Similar to a car MOT, landlords will now be able to conduct gas checks up to two months ahead of time, while retaining the current renewal date.

The aim of this change is to prevent landlords and letting agents falling foul of the law when they experience difficulties in arranging access to properties and the gas appliances within. After April 2018, agents and landlords will be able to start the process earlier, meaning there can be a valid test certificate in place before the existing certificate runs out, without affecting the renewal dates.

Failure to comply with gas and safety standards in rental properties can carry severe penalties, such as heavy fines and even prison sentences if the worst should happen. Landlords have welcomed the more relaxed timing rules, but any transgression will still not be tolerated by enforcement agencies such as the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities.

The new Gas Safety Regulations are due to come into force on 6 April 2018, amending the existing rules of 1998. The HSE has stated that these regulation changes are not intended to relax or reduce safety standards, but to offer increased flexibility over when the checks can be carried out.

Letting agents and landlords can often find it hard to arrange checks, inspections and servicing of gas appliances and systems, where complying with the law can be difficult if tenants are reluctant to allow access or need to take time off work to be present. Another challenge for landlords is the scheduling of engineers, who can often be unable to gain access to the property if tenants do not allow them to. This increases costs, which all parties want to avoid. Landlord’s hands are tied as they cannot force access without the tenant’s cooperation, therefore they can be put in a position where they break the law, through no fault of their own. This new system is designed to give agents, landlords and tenants more time to comply with the rules and avoid any situation where a landlord may be forced to make last minute checks, due to being unable to arrange access at short notice. The new rules will also save landlords the expense of shortening the annual gas check cycle in order to comply with the law.

It is vital that all gas appliances in your rental properties are checked annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer. As part of this safety check, the engineer must test the tightness of the pipework and that the installation is in good condition. Make sure you ask to see the engineer’s Gas Safe Register ID card on arrival, as the front of the card confirms their identity, and the back lists the gas work they are qualified to complete.

Make sure you are aware of carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms, such as dizziness, headaches and breathlessness, and comply with the law by providing a carbon monoxide alarm in any room where a solid fuel appliance is located. Look out for warning signs that a gas appliance is not working properly, such as condensation, lazy yellow flames or black stains and ensure gas appliances are used for their intended purpose only.

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