Should housing providers be permitted to access social housing without their tenants’ permission to perform gas safety checks?
Balancing the rights for people to enjoy their homes in privacy and peace with the need for housing associations to take all reasonably practicable steps to protect the health and safety of their tenants and the surrounding public is complicated, and there may be no easy answers to this dilemma.
However, the Gas Access Campaign calculates that every year, £50 million in public money is wasted by housing providers who need to go to exceptional lengths to undertake annual gas safety checks – something the campaign called a “huge financial burden”.
An Association of Gas Safety Managers (AGSM) survey also found that access can be one of the most expensive and challenging issues AGSM members face, with data released in 2014 revealing that tenants who delayed gas safety checks by refusing access cost housing providers a total of £493,690,890 over ten years.
The organisation is therefore asking the government to enhance regulated social landlords’ legal powers to enable them to access properties with gas appliances and fittings. Currently, local authorities can force entry to properties when tenants refuse access, and can receive same-day court orders; however, social housing providers have no such rights, and it can take up to four months for these bodies to gain access.
It is calling on the government to amend the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 to provide social landlords with specific entry rights, which would be granted by the Court after the landlord has made reasonable attempts to gain the tenant’s consent.
It looks as if the AGSM has a long road ahead of it, however; Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said that there is no need to give housing associations further powers to access properties and perform statutory gas checks.
He also admitted that the Department for Communities and Local Government has not estimated the average length of time it takes for housing associations to access properties or the costs involved in doing so. Nonetheless, he pointed out that rented tenancy agreement conditions typically require tenants to allow reasonable access for gas safety checks and gas appliance services.
AGSM member and Eastland Homes Heating and Mechanical Manager Dave Horrocks said he is “absolutely flabbergasted” by the government’s response, pointing out that difficulty gaining access to social housing is putting some of society’s most vulnerable people in danger and is costing “significant sums of money”.
Not only are tenants themselves being put at risk, but their neighbours are too, he added, urging Mr Lewis to speak with the Gas Access Campaign and the AGSM so he can “understand the issues”.
North Lincolnshire Homes’ Quality and Compliance Manager Gareth Davey called Mr Lewis’ comments “dismissive” and “disappointing”, arguing they are “surely born out of ignorance”.
Raglan Housing Building Services Surveyor Sophie Tuffin said current processes are “arduous” and do not consider the safety of the general public or other residents within properties.
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