Renters at greatest risk of Carbon Monoxide poisoning

Tenants living in rented accommodation are at a greater risk of Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning than homeowners, according to a new report by the Gas Safety Trust.

Tenants living in rented accommodation are at a greater risk of Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning than homeowners, according to a new report by the Gas Safety Trust.

The statistic was revealed in the Carbon Monoxide Trends Report, which provides a factual account of the trends relating to reportable CO incidents linked to natural gas usage in Great Britain between 1996 and 2010.

The report, which was commissioned by The Gas Safety Trust and part-funded by Local Authority Building Control (LABC), revealed that the risk of CO poisoning occurring in a property with a private landlord is 50 per cent greater than that in either an owner occupied property or one with a social sector landlord – placing those living in rented accommodation at the greatest risk of CO poisoning.

The data also demonstrated a disproportionately high risk of CO poisoning associated with terraced properties, historically more than twice as great as other dwelling types. There is also evidence that detached properties are at less risk of a CO incident than other types of property, possibly due to better flueing and ventilation.

Paul Everall, CEO of LABC, who sponsored the report, said: “Although the report shows that there is positive news in terms of the working practices of many social housing landlords, it identifies that there is still much to do within the private sector. It’s important that work continues to raise the safety standards for private landlords and to reduce the CO risk to tenants.”

The evidence suggests that a greater number of CO incidents have tended to involve appliances for which no service contract is in place – the most frequent cause of incidents established following investigation has been lack of servicing.

Despite significant progress being made towards bringing down the risk associated with tenants in properties with private landlords (e.g. the mandatory annual safety check on appliances), The Gas Safety Trust is calling for further action to bring this risk into line with owner occupiers and tenants in the social sector.

Nigel Dumbrell, head of charitable operations for the Gas Safety Trust, commented: “Landlords are not only required by law to have appliances checked for safety on an annual basis, but they do have obligations with respect to the ongoing maintenance of appliances also. This is not the same as servicing though, which ensures the appliance remains safe until the next service period. One way of achieving this would be to require landlords to have the appliances serviced annually.”

The report also highlights that older gas appliances pose a greater risk to CO incidents, with more than two thirds of CO incidents reported involved central heating appliances, of which 50% were older central heating boilers.

The report offers a profile of the most vulnerable group in society who are at risk from exposure to CO, these are people over 70 years of age, living in rented terraced accommodation, built before 1981, using a gas central heating system, which is over 20 years old.