THE number of people being taken to court for failing to let gas engineers into their homes to carry out safety checks has risen.
Seventeen Housing Hartlepool tenants were summoned to court from January to May this year after engineers could not get inside homes to conduct vital inspections on gas appliances.
The figure is an increase on previous years and housing chiefs have expressed concerns that ignoring the safety visits could prove deadly.
From January to December 2010, 21 people were taken to court. The previous year there were 13.
Housing Hartlepool’s building services manager, Brian Thompson, said: “The safety and wellbeing of our residents is of the upmost importance to Housing Hartlepool.
“Gas appliances that are not regularly maintained can produce carbon monoxide, a potentially lethal gas that cannot be tasted or smelled.
“It is, therefore, in people’s best interests to allow our inspection teams access to their homes as it could save their lives.
“As part of Housing Hartlepool’s ongoing modernisation programme we fit smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to our homes.”
Tenants can be landed with court costs of up to £150 for failure to give engineers access.
Housing Hartlepool, which now forms part of the Vela Group with Tri-Star Homes, has a legal obligation to carry out annual safety checks at all of its properties.
Tenants also have a duty, under their tenancy agreements, to let Housing Hartlepool inspection teams have access to their homes.
Bosses say they only take tenants to court as a last resort, but these safety checks are in their best interests.
It takes about an hour to complete a safety check. Engineers look at all gas appliances in the home to make sure they are properly installed and burning properly.
Carbon monoxide emissions are also checked and tenants are issued with a notice at the end saying everything is in order.
There are no additional charges for checks as they are covered by rent.
Danger signs of carbon monoxide being present include a normally blue flame turning orange or yellow, or sooty stains on or just above the appliance.
Any Housing Hartlepool tenants who spot these danger signs should call the repairs contact team immediately on 0800 0525399.