Subject to Parliamentary approval, a number of amendments to the Gas Safety Regulations are expected to come in to force on 6th April 2018. The changes come following a consultation which was carried out by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), between November 2016 and January 2017, to gauge sector and public opinion on potential revisions.
At present the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulation 1998 states that Landlords are to undertake gas safety checks “on intervals of no more than 12 months since it was last checked for safety.” To comply with this, many Landlords run their programmes on 10/10.5 month cycles; this means they begin to attempt to access a property 6-8 weeks prior to the date on which the Landlords Gas Safety Check (LGSR) is due to expire. By doing this, Landlords aim to prevent properties becoming overdue for a safety inspection. However most Landlords report a first time access rate of around 75%, and the safety checks will therefore be completed early. As a consequence there is a shortening of the service cycle year on year which means Landlords are undertaking more service visits than required by their statutory obligations. For example, if each LGSR for a property is completed at 10.5 month intervals, this will result in 10 being completed over a 9 year period, as opposed to the 9 legally required.
Understanding the change
In an attempt to prevent this, the proposed amendments involve the addition of a new clause to Regulation 36 (3). It is this clause which has given rise to the term “MOT style changes.” The new clause will allow Landlords to undertake LGSRs within a period of 10-12 months after the previous check, and then following completion of the check, the LGSR will be treated as if it had been carried out the last day of the 12 month period of validity; just like as is the case with motor vehicles.
For example, if an LGSR for a property has a current expiry date of 3rd September 2018, a Landlord operating on a 10 month servicing cycle could potentially visit this property as early as 16th July 2018 (assuming tenants were provided with 7 days’ notice for their appointment), which means the anniversary date would then be 16th July 2019. Under the new legislation, even if the LGSR were to be carried out on the 16th July 2018, the anniversary date for the next required visit would still be 3rd September 2019. Therefore, there is no foreshortening of the inspection period, nor are Landlords waiting until the last minute and not gaining access to a property.
However, an LGSR can only be completed a maximum of two months early. Where a gas safety check is carried out at less than 10 months following the previous gas safety check this will have the effect of “resetting the clock” and the deadline date will then be 12 months from the date of the latest check.
However, should landlords not wish to take advantage of these amendments then there is no obligation for them to do so; they can continue with their current programme of gas safety checks providing it meets the legal minimum requirements of Regulation 36 of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998.
There are also further changes due to come in to force as a result of the new legislation which are not directly related to the MOT style. These can be briefly summarised as follows:
- Incorporate an existing exemption to carry out alternative checks in situations where there is no meter to directly measure the heat input and where it is not possible to measure the operating pressure.
- Extend scope to include situations where the meter is not accessible or the meter display is not working.
Further details of these changes can be found in the draft issue of the new regulations which have been published by the HSE here.
The potential impact
The implementation of these changes creates a number of opportunities for Landlords, particularly with regards to resourcing and logistics. For example, the changes may allow Landlords to better group properties for gas safety checks in to the Summer months, or within the same geographical areas. As well as reducing the strain on resources some Landlords face due to constricting servicing cycles. It has been estimated that this could save Landlord’s in the region of £22M per year.
However, there has been concerns raised that there will be additional costs in the short term associated with updating IT systems and the bi-products of this such as staff training, and time required for familiarisation. Furthermore, policies and procedures relating to gas servicing will have to be updated to reflect the adoption of this new legislation and the resulting change in approach.
What’s not changed?
It should be noted that these changes do not relax regulatory requirements or reduce safety standards. Landlords are still legally obligated to undertake a gas safety check on their properties and it remains a criminal offence to not carry out the check in accordance with the timescales and procedure stipulated in the Regulations. There is no change to the legal requirement for an annual gas safety check or for maintenance to be carried out.
LGSRs will still need to be retained for a period of two years from the date of the check and a copy of the LGSR must be given to tenants within 28 days of the visit. If there is no gas appliance in any room to be occupied by tenants then the LGSR must be displayed in a prominent position.
The Health & Safety Executive has published a draft copy of the updated Approved Code of Practice and Guidance which will apply from 6th April 2018, if approved by Parliament. The current legislation will continue to apply up to and including 5 April 2018, along with the Approved Code of Practice and guidance supporting it.
For more information on how these changes will affect your organisation and how you can capitalise on this opportunity to reorganise your gas servicing please contact Jenny Neville or contract our Head Office on 01928 568 842.
Pennington Choices is a specialist gas consultancy providing strategic and compliance reviews, procurement, as well as external third party site based auditing.
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