What's the problem?

The law rightly commits Housing Associations each and every year to check that gas appliances and flues in their properties are safe. This is vital to keep people protected from the threat of gas explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning - both those living in the home where the gas appliances are AND those living in neighbouring homes who could be unwittingly at risk if safety checks aren't carried out.

But, the law doesn't allow social landlords a swift and efficient way to make sure that it can carry out the checks it is legally required to make. In fact, it can take associations as much as four months to follow the due legal process to a point where they have free access to service boilers and carry out other gas safety checks.

It’s pretty simple – give Housing Associations the same timely access as their Local Authority counterparts. Councils have the same legal duty as social landlords to check gas services in their properties on an annual basis. Unlike Housing Associations, the law gives Local Authorities the right to enter their homes using a warrant that they can get from a Magistrates Court on the day they apply for access. This makes sure that tenants are safe and sound immediately and that neighbours can rest easy in their homes. Want to know more in legal terms?

Find out more

Gas Access Cost Calculator

How much are gas access issues costing your organisation each year?

The figures and assumptions which underpin the Gas Access Campaign Cost Calculator are based upon Recognised Industry Averages for Housing Associations, Home Group Figures and AGSM survey completed by members representing two million housing stock.

 

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What's the solution?

It’s pretty simple – give Housing Associations the same timely access as their Local Authority counterparts. Councils have the same legal duty as social landlords to check gas services in their properties on an annual basis. Unlike Housing Associations, the law gives Local Authorities the right to enter their homes using a warrant that they can get from a Magistrates Court on the day they apply for access. This makes sure that tenants are safe and sound immediately and that neighbours can rest easy in their homes. Want to know more in legal terms?

Find out more

What needs to happen?

The Government is aware of the problem and we have recently met with the Housing Minister Brandon Lewis MP but this is the first time the full cost has been laid bare. As a campaign group we and our partners are looking to raise the issue and to warn that lives are being put at risk unless urgent action is taken to change the law. To date, no change has taken place. 

The Gas Access Campaign is bringing together leaders from within the sector and further afield to make the case more forcefully. The sooner the law is changed, the sooner we can make sure each and every person living in affordable housing is sleeping safe and sound in homes that have safe gas appliances.

Here’s where you come in ...

One Message, Many Voices

Changing the law is a no-brainer. To save lives, we need the Government to act by giving Housing Associations the same legal powers as counterparts in Local Authorities. Each and every one of us can make a difference -  here’s how:

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Get on board

The more organisations that demonstrate this is a problem, the more the Government will understand the scale of the problem.

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We can't do this in isolation. We need you to raise awareness of this issue in a variety of ways - with your colleagues, with your local MPs, with your stakeholders, with your customers/tenants. We've helped here by developing a range of 'white label' tools that you can personalise and send to the relevant audiences. For more information read our 'Get involved' pack. Or to request your media pack, e-mail info@gasaccesscampaign.org.

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Make it social

Social media gives us the power to amplify our message. Using your digital channels will get the message out far and wide that this legal anomaly needs to be rectified to keep people safe.

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Make it count

Key to the success of the campaign will be emphasising the scale of the problem. Share with us the impact this has on your business -

  • How many times are your gas safety teams refused access to a property?
  • How often do they have to make multiple visits?
  • How often have you had to get legal orders to enter a property?
  • How many times has this failed to result in you getting access?
  • Have you taken matters further, maybe sought a possession order?
  • What is the cost to your business of failed gas safety visits?

All of this data will build a rich picture of the problem

Tell us your issues by contacting @gasaccess (or #gasaccess) or by e-mailing info@gasaccesscampaign.org

News & updates

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Interested, but still have questions?

Here are some FAQs. If you have any thoughts/comments/questions that aren’t covered in the FAQ, please email us.

  • Why do some people refuse access to carry out safety checks?

    Most tenants are happy to accept their free annual gas safety check – after all they want to be safe in their homes. However, there are some tenants who simply refuse to grant access to qualified gas engineers.

    The reasons are varied, some tenants lead very busy lives and simply don’t see gas safety as a priority, some have tenancy issues and incorrectly fear granting access may lead to eviction, and some have mental health issues and fear strangers entering their private space. The reasons differ but the one thing all tenants have in common is that they put themselves and their neighbours in danger by refusing access.

  • How big an issue is this for housing associations?

    Nationally, housing association homes account for 2.8 million properties, 83% of which require gas servicing. Based on similar rates of access to those experienced by social landlord Home Group we have calculated that this involves around 14,439 properties each year.

