Imagine the scenario. You’ve had your property on the market for a considerable period. Now you have finally found a buyer and also the house of your dreams. Then your solicitor informs you that there is a problem with the new property’s gas installations in respect of Local Authority notification and the Building Regulations.
The Building Regulations require that in England, Wales and Guernsey, certain controlled building services have a mandatory requirement of notification to the relevant Local Authority. The controlled services include the installation of gas appliances, namely, boilers, water heaters, warm air heaters, gas fires, flue dependent cookers and heating systems.
In Northern Ireland and Scotland, there is no mandatory notification requirement, however, homeowners can obtain a Declaration of Safety Certificate that can reassure possible purchasers that a competent person has installed a gas appliance.
The term ‘competent person’ is key to obtaining a Building Regulation Compliance Certificate. Although it is quite possible to seek approval for gas installations from the Local Authority directly, the process of inspection and authorisation required to comply with certification can prove costly.
An installer registered with a Competent Person Scheme is qualified to carry out specific types of work in accordance with Building Regulations, and will usually deal with all building control issues on your behalf. A registered competent person is authorised to self-certify certain completed gas installations. This has the advantage of significantly reducing the cost of obtaining your own Local Authority notification.
For gas work notification and competent persons, Gas Safe registered engineers are the only persons legally permitted to install gas appliances and consequently issue self-certification to comply with the Local Authority requirements under the Building Regulations.
Although Gas Safe registered engineers are professionally obliged to notify the Local Authority, compliance with Building Regulations requirements is ultimately the responsibility of the property owners. As non-compliance can incur considerable inconvenience and a hefty fine of up to ￡5000, it is in the homeowner’s interest to ensure that a Building Regulation Compliance Certificate is issued by the Local Authority. The certificate relates solely to the property and should be kept safe. A Gas Safe engineer should notify the Local Authority within thirty working days after completion of the work.
Where a Gas Safe registered engineer fails to notify the Local Authority in accordance with requirements, the homeowner should complain to Gas Safe. They will issue instructions to the registered engineer to submit the notification, but they have no powers of enforcement.
All too often property owners are unaware of statutory requirements and are easy prey for rogue gas fitters. It is an inevitable fact that a Competent Person Registration Scheme, particularly the one operated by Gas Safe, can deter unscrupulous engineers from alerting the register to completed gas installations. This is because Gas Safe, operating as a central database of completed installations requiring Local Authority Buildings Regulations Compliance Certificates attracts the attention of HMRC. This means that some engineers and businesses can be investigated on suspicion of tax evasion.
Of course, any database of information similar to that used by the operators, Capita PLC in respect of Gas Safe, is bound to be of interest to the big companies, particularly those who manufacture gas appliances and the energy providers. Notifications lodged with the details of an engineer’s customers and their addresses are quite valuable. Some engineers feel that passing their customer’s information back to Gas Safe might be a little unethical.
Such issues aside, although compliance with Local Authority and Building Regulation requirements can seem bureaucratic, there can be no doubt that stringent regulations are in the customer and consumer’s best interests. Where gas safety is the priority, professional and competent installations are a necessity in avoiding the consequences of poor, unqualified and dangerous workmanship. Too often the drive to cut costs in a very competitive market results in corner cutting procedures that lead to extensive problems at a later date.
Where a problem with Building Regulations relating to gas installations becomes identified during a property sale, the issues can be resolved. The absence of a Buildings Regulation Compliance Certificate does not necessarily mean that the Local Authority has not received notification. A request can be made to the Local Authority to confirm compliance and a replacement certificate can be purchased.
Where no notification exists and the installation contravenes Local Authority and Building Regulation requirements, it is the responsibility of the property owner to remedy the situation. Depending on the nature of the installation it is possible to get a Gas Safe registered engineer to re-commission an appliance and obtain the necessary documentation. Whether the Local Authority pursues the matter further in respect of the previous non-compliance is a matter of their discretion.
Alternatively, the property purchaser may apply to have appliances checked over by a Gas Safe registered engineer to ensure that they are safe and with no at risk issues. They can also obtain a gas safety inspection certificate.
The lack of any required Buildings Regulation documents or failures of notification can cause considerable delays in exchanging contracts during property sale procedures. Costs can escalate when seeking confirmation and the property value can be reduced in favour of the purchaser to accommodate any remedial requirements.