According to new research* a quarter of the UK's landlords aged 50 and above are yet to obtain the mandatory Gas Safety Certificate for their rental properties.

Buy-to-let is an increasingly popular investment choice, particularly among the over 50s.

However landlording isn't always straight-forward, and many of those who are just beginning to let properties may be unaware of the laws and regulations around doing so.

Landlords have a duty of care towards their tenants and part of this is ensuring that the gas system and appliances in the property to be let are safe to use and this requirement is laid down in legislation. The requirement also continues throughout the period the property is let out to tenants.

Sue Green, Head of Home Insurance for Saga, answers some of the more frequently asked questions about gas safe certificates:

What is a Gas Safety Certificate and who needs one?

Gas Flame (PD)A Gas Safety Certificate, sometimes referred to as a Gas Safety Report, or CP12 is a legal requirement for landlords. This involves a Gas Safe registered engineer assessing the safety of appliances in a rental property and checking that the system is working properly. If you have multiple properties, you will need a separate certificate for each one. With the rise in short-let services such as Airbnb, it's worth mentioning as well that a Gas Safety Certificate is still required. Each certificate needs to be reviewed on an annual basis.

The risks of not having a certificate

The safety of tenants must always come first, and part of this is ensuring that the boiler is running properly. Gas safety checks can pick up a range of problems including faulty boilers and are vital in helping to prevent gas leaks, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning.

As the certificate is required by law, if you don't have one you could face prosecution and be liable to pay a standard penalty of £6,000 and/or serve six months imprisonment. Non-compliance is also a criminal offence and courts can impose unlimited fines and custodial sentences. This may also render your property or landlord insurance void, which could lead to claims for civil damages, where awards are often high.

Why don't more landlords have one?

The most likely reason is that they are not aware they need one, especially if they haven't been a landlord for very long. When landlords are first starting out, an array of administrative jobs need to be completed, and in some cases, failing to do so could cost them dearly. The key is to thoroughly research exactly what the requirements are, and to ensure you keep up-to-date with any developments that might change the situation.

How to get a Gas Safety Certificate

A Gas Safety Certificate can only obtained after a Gas Safe registered engineer has carried out an annual gas safety check. Costs for doing so vary depending on how many gas appliances need checking, as well as on location, but prices normally range from £45-£90. If you fail the assessment, you will receive a full report from the engineer and using this, you can use an engineer to correct the work and ensure it is completed to the highest standard.

What happens when you receive the certificate

The new tenant must be given a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate prior to moving in and within 28 days of the annual check, stating that all installations and appliances are safe to use. As a landlord, you need to keep copies of the gas safety record for at least two years. When tenants vacate the property, landlords need to ensure that gas fittings and appliances are safe before re-letting.

*Research of 786 UK landlords aged 50 and over, conducted by Populus on behalf of Saga – June 2015

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