Gas Boiler Regulations – Landlords Question

Gas Boiler Regulations – Landlords Question

23:17 PM, 7th March 2013, About 9 years ago 69

Text Size

Gas Boiler Regulations - Landlords QuestionI recently asked a plumber to look at a gas boiler in my rented flat. The hot water was patchy so asked him to rectify the problem, do a service and while he has at it give me the annual boiler safety check.

However, he took one look and refused to do anything, recommending that we shut off the boiler as it contravened the new gas boiler regulations implemented in December 2012.

Naturally my tenant was unhappy with that.

Apparently, these regulations state that the flues of the boiler must be visible for checking. Therefore, if as is the case of many flats, it is all behind panels/cupbords etc, you have to cut access holes every meter until it reaches the outside wall. Until we undertook this work he could not complete the work and left sending us the invoice.

Result a call out fee + VAT amounting to £100.

I wanted to raise awareness of these new gas boiler regulations to other landlords and also get your opinion as to whether I should pay this guy as I have now had to get another plumber to do the work.

Thanks for your advice.

Amanda Yates



Comments

19:44 PM, 11th March 2013, About 9 years ago

I completely agree I always ask sometimes they say yes and sometimes they say no, they always turn them on when I have gone.
They only point I am making is the gas engineer should not have walked away but followed Gas Safe Register guidance and made every effort to make everything else as safe as possible

17:21 PM, 12th March 2013, About 9 years ago

I think this has been a really useful post as it's certainly raised awareness.
We issue all landlord certificates across the Yorkshire region (at £59 per property mind you!) and have certainly been asked advice about this point before. This post has prompted me to do a mail shot to all our clients about the new regulation which I hope will generate more awareness.

We are in the process of re-vamping our web site to add a blog/news section and it's exactly this type of info I intend adding there. Well done 118!

Order your landlord certificates at http://www.skylight-properties.co.uk

19:17 PM, 12th March 2013, About 9 years ago

I think this guidance from Gas Safe Register puts the discussion to bed. If you read it, it clearly says gas engineers should continue to Service and Maintain boilers without hatches. But must class them at risk. Naturally these hatches should be fitted but gas engineers should work on them if they are not

Frequently Asked Questions

I haven’t had inspection hatches fitted. What does this mean for me?

If your gas engineer cannot inspect the whole length of the flue they will advise, in line with industry guidance, that it is 'At Risk', recommend that you do not use it and will ask your permission to turn it off. This is assuming that there are no other indications that your boiler is not safe, regardless of the unknown condition of the flue.

'At risk' means that your boiler and flue system could become dangerous in the future, in this case, because the engineer cannot examine the length of the flue to confirm it is safe. As a consumer you are within your rights to refuse permission for it to be turned off, however you will be asked to sign paperwork to confirm you accept responsibility for those defects identified in the system – in this case, the potential for carbon monoxide to escape unnoticed from the concealed flue into the property.

Your gas engineer can continue to work on your boiler including servicing it and undertaking maintenance work.

If you have had your boiler serviced since January 2011, your gas engineer should have made you aware of the need for inspection hatches, giving you time to consider what action to take.
Owner-occupiers:

The law has not changed. What has changed is guidance to gas engineers in relation to them being able to inspect the flue. There is no legal duty on you to have inspection hatches installed. If you choose not to fit them, you should continue to have your boiler safety checked every year by a Gas Safe registered engineer who will advise that it is ‘At Risk’ (see above).

Fitting carbon monoxide alarms are also a good second line of defence but are no replacement for an engineer being able to inspect the length of the flue.
Landlords:

You are required, by law, to have an annual gas safety check carried out, by a registered engineer, on every gas appliance you provide and on any flue/chimney. Additionally landlords are required to ensure that gas fittings and flues are maintained in a safe condition. These duties require the gas engineer to be able to inspect the flue to check that it is safe. Repositioning the boiler or the flue is an option, but if this is not viable, inspection hatches are currently the only recommended means by which an engineer can adequately inspect along the length of a concealed flue.
Why choose a winter deadline for inspection hatches to be installed?

If you have had your boiler serviced since January 2011, your gas engineer should have made you aware of the need for inspection hatches, giving you sufficient time to have had them installed before 31 December 2012. You may have also received a letter advising of the issue and what action to take. These were sent to properties in housing developments where gas engineers had come across concealed flues in the course of their work and had alerted industry.

Industry had to strike a balance between giving consumers enough time, two years, to have inspection hatches fitted while setting a memorable target date (31 December) to focus both engineers and consumers' minds on the need to take action on a potentially dangerous issue. As time passes concealed flues can deteriorate, so the risks can gradually increase.

