Even though landlords have a legal duty to have boilers and other gas appliances checked every 12 months, a report says tenants are at greater risk than homeowners of explosion, fire or carbon monoxide poisoning from a gas leak.
Of 3,500 properties inspected by the Gas Safe Register from January to September last year, 20 per cent of rental homes were found to be unsafe compared with 15 per cent of owner-occupied premises and six per cent of council-owned rental accommodation. Of course, you need to delve behind the statistics to get the true picture.
It's perfectly possible that the very reason the number of faulty appliances found in rental properties was disproportionately high is because private landlords are obliged to have a gas safety check and the certificate renewed every 12 months. If any are tempted to ignore this legal requirement, I'd like to refer them to the very recent case of a Derbyshire landlady who failed to get the boiler in her rental property checked for four years. Never mind that she was given a prison sentence, a fine and community service, the real tragedy is that her tenant died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
A gas safety check doesn't cost a lot, you can get one from about £35, which is nothing to save a life. You can easily find a gas engineer, just Google "landlord gas safety check" and add your property's postcode to find a list of local engineers, or call Aivaras of Apolo Heating in Raynes Park (07977 306306) who issues my gas safety certificates. He's super-reliable.
I admit I have woken up in the middle of the night, panicking that my certificate has run out. Only last month I lay awake trying to remember the date the inspection was due. I couldn't go back to sleep until I got up, rifled through my files and found the certificate. It expired the following day.
If you're scatty you can register at staygassafe.co.uk to get an email reminder. Otherwise, programme a reminder on your smartphone or tablet or whatever — just don't forget.
Danger signs to look out for between inspections, says Gas Safe, include soot or dark stains around appliances, "lazy" yellow flames instead of blue ones, and excessive condensation. If your tenant reports any of these, best to get an engineer out pronto because they're signs that an appliance isn't working properly and deadly carbon monoxide could be seeping into the room.
One of the reasons this gas is so deadly is that it has no smell, so I've also installed audible CO alarms. You can get them from any large DIY store — B&Q (diy.com) sells them from less than £14 and, if you've got more than a couple of rental properties, you can take advantage of its current threefor-two offer.
While we're talking about safety, I suggest you install smoke alarms, too. Unless your property was built after 1992 or it's a House in Multiple Occupation, there's no legal requirement to provide one, but the cheapest battery-operated alarms cost less than a fiver. Again, it's a small price to pay to save a life.
At the very least, fitting alarms — as well as diligently carrying out annual gas safety checks — will let your tenant know you're not one of those landlords who doesn't care about health and safety.
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* Find many more homes to rent at www.homesandproperty.co.uk/lettings.