevan Brittan partner John Cox says the recent HCA focus on gas safety is a wake-up call to housing associations:

“More than 90 housing associations have received regulatory downgrades in the last four years – that can affect their ability to borrow and invest.

“Gas safety remains the most frequent, but not sole, cause of breaching the serious detriment test. The law says that all gas appliances must be checked every 12 months – which represents a huge task across the country’s social housing stock.”

Bevan Brittan says housing associations face two key challenges:

  • Gaining access – a significant number of tenants won’t allow gas inspectors into their homes, and some associations have a policy of obtaining injunctions against tenants and charging them for court proceedings and legal costs
  • Keeping records – some associations have an ‘ad hoc’ approach to record keeping, and need to have effective systems, up-to-date gas inspection records and robust paper trails in place

John Cox added:

“After the deaths of 21 people and over 800 injuries from gas related incidents in the UK in the last three years, Gas Safety Week is a timely reminder of the need to raise awareness of the dangers of poorly maintained gas appliances that can cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning.

For all housing associations, the importance of ensuring statutory compliance is paramount. Every landlord encounters problems gaining access to renew CP11 certificates from time to time, and there are occasions when further legal backing and the use of an injunction is required – which in most cases resolves the situation.”