Translating the message / Sharing the practice

Welcome to our first translating the message / sharing the practice bulletin.

These are challenging times for all organisations, especially in the housing sector, where we are supporting some of the most vulnerable people in the community.

Housing providers have a key role to play in helping to secure the ongoing provision of critical services.  The government has made it quite clear; tenants and customers’ rights to a decent, warm and safe place to live have not changed.  But what has, is the way in which housing providers are going to have to go about meeting their legal and regulatory obligations

We also need to ensure we continue to look to the future, meaning we have a wider role to play in doing our part to help minimise the adverse effects of the current situation on the immediate and longer-term sustainability of our sector.  This is important so that, when we’re through the current pandemic, we can continue to provide the high quality, responsive and well-planned services and investment on which our communities rely.

At ARK, we want to play our part.  We feel that one of the ways we can do this is by signposting to the latest advice and by using the knowledge and expertise within our team to help translate the messages about what we need to be doing into the right practices on the ground.  In this way, we can help our customers make well informed and considered decisions.

On a regular basis, we will take an area of current discussion and review recent policy announcements and shed a light on what best practice looks like.

In our first update, we focus on Gas Safety:

Policy Message

Whilst there is some lobbying to get government to temporarily extend from 12 to 18 months the interval for a gas safety check, in the absence of this change, the usual requirements remain.  This is that landlords must repair and maintain gas pipework, flues and appliances in a safe condition, to ensure an annual gas safety check on each appliance and flue, and to keep a record of each safety check.  HSE has issued guidance on how, during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, there is a balance between ensuring people, including the vulnerable, are protected from possibly fatal risks arising from carbon monoxide exposure or gas explosion, while doing what we can to protect people from COVID-19.  The regulator has also given an assurance that a proportionate regulatory approach will be taken to non-compliance given the current circumstances.

Best Practice Guidance

So, how does this policy message translate into practical action on the ground?

Firstly, there is some really useful guidance that has been produced by Gas Safe Register. This sets out a good summary of what’s expected of landlords during the COVID-19 outbreak as well as providing some excellent scenarios for customers with varying circumstances.

Secondly, here are our ARK ‘top tips’:

  • Begin to seek access to properties two months prior to the LGSR anniversary date to give the best chance of carrying out the works on time;
  • Consider using the new ‘MOT style’ flexibilities to retain the previous LGSR date when carrying out the safety check up to two months early;
  • Put in place a new, temporary, gas access and arrangements policy to make sure everyone in your organisation and your contractor/operatives understand what needs to happen. Ensure that the new policy takes full account of the needs of self-isolating, shielding or unwell households, as well as the health and wellbeing needs of operatives;
  • Put a plan in place for ensuring as best you can that you have sufficient gas operatives available, ideally including contingency arrangements for other resources
  • Ensure a clear, strong audit trail is in place of access attempts so you can demonstrate that all reasonable steps have been taken to carry out your landlord obligations;
  • Crucially, you must not suspend your gas servicing and safety check programme

We have put together a short questionnaire to help us gain a more collective understanding of how organisations are responding to these issues, click here to complete the survey.