Unsafe gas appliances in a rented property “could easily have ended in a terribly tragedy”

The successful prosecution of two landlords for failing to arrange mandatory annual safety checks on gas appliances in their rented property is a reminder that landlords that flout the law will not go unpunished. Two landlords, Husband and wife Mehboob and Suraiya Bobat of Bolton, Lancashire, have been fined and each sentenced to 80 hours of community service after a four-month-old baby and both his parents were taken to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning.

Over a period of time the young family had experienced some of the classic symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning including severe headaches, fainting, dizziness and difficulty breathing. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found four unsafe appliances in the Bolton property they rented from Mr & Mrs Bobat.

Roderick Pettigrew, Chief Executive of B&ES, the Building & Engineering Services Association (who operate the Heating Helpline) comments, “The Courts have just served a timely reminder that landlords that flout the law by failing to ensure the safe condition of tenants’ gas appliances will not escape punishment. This could easily have ended in a terribly tragedy and thankfully it didn’t. Poorly maintained or defective gas appliances can leak potentially lethal quantities of carbon monoxide (CO) and around 40 people still die every year from CO poisoning, with thousands more made ill. Gas appliances in all rented accommodation should be serviced annually in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions by a Gas Safe Registered installer in addition to having annual gas safety checks carried out on them – that is the law. Tenants can ask the landlord or letting agent to see a copy of the gas safety certificate issued following the annual safety check by a Gas Safe registered engineer and they should not hesitate to contact the Health & Safety Executive (T: 0300 003 1747) if the landlord cannot provide this.”

Heating Helpline has produced a guide called ‘Gas safety in a rented property – information for landlords & tenants’ – download a copy from the home page or call the Helpline and a printed version will be posted to you.

Get bills down with a new boiler

The Big 6 utility companies will again be looking forward to the arrival of cold winter weather with households forced into using more energy to keep the home warm so that’s more revenues – and more profits – for them. And they don’t seem too concerned what hardship this causes families – if they did they would surely by now have passed on the substantially lower prices they are paying for wholesale energy costs, currently at their lowest level for almost four years.

Replacing a gas boiler with a new condensing model could reduce an average energy bill by 20% and that could represent an annual saving of at least £300.

The majority of homes in the UK still have either ‘F’ or ‘G-rated’ boilers – at best these convert around 70% of the fuel they use into useful heat but it can be as low as 60% efficiency.  By contrast, the current generation of ultra efficient condensing ‘A-rated’ boilers convert almost 100% of the fuel they use and are up to 40% more fuel efficient than the older boilers they replace.

And as Roderick Pettigrew, Chief Executive of B&ES, says, it’s not just money at stake:  “Without doubt replacing an old boiler with a new one is one of the best energy saving measures you can take but it can also help  keep you and your family out of harm’s way from the ‘the silent killer’ – around 40 people in the UK still needlessly die every year from preventable carbon monoxide poisoning, with thousands more made seriously ill, with the biggest culprit being older boilers.”

It’s not difficult to find a reputable, reliable registered engineer to provide you with a “no obligation” quote for replacing your old boiler – the Heating Helpline Find A Trusted Heating Engineer search facility is easy to use, or you can call and speak to a friendly advisor on 0800 810 8303.

Stay safe – don’t let a bogus gas installer put your family at risk

With Gas Safety Week upon us (15 – 21 September 2014)  B&ES have issued a timely reminder to homeowners to steer clear of bogus gas installers.  There are thousands of them working in the UK carrying out over 250,000 jobs each year; apart from putting lives at risk it is costing around £100 million a year just to rectify this unsafe work.  And barely a week goes by without another prosecution brought against an unregistered gas fitter who has carried out illegal work.

Roderick Pettigrew, Chief Executive of B&ES, comments, “Every week families and especially OAPs fall victim to bogus gas fitters who don’t have the skills or qualifications to work on gas appliances, which is specialist work and potentially very dangerous.

“Poorly installed gas work can cause explosions or carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be fatal and can also cause serious long-term health problems.

“Don’t simply rely on the recommendation of a friend or use a plumber that has done work for you in the past – anyone you are thinking of hiring to carry out gas work in your home must be Gas Safe registered and you should always ask to see their Gas Safe Register identity card and contact the Register immediately on 0800 408 5500 if you have any concerns or if you think the gas fitter is using a falsified ID card.”

An easy way to find a qualified, registered gas installer is to use the Heating Helpline Find A Trusted Heating Engineer search.  Not only are they all Gas Safe registered but they are also all members of TrustMark, which is backed by the Government.

