Carbon Monoxide and Gas safety
This page looks at how you can improve gas safety in your home and minimise the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It also explains your landlord's responsibilities and the action you can take if they aren't complying with gas safety laws, and what you should do in an emergency.
What are the dangers?
If the gas appliances in your home are unsafe, you could be at risk of fire, explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Is carbon monoxide heavier than air?
A common myth is that carbon monoxide is heavier than air. In fact carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air and will disperse evenly around a room if there is a leak. This means that you should place your carbon monoxide detector in a location specified by its instructions or safety guidelines.
What is carbon monoxide poisoning?
Carbon monoxide gas is known as the 'silent killer' because it's invisible and has no smell. It's also very poisonous and can kill quickly. Carbon monoxide can be produced if:
gas appliances are not installed or maintained properly
gas appliances are broken or not working properly
flues or chimneys become blocked
rooms are not adequately ventilated.
Children, elderly people, pregnant women and people with respiratory problems are particularly at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning. The symptoms are similar to those of flu, and include tiredness, headaches, nausea, chest pains, sudden faintness, erratic behaviour, diarrhoea and stomach pains.
If you regularly suffer from any of these symptoms and have gas appliances in your home, ask your doctor for a blood or breath test for carbon monoxide. If you are tested positively for the effects of carbon monoxide, you should immediately turn off your gas appliances and arrange for them to be checked by a Gas Safe Register gas installer.
What does a gas safety check involve?
Gas safety checks must be carried out by a Gas Safe Register gas installer.
The engineer will check:
the gas supply pipework
that all gas appliances are working safely
that all gas flues are working safely and are suitable
that gas appliances have adequate ventilation.
You should get a gas safety check carried out at least once a year. If you are a tenant, it's your landlord's responsibility to arrange this (see 'what responsibilities does my landlord have' below).
If you are disabled, chronically ill or of retirement age, you are entitled to free gas safety checks from your gas supplier as part of the Priority Service Register scheme. Contact your gas supplier to ask to join their PSR scheme.
What are my responsibilities as a tenant?
Landlords have a legal duty to get all gas appliances in their properties inspected on an annual basis. If you are a tenant, you must allow a Gas Safe Register gas installer access to your accommodation to carry out safety checks and, if necessary, repair work. Your landlord should give you adequate notice of the gas safety inspection.
Being gas safety conscious
If any of the gas appliances in your home belong to you, you should arrange for a Gas Safe Register gas installer to check them each year as well.
You also have a responsibility not to use any gas appliances that you know or suspect to be unsafe. If there is a gas leak, you should try and prevent any further escapes of gas, for example by turning off the gas supply. You should also report any gas leaks immediately (see 'what should I do in an emergency' below).
What responsibilities does my landlord have?
Gas safety records
All landlords have to have a valid gas safety record for the gas equipment in the property they rent out. A copy of the record must be provided to the tenant. The record will list all appliances, including those owned by the tenant, although landlords are only responsible for the appliances that they own. Before you move into rented accommodation, you should always ask to see a copy of the current gas safety record.
Gas safety records are valid for 12 months and can only be issued by Gas Safe Register gas operatives. In order to give a gas safety record, the gas operative must carry out a gas safety check.
If the gas operative identifies any problems which affect gas safety, the landlord has to get them repaired. The gas operative will take the appropriate action to make the installation safe, which may include disconnecting faulty equipment. They can also ask the Gas Emergency Service Provider to cut off the supply to the property if necessary.
Remember to ask to see the identification of any gas operative who comes to do repair work in your home - all Gas Safe Register gas operatives are issued with an ID card which contains their registration details (see 'get repair work carried out' below).
Your landlord must keep a record of the date of the safety check, any problems it highlighted and any work that was done to rectify these problems. Your landlord should give you a copy of this record within 28 days of the safety check.
From 1 December 2015, for a property to meet the repairing standard, private rented landlords have to provide suitable provision for giving warning if the carbon monoxide levels reach levels that are dangerous to a person's health.
What if my landlord doesn't comply?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for enforcing gas safety. You should get in touch with the HSE if your landlord:
has not provided you with a valid gas safety record, or
refuses to let you see records of safety checks, or
doesn't do any work required.
Failure to follow gas safety requirements is a criminal offence and the HSE can issue a formal caution or recommend to the Procurator Fiscal that your landlord be prosecuted. If convicted, they may receive a fine or even a prison sentence.
