With some social landlords having management responsibilities for thousands of rented properties, keeping track of whether or not tough new gas safety compliance measures are being followed can be a challenge.
That’s the key finding from John Cox, partner at law firm Bevan Brittan LLP.
As part of Gas Safety week (16-22 September), organisations from across the UK are working together to raise awareness of the dangers of poorly maintained gas appliances.
As reported by 24housing, one in five households were revealed as being “vulnerable’”to poor gas safety, with a survey finding 92% of respondents not knowing at least one of the crucial signs that a domestic gas appliance is unsafe.
In bids to combat this, new technologies – including online monitoring, checking, and accreditation systems – are becoming available to help authorities and registered providers avoid the risk of poorly maintained gas appliances that can cause leaks, fires, explosions, and carbon monoxide poisoning.
It is currently a legal requirement for landlords to ensure that gas appliances in rental properties are checked annually by an engineer registered with Gas Safe.
John Cox said: “The main difficulties for landlords are getting timely access to properties, keeping accurate records, and having sufficient assurance that engineers are qualified and carrying out effective maintenance and repair work.
“Every landlord encounters problems gaining access to renew Landlord Gas Safety Records from time to time, and needs fast access to legal support, including the use of an injunction if required.”
As part of this new technology, Bevan Brittan provides its clients with a website portal – giving them access to a range of automatically generated and maintained documents providing regular advice and updates on best practice.
The system is said to be able to automatically issue an LBA (Letter Before Action), assisting landlords in generating further legal documents needed to pursue court action and seek Final Injunction Orders to ensure lawful access is obtained.
From this, social landlord providers can guard against the risk of high disbursement costs and regulatory downgrades, leading to possible intervention and enforcement action by the social housing regulator.
“Bevan Brittan’s system can also interact with other compliance technologies, including the Gas Tag system that includes a small electronic sensor scanned by engineers and evidences that the correct work has taken place and the property remains compliant,” said Cox.
“A portal can be viewed in real time online, which provides proof of compliance and an overview of all gas works completed.
“This allows the landlord to sit back and relax in the knowledge that there is little prospect of falling into non-compliance.”
According to Cox, regulatory downgrades can affect the ability to borrow and invest, and negatively impact on landlords’ reputation with tenants, partners, and other stakeholders.
“The Grenfell disaster and subsequent inquiry by Dame Judith Hackitt have shown the need for organisations to take greater executive responsibility for safety issues, by demonstrating clear linkages and lines of responsibility with building safety managers and duty holders,” he added.
“It is vital senior social housing managers have access to technology that allows them to closely monitor households where gas safety has not been properly checked.
“New online systems can enable more rapid corrective safety measures – and even instigate any necessary legal action.”