“By employing the services of TrustMark registered tradesmen, homeowners can be assured that they are using a firm that operates to Government-endorsed standards, with a standard of workmanship that has been independently verified” said Mr Pettigrew.

Doncaster MP urges people to protect themselves by having a gas safety check

Doncaster MP Rosie Winterton is urging people to protect themselves by having a gas safety check, and also wants residents to ensure they only use reputable engineers.  The MP’s call comes in the lead up to Gas Safety Week which runs from September 15 to 21.

Gas Safety Week aims to crack down on gas-related accidents by promoting the importance of regularly checking the safety of domestic gas appliances.

Rosie said: “I urge all my constituents to take precautions to protect themselves and their families, by making sure that their domestic appliances are maintained and also that carbon monoxide alarms are fitted in their homes.”

The annual event raises consumer awareness of the dangers of using unqualified gas fitters. Badly fitted or poorly serviced appliances can cause leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning. Thousands of people across the UK are diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning every year.

Although there is awareness that gas appliances need to be safety checked annually, 43 per cent of Britons don’t do it, and 10 per cent have gas appliances which have never been checked. Research shows that one in three consumers trust a tradesman to do gas work based on the recommendation of a friend or neighbour, without checking their registration and qualifications first. Gas Safe Register estimates that there are around 7,500 illegal gas fitters operating across the UK and up to 250,000 illegal gas jobs may be carried out each year.

Smart devices waste $80bn in energy

Leaving smartphones, tablets and other internet-enabled devices on costs consumers around the world $80billion (£46.6billion) a year. The International Energy Agency warned that the amount of wasted electricity would rise to $120 billion globally by the end of the decade with the proliferation of such devices connected to the internet.

The organisation criticised electronics manufacturers for making inefficient products. Even when devices are in standby mode they can use just as much electricity as when in use – accounting for about 16 per cent of all electricity consumed by British households. The energy agency said that switching off devices would save the same amount of electricity used by Canada and Finland combined by 2020.

Homeowners at risk after new research reveals that over one third have not had their boiler serviced in the last 12 months

Research undertaken with 2,000 people on behalf of the Gas Safety Trust found that over one third of homeowners have not had their boiler serviced in the last 12 months whilst only one quarter of renters knew whether their appliances had undergone a landlord’s safety check.

With the Department of Health estimating 40 deaths per year from carbon monoxide, the Gas Safety Trust say it is essential that people get their appliances checked on an annual basis by an appropriately qualified engineer (Gas Safe Register in the case of natural gas appliances).

And the summer is the best time to get a boiler serviced and safety checked as Roderick Pettigrew, Chief Executive of B&ES (who operate the Heating Helpline) points out, “Heating engineers are much less busy during the summer months, so not only is it a good time to call in a professional heating engineer you can normally expect to pay around 20% less for a boiler service. A regularly serviced boiler is not only far less prone to breakdown but it will also be much more efficient and with the very energy prices we incur in the UK, a well maintained boiler can deliver important energy savings.

“Of even more importance is the safety implications of a boiler that has not been regularly serviced, or at least checked by a qualified engineer for some time and far too many people in the UK still needlessly die every year from preventable carbon monoxide poisoning caused by defective domestic gas appliances and poorly ventilated systems.

“So why take chances? Get your boiler serviced now and take advantage of lower summer prices and heating engineers that are more readily available by getting your heating system serviced in the summer months.”

Landlords that flout gas safety laws will face the consequences

A landlord from north London has been given a suspended prison sentence, ordered to carry out 150 hours of community work and fined £5000 with additional costs of £9814 for endangering a family with young children after he authorised illegal gas work at a Luton home.

This landlord installed a new boiler at an address in Luton but did not use gas fitters registered with Gas Safe Register – as the law requires. When the tenants suspected that gas was leaking they wisely called the National Grid and visiting technicians immediately turned off the gas supply finding the installation to be dangerous.

Roderick Pettigrew, Chief Executive of B&ES, who operate the Heating Helpline, comments, “As this case demonstrates, the Courts can impose heavy fines and prison sentences on landlords that fail to ensure the safe condition of tenants’ gas appliances, but apart from the financial consequences of breaching gas safety legislation, landlords are putting tenants’ lives at risk – poorly maintained or defective gas appliances can leak potentially lethal quantities of carbon monoxide (CO) and around 40 people still needlessly die every year from CO poisoning and hundreds more are made seriously ill. Of course there is  temptation for landlords to use the ‘lowest quote’ from tradesmen and in most cases the outcome might be little worse than an unsatisfactory job but when it comes to any work that related to gas safety in a rental property, going for the cheapest quote from bogus gas installers can have potentially fatal consequences.”

