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April 20, 2009

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Court-skipping landlord finally convicted

A landlord has been fined and told he could face a possible prison sentence following multiple breaches of gas safety regulations.

Magistrates heard that Adrian Ellis owned two flats in Colchester and carried out unlicensed repairs on gas boilers at both properties in October 2004. The repairs were unsuccessful and one of the boilers flooded as a result of the work. Tenants at both properties decided to call out a registered gas engineer to rectify the problems. After the engineer fixed the boilers, he contacted the HSE to report Ellis for carrying out the illegal repairs.

Inspectors from the HSE visited both properties and discovered that Ellis had also failed to ensure that gas safety checks were undertaken on an annual basis. Tests on one of the boilers revealed that it had not been correctly installed and was leaking gas, as well as having electrical faults. As a result, it was condemned for presenting an immediate danger. The boiler at the other property had been replaced, which meant that inspectors were unable to test it.

The HSE subsequently issued a Prohibition Notice, which banned Ellis from carrying out gas work himself. The regulator had previously laid Improvement Notices against Ellis in 2003 in relation to gas-safety checks, but no charges were brought against him on that occasion.

Ellis was originally scheduled to appear in front of magistrates in 2006 to answer five charges of breaching the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998. But he failed to appear in court and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was found by policeand finally appeared at Colchester Magistates’ Court on 9 April 2009. He pleaded guilty to reg.3(1) for undertaking unlicensed work on a gas boiler – fine £2500, and £2000 for the same offence on a different property; reg.36(2) for failing to ensure a gas boiler was properly maintained – fine £3300; reg.36(3) for failing to carry out regular safety-checks – fine £2000; and reg.36(6) for neglecting to ensure a copy of a safety check report was given to a tenant – fine £1000. He was also ordered to pay £8700 towards the HSE’s costs and told that the total sum of £20,000 must be paid within 56 days, or he would face a 12-month prison sentence.

representing himself in court, Ellis said in mitigation that he had fully complied with the terms of the Prohibition Notice and had no previous convictions for safety offences.

HSE inspector, Matthew Tackling, said: “People needlessly die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning, due to a lack of effective maintenance of gas appliances. Annual safety checks must be carried out by a competent and registered gas engineer.

“It is illegal for an unregistered person to carry out work on a gas appliance. When unqualified landlords try to cut corners in this way they are not only putting themselves at risk of prosecution and a large fine but are also putting their tenants’ lives at risk.”


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