A decision not to prosecute a social landlord over breaches of gas safety in over 1,000 properties has infuriated a letting agent.
Terry Lovett, of Lovett Sales & Lettings in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, told EYE he is incensed that Luminus Homes has escaped prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive.
He believes that no private letting agency or landlord could possibly have been treated so leniently.
Last August, for example, a private landlord was prosecuted for breaching exactly the same law, the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, and ordered to pay nearly £18,000 after just one rental property, in Haverfordwest, was found to have a dangerous boiler and no gas safety certificate.
Lovett has now written to his MP, Jonathan Djanogly, and to his local council demanding an explanation as to why Luminus Homes has not been prosecuted.
Huntingdon-based Luminus Homes, which owns 7,300 properties, was found to have exposed tenants in more than 1,000 of its homes “to the risk of serious harm”, according to a report last year by the Homes and Communities Agency.
The report said Luminus had not complied with the requirement to provide annual gas safety certificates.
Now the HSE has written to a former county councillor, Paul Bullen, who raised his concerns after receiving complaints from tenants.
The letter said that HSE had investigated: “It is clear from the evidence obtained, breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 have occurred.
“However, it has been decided that no further action (such as legal proceedings) will be taken in respect of this matter by the Health and Safety Executive.
“For confirmation, the breaches considered were: failure by Luminus Homes Ltd to ensure their gas appliances were checked for safety within 12 months (during 2015-16).
“Subsequent inspections of the properties identified 43 appliances were classified as either ‘at risk’ or ‘immediately dangerous’.”
The letter added: “Luminus Homes Ltd had made these appliances safe before your concern was received by HSE.
“However, their legal duties [have been] made plain and if in future, evidence comes to light of similar offences by them, they may be prosecuted without further warning.”
A Luminus spokesperson said the organisation had identified a problem with the servicing of gas boilers in June 2016. It had been fully compliant since last January, and had co-operated with both the Homes and Community Agency and HSE investigations.
But Lovett said he is “disgusted” with the HSE decision.
He said the breaches had been blatant.
He said in his letter: “For any organisation managing tenanted property to have just ONE gas appliance that has not been certified safe is a criminal offence subject to a £6,000 fine and/or six months imprisonment.
“To have over 1,000 non-compliant properties is beyond incompetence and ALL directors of Luminus should have faced the full force of the law if it is to discourage other landlords and managing agents from escaping their legal responsibilities.”
He went on: “Clearly this matter would have remained undiscovered with hundreds of tenants lives being put at risk if it hadn’t been brought to the attention of the HSE by a third party.
“I trust that if a member of my own staff misses one of the hundreds of gas safety inspections we carry out each year, we will be given the opportunity to issue a current certificate rather than face criminal proceedings.”