The importance of a landlord's responsibility for his tenants was highlighted this week by the announcement that a Durham landlord had been given a suspended prison sentence following his failure to maintain and check gas fittings in one of his properties. Following an examination by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a gas fire and back boiler were found to be immediately dangerous to tenants, leaking deadly carbon monoxide (CO) into the ground floor sitting room. Windows had also been sealed shut and wall ventilation grills had been blocked for some time, exposing the property's tenants to the risk of CO poisoning.
Checking Gas Safety credentials
You can make it easier for your landlord to keep you safe in rented accommodation by cooperating with them over visits from Gas Safe engineers, and always ensuring there is someone available to let an engineer into the property. Don't forget to check the individual's Gas Safe ID card each time - look on both sides of the card for details of the engineer's license number, start and expiry dates, security hologram, the work they're qualified to do and their up-to-date qualifications. Alternatively, you can check they're registered and view their photo on the Gas Safe website or even call up the organisation directly. On moving into your rented property, ensure your landlord gives you a copy of their Gas Safety Certificate (as they are required to under law), and don't forget to fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm (those marked with the British Standard EN50291 are recommended).
Signs of CO
Look out for signs that your appliances aren't working correctly, for example, lazy/orange flames rather than crisp blue ones or any black marks/stains around the appliance. Carbon monoxide is invisible, odourless and tasteless but can kill quickly and without warning in a couple of hours. Always stay alert for the key symptoms of CO poisoning - headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness - which can sometimes be confused with hangovers or the flu.
In case of emergency
If you suspect that you have CO poisoning, it's essential to seek medical help immediately. In an emergency, call the Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999 or in the event of a landlord refusing to properly service and check safety appliances they have provided, ring HSE on 0845 3450055.
If you're a landlord looking for a Gas Safe Registered engineer in your area, search via the APHC website at http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.