Social Housing Speed Read – Gas Access Campaign
8th May, 2018
This week we look at recent amendments to gas servicing regulations introduced following the Gas Access Campaign run by Home Group alongside the Association of Gas Safety Managers.
As social landlords are all too familiar, gaining access to some properties to undertake statutory annual gas safety servicing can be unduly difficult, with an estimated 0.5 billion pounds being spent over a period of ten years accessing properties to check gas appliances.
Back in 2015, Home Group and the Association of Gas Safety Managers spearheaded a campaign to amend The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations Act 1998, proposing:
- A new power of entry for social landlords that might be used to gain entry to carry out gas safety checks when tenants refuse access
- An MOT style approach to gas safety checks. This would mean that checks could be carried out up to one month before the expiry of the current gas safety check record, but the new safety check record would be dated such that it is valid for a full twelve months from the expiry date of the current safety check record. This would ensure that the safety check cycle is not shortened each year.
A number of Housing Associations, collectively owning more than one million properties supported the campaign.
Housing Associations faced with difficulties gaining access must resort to civil court proceedings against their tenants to gain access, either by obtaining an injunction, or a (suspended) possession order. The former remedy requires personal service of court papers (which can of course be difficult by the nature of the problem); the latter seems something of a sledgehammer to crack a nut.. Where a tenant subsequently does not comply with an order requiring them to provide access, the landlord’s only redress was to then seek to commit the tenant to prison for contempt of Court, or enforce the suspended possession order.
Mark Henderson, Home Group chief executive, said: “The law as it [stood] is putting lives at risk and costing housing providers millions.”
“Other housing associations clearly share our frustration that as landlords we’re quite rightly legally obliged to ensure the gas safety of our properties on an annual basis yet the law makes it tortuously difficult to gain access when a tenant is being uncooperative.”
The law treats housing associations and local authorities differently: housing associations face delays as long as four months to legally gain entry to a property, whereas local authorities, through their environmental health officers, are able to apply to the Magistrates Court to gain entry into homes within 24 hours of refusal by a tenant.
The campaign therefore sought specific legislation for all social landlords to utilise to allow landlords to expeditiously obtain Court consent to allow them access to properties.
Results: how did the campaign fare?
The Government did not accede to the campaign’s request for a new power of entry, but did enact the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2018, which were laid before Parliament on 6 February 2018 and came into force on 6 April 2018.
The new regulations provide for the “MOT style” servicing, bringing forward processes to prevent overdue gas certificates.
Instead of having a fixed safety record running between two specific dates, the new style check allows housing associations to carry out the work up to two months before the due date but retain the existing expiry date.
Housing associations are now offered greater flexibility in how they deal with gas safety checks at the convenience of both parties, although of course there is no change to the obligation to perform an annual gas safety check or to carry out routine maintenance.
The new regulations can be found here.
If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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