Nobody should be left without heating. Declaring a boiler 'At Risk' in these circumstances means that it could become dangerous in future and an engineer will only turn it off with the consumer's permission.

Vulnerable people should never be left with out heating and hot water. If your gas supply has been disrupted or turned off for safety reasons you may be eligible for alternative cooking and heating facilities via your gas suppliers (the company you pay your bills to) Priority Services.
I have heard that there could be alternatives to having hatches fitted. Is this true?

There is ongoing research into technological solutions that would either prevent a boiler working if carbon monoxide was escaping or into alternative methods to check the flue. However, visual checks by engineers via inspection hatches are currently the only method covered by the industry guidance that explains how to judge that a flue is working safely and effectively.
Why is carbon monoxide (CO) dangerous?

CO is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon‐based fuels, including gas. It is only when the gas does not burn properly that dangerous levels of CO are produced. CO stops the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs and can kill quickly. Around 20 people in Great Britain die each year from CO poisoning caused by faulty gas appliances and flues.

CO poisoning can easily be confused with food poisoning, viral infections, flu or tiredness. Symptoms to look out for include headaches, breathlessness, nausea, dizziness, collapse, loss of consciousness, tiredness, drowsiness, vomiting, pains in the chest, stomach pains, erratic behaviour or visual problems.
What should I do if I experience any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and leave the house
See your doctor immediately or go to hospital - let them know that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. They can do a blood or breath test to check
If you think there is immediate danger, call the Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999. For natural gas in Northern Ireland, call the Northern Ireland Gas Emergency Service on 0800 002 001.
Get a Gas Safe registered engineer to inspect your gas appliances and flues to see if there is a dangerous problem

Why are hidden flues an issue?

Advances in technology allowed boilers to be put in a greater variety of positions, not just on an outside wall, suiting the development of flats and apartments where space was at a premium. This resulted in some boilers being installed in a way that the flue cannot be inspected to make sure it is correctly fitted and safe.
Do I have to get inspection hatches by law?

No. There is no legal duty on the consumer to have inspection hatches installed. However, there is a long-standing legal duty on gas engineers to be able to visually check the flue to ensure it is safe. In the majority of cases this will be only be possible though the installation of inspection hatches. If gas engineers cannot view the flue along its length they will advise you that the installation is ‘At Risk’ and will seek your permission to turn it off.
How much will inspection hatches cost me?

It will vary from property to property. It is recommended that hatches are at least 300mm x 300mm and wherever possible, be positioned within 1.5m of any joint in the flue system. Therefore, some properties will only need one hatch, while others may need more

Basic inspection hatches must comply with the Building Regulations and are likely to cost from £75, though you may choose to fit more expensive ones for cosmetic reasons. Costs for the fitting of the inspection hatches will be extra.
Why didn’t my gas engineer raise this issue when they visited last time?

If your flue could not be inspected, your gas engineer should have informed you on a previous visit that your system was ‘Not to Current Standards’, unless there was evidence of an additional safety issue that would have required your boiler system to be declared ‘At Risk’ or ‘Immediately Dangerous’.

Technical instructions to gas engineers changed from January 2011 following a number of cases where, once inspection hatches had been installed, faults were found in flue systems. There have also been several cases where CO from a faulty boiler has been found to be entering properties from faulty flues that are concealed within voids.

In light of this evidence, industry organisations have now decided it is right for gas engineers to classify installations with concealed flues as ‘At Risk’ for the safety of the occupants.
What does ‘At Risk’ mean? Can I still use my boiler?

If your system is ‘At Risk’ it could become dangerous in the future. Having inspection hatches installed, which allow for the flue to be viewed along its length, will mean your system is no longer classified ‘At Risk’ (as long as there are no additional safety issues found with the boiler or flue system).

If inspection hatches to allow the flue to be seen are not fitted, your gas engineer will advise you that the installation is “at risk” and turn the boiler off, with your permission.
I think I have a home warranty but don't know who it is with.

When you purchased the property your solicitor should have told you who was providing the home warranty. It is possible that you have correspondence from the warranty provider. The main warranty providers in the UK are NHBC and Premier Guarantee. Depending on the age of the property Zurich Building Guarantee may have provided the warranty. The contact details for these are listed in the associated Safety Notice.
My home warranty has expired. What does that mean for me?

If your home warranty has expired, you or your landlord will have to meet the cost of the inspection hatches and any defects to the boiler or its flue. If you receive benefits you may be entitled to financial assistance. Further details can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.

