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It escapes the sight of a fighter pilot, the ears of an accomplished musician and the nose of an expert perfumer. Unseen, unheard, unscented. It engulfs its prey and starves it of oxygen. After slowly inducing dizziness, nausea, and stomach ache it saps its prey’s concentration and drains all energy before it makes its final, fatal attack. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer.

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gas and oil do not burn fully. This is usually as a result of poorly maintained of ventilated appliances, such as cookers or boilers.  When a fire burns in an enclosed space the oxygen is gradually used up and replaced with carbon dioxide. The fuel is then unable to burn efficiently and releases carbon monoxide.  When carbon monoxide enters your bloodstream and mixes with haemoglobin, the part of red blood cells which carry oxygen, it forms carboxyhaemoglobin. This prevents the blood from carrying oxygen, and this lack of oxygen causes the body’s cells and tissue to die.

Every year in the UK around 200 people are hospitalised due to carbon monoxide poisoning and 40 people are killed. Just this month a Manchester based letting agent has been fined £4,000 after putting a mother and son at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning for 7 years as a result of breaching the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998. All Landlords have a duty ensure their tenants do not become one of those statistics.

The 1998 regulations impose a duty on Landlords to make sure gas appliances, fittings and flues within their property are safe for the tenant’s use. Landlords are required to repair and maintain gas pipework, flues and appliances in a safe condition, ensure an annual gas safety check is carried out on each appliance and flue, and keep a record of each safety check. Landlords must use Gas Safe registered engineers and can not delegate repair and maintenance obligations to tenants, although they are responsible for their own appliances. If the landlord uses an agent then their contract directs who is responsible. If it is the agent then he simply takes on the Landlord’s obligations. Landlords must provide tenants with a copy of the safety check when they move in and within 28 days of the check thereafter.

HSE recommends that all flats have a Carbon Monoxide detector. This is a vital first warning system since none of our 5 human senses can detect the highly poisonous gas.

Landlords make profits by renting out their flats. It is their responsibility to ensure the safety of those they rent to. It is completely unacceptable for Landlords to fail in these responsibilities. A simple annual safety check or £15 detector could save multiple lives.

Carbon Monoxide, if it doesn’t kill can have permanent effects and cause irreparable brain and heart damage. We have acted for a number of clients whose lives have been ruined by their Landlord’s and employers’ failure to follow simple precautions and abide by the regulations.

There is no excuse for skimping here and in our view £4,000 is getting off very lightly considering the potentially fatal consequences.

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