  • What is the current legal position?

    Under the Gas and Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 (“the Regulations”), landlords are required to:

    “ensure that each appliance and flue to which that duty extends is checked for safety within 12 months of being installed and at intervals of not more than 12 months since it was last checked for safety.”

    The Health and Safety Executive and the Homes and Communities Agency can and will impose significant sanctions for failure to comply with the Regulations. These sanctions are embodied in both civil and criminal law, ranging from improvement notices to substantial financial penalty and imprisonment.

    During 2013, Home Group had a total of 1,432 ‘no access cases’ which required legal enforcement action – 223 of these resulted in Court Orders. The current available legal remedies are not fit for purpose as ultimately there is no legal right to force access. We have exhausted the correct legal routes and the judiciary system in order to utilise all available legal remedies namely:

    1. Injunctions under the Housing Act 1996 (as amended by the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003) have been utilised but are generally meant for tackling anti-social behaviour and the breach measures of period sanction are not appropriate.
    2. Specific performance orders, under contractual law principles and in respect of the breach of tenancy agreement in failing to allow access, have been used by Home Group. This form of court order works better than an injunction to gain access. However, there is still no legal right to force access and legal costs are significant – the court issue fee alone has, over the last 12 months, increased from £175 to £280 for each case and then there is the additional cost of legal representation.
    3. Possession proceedings are the only remaining option. However, this does not provide a timely right to access/ service and involves a significant delay, during which, the risk of serious incident remains.

    In stark contrast, Local Authorities do have powers of entry to carry out gas servicing in their properties. We have the same penalties for not meeting our legal responsibility but yet we do not have the same powers.

  • What would we like to see changed?

    A direct power of entry for Registered Providers could be achieved by an amendment to the Gas Safety (Installations and Appliances) Regulations 1998.

    This is the only appropriate means to bring about statutory change. Home Group has consulted with leading counsel, the Judiciary and both in house and leading private practice social housing lawyers, who are supportive of our position.

  • How many of the court orders that Home Group obtained failed to result in a gas safety check?

    In 2013 Home Group applied for 223 court orders in respect of which there were 51 cases where we still did not get access to conduct a gas safety check.

  • What is the longest it has taken to resolve an outstanding gas safety check?

    It can really vary from case to case, but at Home Group, it actually took 12 months to resolve an issue in a property in Blyth. Despite all efforts the tenant was not willing to engage either through the mail or in person.

    Even when the court order was made she still refused access and Home Group had to make a number of return visits to court.

  • Wouldn’t housing associations still incur costs even if the proposal was accepted?

    Yes. However, the process by which we would then need to act would be significantly reduced to as much as one seventh of the present legal costs.

  • What would a ‘MOT style’ approach mean for the servicing of gas appliances?

    A more flexible approach would result in a significantly more effective process without compromising public safety. By maintaining the same anniversary date, busy winter periods could be avoided and properties in the same postcode area could be grouped. The current average 10.5 month programmes could be increased, i.e. if you do the check 1 month prior to the preserved date -the certification is valid for the thirteen month period. The savings over the next 10 years are significant and hundreds of millions of pounds could be reinvested much more effectively.

  • How many other organisations are supporting the campaign?

    So far we have been very encouraged by the support we have received from other Registered Providers and the National Housing Federation which represents over 1000 providers. For a full list of supporters please view our Wall of Support.

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Wall of support

These aren’t lone voices calling for change, this a movement that deserves to be heard. Scroll down to see the weight of support for the Gas Access Campaign.

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  • AGSM
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  • Southern Housing Group
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  • Housing Solutions
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  • Housing & Care 21
  • Hastoe Group
  • Family Mosaic
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A2Dominion Homes Limited, Asra Housing Group, Broadland Housing Group, Bromford Group, First Wessex, Halton Housing Trust, Spire Homes, Mears, Muir Group Housing Association, Stafford and Rural Homes, Viridian Housing, Wakefield and District Housing Ltd.

MP and Peer Support (pictured above - in order of appearance)

Mary Glindon MP, Helen Goodman MP, Graham Jones MP, Fabian Hamilton MP, Barry Sheerman MP, Dave Anderson MP, Lord Best, Richard Graham MP, Lord Redesdale, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, Clive Betts MP, Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, Sharon Hodgson MP, Rt Hon George Howarth MP, Emma Reynolds MP, Chi Onwurah MP, Catherine McKinnel MP, Nick Dakin MP and Angela Smith MP.