It may still be worth contacting your home builder who may be willing to assist in some way, or be able to recommend reputable building services companies to carry out the work.
Where do I get CO alarms and what will they cost me?

CO alarms can continue to be used once inspection hatches have been installed and are recommended as an additional precaution.

CO alarms installed by one of the main energy companies should cost between £20 and £30. Costs from independent gas engineers will vary.

Alternatively, you can purchase long life battery CO alarms (to BS EN 50291:2001) from most DIY stores, supermarkets and high street stores from around £20 each. If you are installing them yourself always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on where to fit them.
Who do I approach to install inspection hatches?

A competent builder or building services company should be able to fit the inspection hatches. The builder will need to speak to a registered gas engineer on how many inspection hatches are needed and where they should be located.

If you do not know a builder, the government supported ‘Trustmark’ scheme should be able to provide advice on how to find a reputable building company to carry out the work. Go to trustmark.org.uk or phone: 01344 630 804 for further details.
Do I need to fire-rated inspection hatches?

It is possible that the original plasterboard ceiling will have been designed to provide fire protection; it may also provide acoustic/noise protection too. The hatches that are fitted need to provide equivalent fire/noise protection to the ceiling they are replacing. Fire-rated hatches are more expensive than non-fire rated budget ones. When retro-fitting inspection hatches it is recommended that hatches rated to provide a minimum of 1-hour fire resistance should be specified. Non-fire rated hatches should only be fitted where professional advice has confirmed they are suitable - such advice may be available from the original builder or a suitably qualified surveyor. [Note: Where advice is not freely available from the original builder it may well be cheaper to fit 1-hour fire-rated hatches than to pay for professional advice to determine whether or not they are required.]

‘Inspection hatches installed to provide access to an existing chimney system in a void in the majority of cases should usually have a minimum of one hour fire resistance for residential buildings with floors no higher than 18m above ground level. The use of non-fire rated hatches needs to be assessed by a suitably qualified surveyor to ensure satisfactory fire and acoustic resisting performance. The following bullet points may provide additional help in determining the type of inspection hatches you may need:

Two storey houses and those with fire escape stairs require robust fire resisting floors and escape routes that usually rely on the internal linings to maintain integrity for the required length of time. A fire resisting hatch of some type will usually be required in these situations.
In apartments with concrete or timber floors, the plasterboard ceiling below could be providing fire resisting properties to either the structural elements or the protected escape routes. In most situations the suspended plasterboard ceiling will have been an integral part of the assessed acoustic performance, any hatches within it will need to maintain satisfactory acoustic performance. A denser fire rated hatch should provide better acoustic performance than a non-rated hatch. Therefore In most apartment block situations a rated hatch is either required or is beneficial.
The majority of installations would normally be covered by the above, but there may be other situations where non-rated hatches can be used. This will require an assessment from someone that is suitably qualified and understands the technical aspects of the building.

In all cases the inspection hatch manufacturer will be able to confirm the fire resistance and provide a fire test certificate. In new build situations, the building control body will be able to advise on the suitability of the inspection hatches.

My flue also runs through neighbouring property, will the engineer need to access their properties to inspect the flue?
Where the flue also passes through a neighbouring property the engineer should take all reasonable steps to ensure overall flue integrity. This will involve making enquiries with the occupants of the neighbouring property. In these situations and on the basis of checks of the boiler and the chimney/flue system in the property containing the boiler are all satisfactory, reasonable steps need to be taken to gain access to adjacent property to check overall chimney/flue system integrity. Gaining access to adjacent property will normally require the full assistance and co-operation of others to achieve e.g. Housing Associations, Social Landlords and neighbours etc. Reasonable steps may be demonstrated by taking the following actions as a minimum:

making enquiries with the occupants of those other adjacent properties to gain access.
writing to the occupier explaining the requirement and seeking arrangements to gain access within a reasonable timescale.
making arrangements for suitable access to be provided within a reasonable timescale.

In some cases, despite having taken reasonable steps, access to the flue in the neighbouring property may not be possible (e.g. hatches not fitted within neighbouring property or a lack of response from occupier). When the engineer checks the flue in the property where the appliance is located there is no evidence of concern, then having taken reasonable steps to access the adjoining property (but failed) the engineer’s risk assessment can conclude (with the appliance remaining operational). However where the engineer has good reasons to suspect flueing problems it is essential that the complete length of the flue is checked (including adjoining property) and the appliance must not be used unless or until this is done.

