Here is a question to the blog clinic from Sally (not her real name) who is a landlord
We were reported to Environmental Health for damp by a relative (who works for the council) of a tenant.
EH Officer found no damp (aside from some mould in bathroom) but did identify a few other minor defects, one of which was a slack radiator temperature control dial on the boiler. The boiler has a valid LGSR and the heating, hot water and radiators all work (each radiator has a working thermostatic valve). The tenants did not report that there was a problem, in fact, they said that the heating had been working fine.
We arranged for our usual Gas Safe company to tighten the dial and were told shortly after the engineer went round that the invoice for the work was on its way. We have since found out that the work was not completed as the company had staffing problems. We have written evidence to support this.
When EH Officer went back to re-inspect, he found that the dial hadn’t been fixed and also found several new defects. None of these defects were reported by the tenants nor were they mentioned by the EH Officer during the first visit.
We have been asked to attend a formal PACE interview under caution because we are suspected of committing a criminal offence.
Please could someone explain if we can be prosecuted for new defects which we knew nothing about. Also, where do we stand with the Gas Safe company as we were led to believe the work had been done?
All landlords need to be aware that this is something that can happen to you at any time. It is known as a Housing Health and Safety Rating System inspection (HHSRS).
This is why you need to be sure to have your properties in tip top condition when they are rented out and why you need to deal with any issues that arise, promptly, while the tenants are in occupation.
However, I doubt very much whether you will be prosecuted – provided you get the work done.
Preparing for the interview
It goes without question that you need to get the dial fixed asap. However provided you do this, the Council are unlikely to take this issue any further. After all so far as you were aware it had already been done – and you are able to prove this.
As regards the other defects, the best thing to do (if you can) is to get them fixed prior to the interview.
If this is not possible or if they are things which cannot be done quickly, you need to be able show at the interview that you have taken steps to get the work done and have a schedule showing that it will be completed within a reasonable time scale.
So long as they see that you are acting on the issues, it is most unlikely that the Council will prosecute you. Particularly as you had not previously had notice of these particular defects.
Bringing a prosecution is a serious business and involves a lot of work on the part of the Council Officers. Councils are currently underfunded and understaffed. They are not going to bring a prosecution against a landlord who is already dealing with the issues in hand.
However if you have not been able to complete the works before your meeting with the Council, I would strongly advise that you get some legal advice about the best way to approach the meeting.
We have an ‘HMO Hotline’ where landlords can book a telephone advice call with a solicitor (usually David Smith) at Anthony Gold solicitors, who understands this work. This will help you prepare for your meeting and the solicitor will also give guidance on what you should (and should not) say at that meeting in order to get the best outcome for you.
You can find out more about this service here.
Note by the way that if you ignore the Council, and do not get the work done, the Council will eventually take action which would result (if you were convicted) in a criminal record. They will not ‘go away’.
A conviction would be very serious for you, particularly if you have HMO properties, as you would be unable to get a license in your own name and would need to employ a manager.
The Gas Safe Company
Obviously, you have been seriously let down by this company as they have put you at risk of prosecution. Once they realise the situation they should put their best efforts forward to deal with this promptly – and hopefully, should waive all or part of their fees.
If they continue to be unsatisfactory, you always have the option of reporting them to the Gas Safe Register who regulates and licenses gas engineers. They will not be happy about one of their members putting a customer at risk of prosecution and this could put their license at risk.