COVID or Compliance

The ASCP, in conjunction with CORGI Technical Services, is asking the Government to take action regarding the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 as amended (GSIUR), specifically Regulation 36, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our 800 ASCP members landlords are responsible for gas safety in 2.5 million social housing homes.

Collectively we have a duty to help prevent the spread of this virus, however we currently are obliged to pursue tenants, in order to carry out routine gas compliance checks.  To further compound this issue, a significant lack of engineering resource, largely due to people self-isolating and sickness, is making these efforts futile, as well as potentially increasing the risk of community transmission. The actions and guidelines we follow could have a significant impact on the battle to contain the outbreak.

The impact:

  • 5 million social housing homes across the UK
  • 10 million residents
  • ASCP estimate 666,667 regulatory routine gas safety checks are due to take place in the next 8 weeks
  • With an average of two tenants & an engineer = 2 MILLION unnecessary social interactions in the next 8 weeks
  • The longer this crisis exists, the bigger the potential will be for cross contamination
  • An unstainable lack of resource of housing providers and contractors due to self-isolation and illness, or underlying health conditions.

Clearly the longer this crisis exists, the bigger the potential will be for cross contamination, which will be directly contradicting the advice issued by the Chief Medical Officer, as the UK actively tries to limit transmissions within communities.

The Government has provided guidance on this matter, which is not conclusive and firmly puts the choice of compliance or COVID-19 contagion on the landlord to determine priorities, most of whom are focused on compliance with their governing regulators and now face this dilemma.  Clearly, there is conflict here with the Government mandate around “essential” work.

We know that gas appliances found within social housing properties are known to be the safest in the UK, largely due to the fact their boilers are serviced, and safety checked annually.

Regular replacement programmes and repairs are carried out in a timely manner. We estimate on average boilers are approximately less than 6 years old and in good condition.

Many properties have a carbon monoxide alarm, unlike the general state of private ownership, which are potentially a higher risk in this respect, due to the lack of compulsory servicing or safety checks.

A summary of the issues regarding annual servicing and maintenance of gas appliances as Regulation 36 during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Inability to gain access to carry out the landlord gas safety checks due to self-isolation of tenants.
  2. Inability to gain access to carry out the landlord gas safety checks due to an unwillingness to allow access, in line with the latest government advice.
  3. Many social housing tenants are elderly (70+) with underlying health conditions and the government has restricted social interaction. Members are asking: should we still pursue the tenant for access?
  4. Additionally, many tenants are vulnerable with mental health issues and underlying health issues, as well as high anxiety.
  5. An untenable lack of resource of housing providers and contractors due to self-isolation and illness, or underlying health conditions.
  6. A lack of necessary PPE equipment, or ability to carry out high volumes of services with safe social distancing, especially in HMOs or high-rise accommodation.
  7. Compliance teams urgently driving gas installers to gain access, which is going against government guidelines to avoid the spread of COVID-19 but doing so in order to remain compliant.

What we are asking the Government for:

  1. All non-emergency work is suspended.  Including the routine annual gas safety check, under Regulation 36 of the Gas Safety Regulations.
  2. A short-term extension is granted for a minimum of 3 months, although 6 months would be more practical to deal with backlogs.  This measure has been approved within the motor vehicle section, with automatic 6-month MOT exemptions granted. (MOT reference: https://bit.ly/3dUVyOm)
  3. A relaxation period, adopting a “light touch” approach to non-compliance by the Regulator of Social Housing for the remainder of 2020, to safely clear backlogs.
  4. Housing providers must still visit any emergencies, repairs, or issues considered dangerous.
  5. Additionally, residents should have the right to request a gas safety check when due and practical to complete, providing that a risk assessment has been carried out.

Housing associations, Local Authorities, ALMO’s and CORGI Technical Services have come together in partnership with the industry body the ASCP. Together we have jointly launched this campaign to try and get clarity and decisive guidance from the regulatory bodies.

Get on board with the campaign click here. 

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