What if I don’t have inspection hatches fitted?
From 1January 2013 gas engineers can continue to work on your boiler but should advise you that it is “At Risk” and will ask your permission to turn it off, to ensure they comply with industry guidance. If you choose not to fit inspection hatches, you should however continue to have your boiler maintained every year by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
What if I refuse the gas engineer permission to turn off my boiler?

The aim of this guidance is to make consumers aware of important safety issues relating to hidden flue systems and carbon monoxide and to set out what action should be taken to protect those who live in or visit the property. As a consumer you are free to refuse the gas engineer permission to turn off your boiler. In these circumstances however you will be asked to sign paperwork to confirm you accept responsibility for those defects identified in the system which could result in a serious incident.

Industry Observer

19:40 PM, 12th March 2013, About 9 years ago

@John

This post is far too long but just two questions:-

1. Does the HSE endorse every word as it is they who bring prosecutions

2. This acceptance of an "At Risk" situation. If this is signed by a tenant does it then let the Landlord off the hook if the tenant dies of carbon monoxide poisoning. I think not - if the answer is "yes" please provide chapter and verse within Regulations and above all again HSE confirmation

In generaliy is flats that need these hatches - best plan is to get them fitted. Buried somewhere in the post does it not refer to a £75 per hatch cost? Sounds cheap to me, better than a fine and jail

9:29 AM, 13th March 2013, About 9 years ago

Hi,
A slight departure possibly and a question - I said I am here to learn.

Can anyone with the correct knowledge, possibly John? Can you advise if this regulation also applies to properties with Gas Back Boilers whose flues are generally hidden and will often use an old chimney as a route out.

18:06 PM, 13th March 2013, About 9 years ago

Hi Ray

Yes it is the same regulation, in fact it has never changed just with the advent of modern boilers designers were able to route flues through more voids.

Back boilers are "Open Flue" during an inspection the flue should be inspected throughout its length. This includes the loft area if there is a loft and the terminal normally but not always the chimney pot

This doesn't present the same problems as the new room sealed flues we have been discussing.

Industry Observer

19:27 PM, 13th March 2013, About 9 years ago

John

Can you please answer my two questions?

Thanks

Mike

23:11 PM, 13th March 2013, About 9 years ago

Perhaphs Gas Safe Engineers ought to find a different method to test for leaks in boiler flues running inside the voids and Chimney breasts rather than imposing landlords and owners to install hatches, even if this means the RGI's will now have to carry a tall ladder to climb up to the roof and block the top part of the flue and pressure test the flue against any undue pressure leak, like they test pipe work for any minute leaks. This may well mean many RGI's won't be able to conduct this test due to fear of heights and so on, thats their problem, those who could climb and seal the top half and then pressure test the flue and if any leaks are found then condemn the installation as ID (immediate danger)

Sometimes visual inspection alone cannot see minute leaks that can prove fatal, so visual inspection is not 100% guarantee against a safety of a flue alone, pressure testing could reveal early leaks and a corroding or a weak joints in the flue could rupture during a pressure test which would arrest an imminent problem well before it could kill someone.

So I think H&S should rethink how to test flues rather than rely on visual inspection. Landlords may have to pay more for RGI's to carry out this test as it involves climbing up to the top of the roof,

But I have a feeling more RGI's will die through roof falls than they would in saving lives through CO poisoning!

8:47 AM, 14th March 2013, About 9 years ago

@Mike
I agree completely with your sentiments however as a business owner the LL would have a duty of care to the engineer on site to ensure sufficient H&S precautions had been taken. I suspect scaffolding may be required. If a fall occurred guess where the claim may come from?

Industry Observer

8:55 AM, 14th March 2013, About 9 years ago

Ray is absolutely right and there were two massive HSE prosecutions in 2011 on this, one in Cardiff where the contractor was exposed to asbestos, and one in Shropshire I think where an old boy fell through a car port roof and was killed. There was a third involving an Indian firm I believe where the father also fell to his death last year as they were finishing a job.

Whoever instructs contractors has a MASSIVE risk assessment obligation starting with is the person competeent enough (or young and fit enough?) to do the work required. The liabilities for not doing so can be massive. The Cardiff case I think involved Rochefort Sugar agents and they were fined from memory £78000

May I ask John yet again can you please answer my two specific questions relating to this "I'll accept the risk Guv leave me boiler on it's a bit nippy" suggestion in your last post.

Leave Comments

In order to post comments you will need to Sign In or Sign Up for a FREE Membership

or

Don't have an account? Sign Up

Landlord Tax Planning Book Now