Private landlords and letting agents are advised that gas safety inspections can still take place during the COVID-19 crisis where necessary, provided that the social distancing rules are followed. However, in the current health emergency situation the Scottish Government is calling on the UK Government to allow for the gas safety checks to be postponed.
“In the current health emergency, Scottish Ministers recognise that landlords have to make difficult decisions on how best they can comply with their statutory duties whilst ensuring public health protection principles are maintained and the spread of COVID-19 is contained. We are aware of concerns that have been raised about advice from the Health and Safety Executive on continuing gas safety inspections. The Scottish Government has been engaging with the UK Government on this issue…” reads an email from Simon Roberts from the Better Homes Division to the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA).
If landlords can’t fulfil their legal obligation to provide regular gas safety inspections due to tenants self-isolating or unavailability of qualified gas engineers to carry out the work on time, they should record this fact and that this is related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Landlords will have to be able to demonstrate that they took reasonable steps to comply with the law. These reasonable steps include copies of all communications with tenants and engineers as they tried to arrange the work.
Landlords should resume the safety checks as soon as possible and appropriate.
Pragmatic approach to enforcement
Local authorities and other enforcement agencies are advised to take a “pragmatic approach to enforcement” of safety inspections during the pandemic.
“As you will appreciate, this is a rapidly changing situation. However, landlords should note that the legislation also provides that no person shall be guilty of an offence in relation to the duty to arrange annual safety checks in any case in which they can show that they took all reasonable steps to prevent that contravention” – explains Mr Roberts.
Energy Efficiency Measures in the Scottish PRS
The new Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) standards, originally scheduled to be introduced on 1st April 2020 but then delayed till 1st October 2020, are now being put on hold due to the Coronavirus epidemic. Landlords and agents do not now have to meet the minimum energy efficiency rating of an E for their properties at change of tenancy from 1st October and subsequent changes thereafter.
“It is very likely energy efficiency measures will be introduced when the COVID-19 crisis ends and landlords may wish to continue considering making improvements to their property,” says Daryl McIntosh, Strategic Development Manager for ARLA Propertymark Scotland.