You can call the HSE helpline on 0800 300 363 or contact your nearest office - details are available on the HSE website.
If you live in a house or flat that is occupied by more than two households (an HMO or house in multiple occupation), your local council also has powers to ensure that your landlord complies with the rules on gas safety. The page on HMOs has more information on how the council can take action against your landlord.
What are my responsibilities if I own my home?
Getting gas safety checks
If you own your home, you should arrange for a gas safety check to be carried out once year (see 'what does a gas safety check involve' above) - this is not a legal requirement, however, it is recommended that your gas appliances are kept in a good state of repair.
Being gas safety conscious
If you suspect any gas appliances in your home may be faulty, don't use them. Call out a Gas Safe Register gas operative as soon as possible. If the gas operative disconnects any appliances, you mustn't reconnect them until any faults have been rectified.
Declaration of Safety
If you are having a gas appliance installed or replaced, the Gas Safe Register will issue you with a notification called a Declaration of Safety. Keep this somewhere safe, as you'll need it when you come to sell your home in the future, to prove that the work has been carried out properly by a registered operative.
Remember: never DIY with gas, it's dangerous and likely to be illegal.
What should I do in an emergency?
If you think there may be a gas leak in your home (for example, if you smell gas or your carbon monoxide detector goes off), there are several things you need to do:
If you can, turn off the gas supply at the meter.
Get out immediately, leaving the doors and windows open if possible for ventilation. Remember, don't turn any electrical switches on or off (this includes light switches and the doorbell) and don't smoke!
Call the National Gas Service Emergency Line on 0800 111 999 from your mobile, a call box or a neighbour's home. An engineer will come out free of charge and disconnect either the leaking appliance or the entire gas supply if necessary. If possible, they will fix the problem straight away. Otherwise, they will isolate the faulty appliance so you can't use it and turn the gas supply back on again. You'll then need to arrange for a Gas Safe Register installer to come and fix the appliance (see 'get repair work done' below).
Report the leak to your gas supplier (for example, Scottish Gas or Scottish Power). You can find the number on your gas bill, or by calling the Gas Network Identity Line on 0870 608 1524.
If you think you've been exposed to carbon monoxide gas, you should go and see a doctor immediately and ask for a blood or breath test.
If you are on the Priority Service Register (see 'what does a gas safety check involve' above), your gas supplier will provide you with alternative cooking and heating facilities if your gas supply needs to be cut off for safety reasons.
How can I minimise the risks?
Check for danger signs around gas appliances
yellow or orange flames instead of blue (although this probably won't apply if you have a 'real flame' gas fire)
pilot lights that blow out frequently
excessive condensation on windows.
Get a carbon monoxide detector
A carbon monoxide detector is not the same as a smoke alarm. Carbon monoxide detectors alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide in the air by flashing a light and sounding an alarm.
Ideally, you should have a detector in every room that contains gas appliances. If you have a gas fire in the bedroom, it's particularly important to have a detector there. This is because carbon monoxide leaks are very dangerous when you're asleep, as you won't notice the initial warning signs, such as tiredness or dizziness.
It is worth noting, that if you live in a property that has a new or replacement fixed combustion appliance, such as a combi boiler, then the property owner/builder is responsible for supplying and fitting a carbon monoxide detector in the property.
Get repair work carried out immediately
If you suspect that any gas appliances in your home may be faulty, you should either:
report this to your landlord immediately if you are a tenant - you can find out more about reporting disrepair
get the appliance checked over by a Gas Safe Register operative if you are a home owner.
Repairs to gas equipment must be carried out by Gas Safe Register operatives. Call Gas Safe Register on for details of engineers in your area. You may want to get more than one quote for the repairs.
Before you let any gas operative into your home, ask to see their Gas Safe Register identification first. If you're still not sure whether they're geniune, you can phone Gas Safe Register customer service line, 0800 408 5500 or check that the installer is listed on their website.
Remember: never DIY with gas, it's dangerous and likely to be illegal.
What if I'm injured by a faulty gas supply or appliance?
If you are injured by a faulty gas supply or appliance (for example, if you are poisoned by carbon monoxide gas), you may have a right to take legal action against your landlord, or anyone directly responsible for negligent work. Bear in mind that there are time limits - for example, if you want to sue your landlord for negligence, you must start the action within three years of being injured. Talk to an adviser at Citizens Advice or a solicitor at a law centre or independent firm if you're considering this course of action.
Last updated: 8 January 2020