Taking responsibility for Voids

Darren Fountain of InCommunities spoke to the AGSM Reception on 5th November about taking responsibility for Void properties and the experiences he had encountered.

An introductory picture was painted by Kevin Winship of CORGI Technical Services, “Leaving properties empty is a problem for five different sets of people regarding gas safety – staff at Housing Associations, trades visiting the property, neighbours, the public and thieves! Housing Associations have a duty to all of them to cap off installations, check safety and remove unsafe equipment. High profile accidents can have a big financial and reputational impact.”

Darren described his experiences: “In Bradford we have 24,000 homes of which 18,400 have a gas supply,” he said. “On 16th July 2013 thieves broke into a flat and stole pipes and a boiler creating a gas leak. Northern Gas Networks (Gas) and Northern Power (Electric) attended the location as did 10 fire fighters, two fire appliances, 10 police vehicles and an ambulance. Neighbours were moved out and the fire brigade entered the building by breaking windows and wearing breathing apparatus. The gas escape was controlled and capped off and no-one was hurt, but the situation could have been much worse. Metal theft costs the UK about £220 million a year and it is a big problem. There are many break-ins and at the moment it is not a legal requirement to cap a gas supply when a property is empty.”

“Our lesson was to carry out a review of our procedures and to carry out mandatory void capping. This creates some issues, particularly if the property is only empty for a short time, but it is a very important step to help secure gas safety.”

“I would like to urge the members of the AGSM to help lead change in this area,” concluded Darren. “We should all adopt best practice procedures and push for a change in legislation to make this mandatory everywhere.”