B&ES  say that if you are living in rented accommodation your landlord must issue you with a copy of the gas safety certificate following the annual safety check by a Gas Safe Registered engineer and you should not hesitate to contact the Health & Safety Executive (0845 300 9923) if the landlord does not provide this.  The gas safety certificate must also be provided to tenants when moving in to a new property. Gas safety checks often pick up a range of problems, including faulty boilers, and are vital in stopping gas leaks, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Heating Helpline has a free leaflet on gas safety for landlords and tenant – you download a copy from this website (see home page) or get a printed copy sent to you calling 0800 810 8303.

30 million UK homes and businesses to have smart meters installed by 2020

Smart meters are the next generation of gas and electricity meters and they offer a range of benefits; for example they can tell you how much energy you are using through a digital display in your home. They can also communicate directly with your energy supplier meaning that no one will need to come and read your meter in future.

Between 2015 and 2020 the Government requires energy companies to install smart meters for all their customers. This means 30 million UK homes and businesses will have smart meters installed by 2020.

However many energy companies are already installing them now – why not ask your provider what plans they have to install in your area.

For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/smart-meters-how-they-work

Keep clear of the cowboys – how to find reputable trades people for your 2014 home improvement projects…

Consumer confidence has risen to its highest level in more than three years, according to a new report from Lloyds Bank. With the return of consumer confidence homeowners that, understandably, have delayed undertaking more ambitious home improvements during the long recession will now be putting plans in place for extensions, new kitchens, bathrooms, boiler upgrades and perhaps renewable energy technologies. These might be sizeable investments and homeowners will want to steer well clear of the thousands of rogue traders and cowboy builders operating in the UK. Here’s some timely advice from Roderick Pettigrew, Chief Executive of B&ES, on how to find reputable companies for this work and the sensible steps to take to ensure everything goes smoothly.

–      For peace of mind we strongly recommend that homeowners only use the services of a Trustmark member. It’s the only trade competence scheme officially endorsed and backed by the Government. Trustmark was set up specifically to help homeowners and consumers locate local reputable trades-people to carry out quality improvements, repairs and maintenance work on their home or garden.

–      Obtain written and itemised quotes from at least three Trustmark members. Ask for a written quotation – not an estimate. A quote is legally binding but an estimate is not.

–      Getting quotes will give you a realistic guide to how much the work is likely to cost and it will also help you plan for the work and look at ways to raise money, if you need to.

–      Itemised quotes help you to compare what different traders charge for each part of the work. They will also help you to decide which part you can remove if the costs are higher than your budget allows.

–      Quotes should include V.A.T. If it is not mentioned, check whether it is included and write down the final amount you will be asked to pay.  Agree how payments will be made and discuss potential delays to the work including who is responsible for them and any cost related to delays. Don’t pay up front and a Trustmark member will not expect you to.

–      Have a regular dialogue with the contractor and raise any issues as they arise – don’t wait until the end of the work. Have a clear idea of when the final payment is due and remember that you are entitled to withhold a reasonable amount of money to ensure problems are put right.

 

For more information about the TrustMark scheme visit: www.trustmark.org.uk

Going away this winter? Beware of burst pipes

If you plan to be away from home at any time this winter that might coincide with a severe cold snap. And with energy prices at their record levels it will be tempting to save money and switch off the heating while the house is empty. But that might risk arriving back to find a flooded house or flat. Why not follow our advice – a sensible compromise between keeping bills down and avoiding a burst pipe.

  • Don’t be tempted to turn off your heating altogether – cold weather can wreak havoc on water pipes so it’s best to keep your heating on low – around 10º C / 50º F.
  • If you haven’t already got one, consider having a programmable thermostat fitted; these give you complete control over your heating and usually have a holiday setting. Better still is one of the latest generation of ‘smart’ heating controls that mean you can programme your heating via the internet from anywhere and anytime – this means you can also turn up your heating the day before you head home so you don’t return to a cold house.
  • Make sure all water pipes in the loft are insulated with preformed insulation.
  • Replace washers on dripping taps because if the taps freeze the pipe will become blocked.
  • If you’re leaving house keys with a friend or neighbour make sure they know where your inside stop valve is and check that it is working. They will need to get to it quickly if a pipe has burst.
  • Leave the loft door open to let the heat from downstairs circulate.
  • Insulate outside taps or turn them off at the stop tap or drain them before you go away.
  • Fix any dripping taps or overflows. A build-up of ice can cause a blockage.