At the November Gas Forum event in London, Chris Brown, Gas Manager at Cambridge City Council presented their policy and procedures for Rights of Entry in fulfilling their obligations for the Landlords Gas Safety Regulations. With changes to tenancy agreements and clearly structured and documented procedures, Cambridge is focused on achieving higher levels access to properties.
Cambridge City Council owns and manages 7200 domestic dwellings, 1100 leasehold properties and 10 care homes. The stock is a mixture of houses, bungalows, multi occupancy, low/medium rise flat blocks, sheltered and temporary accommodation.
With Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998 requiring all landlords to check all appliances and flueways at intervals of not more than 12 calendar months, Cambridge has implemented a 10 month inspection programme. With an average first appointment access success rate of 64%, Cambridge has introduced monthly incentive prize draws for tenants, awareness campaigns, articles in tenant publications and flexible evening and Saturday morning appointments.
To tackle the remaining access issues, Cambridge had been seeking injunction orders. But these were proving resource hungry and costly, creating significant paperwork, costly legal advice and in some cases use of private detectives and county court time leading to no guaranteed access, contempt of court orders and police assistance.
Taking legal advice from leading barrister and seeking support from the City Council, Cambridge re-worded all of their tenancy agreements to specifically cover entry into a property for gas safety checks. The key amendment included a statement of the landlord’s legal obligations, the steps that they will take to gain access including the right to entry into the property. Although forced entry is undertaken as a last resort, if the tenant fails to engage with the Council and access has not been possible, the tenancy agreement now gives Cambridge the right to enter the property without having to resort to the courts.
“We keep a clear audit trail of all communication and attempts to access the property,” said Chris Brown, Gas Manager at Cambridge City Council. “We hand deliver a second and third letter when the engineer visits the property, which includes appointment dates and clear details about obligations and responsibilities.”
“We have seen a significant improvement in access to properties since we introduced the new procedures and the changes to the tenancy agreements. We will continue to work on methods to improve our systems through partnership working, best practice and networking to ensure that we can meet all of our statutory obligations and ultimately ensure our tenants and neighbouring properties are Gas Safe.”