Q. I am an owner of a leasehold property on a private development and have just had a notification from my managing agent regarding my gas boiler. Apparently from 1st of January 2013 it will be a legal requirement to have the concealed flue pipes visible for when the gas engineer comes in to service the boiler, can you tell me more, it sounds like a massive upheaval?

A. Correct, HSE (Health and Safety Executive) issued a new updated safety notice back in December 10 to raise awareness of the potential dangers from certain types of flues connected to gas-fired central heating installations in some properties. HSE has become aware that some of these flues may not have been installed properly, or may have fallen into disrepair without anyone noticing. If the flue is not in good condition, this can affect the performance of the boiler. If the boiler is not working efficiently it may start to produce high levels of harmful carbon monoxide (CO) gas. CO may then enter the ceiling void/enclosure through any breaks in the flue (e.g. where joints are not sealed properly or where the flue material has degraded over time). It could then enter the living spaces above and below the flue. Following this warning the HSE has reported that if an Engineer goes to inspect the boiler from 1st January 2013 the concealed flue pipes will have to be visible, and if they are not the engineer will have to turn the boiler off and formally advise the resident not to use it until inspection hatches have been fitted in the appropriate places.

There are really only three options open to Leaseholders:

  1. Have inspection hatches approx. 30cm x 30cm in size fitted at every joint in the pipe run (about every 1m – 1.5m)
  2. Remove the false ceiling leaving the pipe exposed
  3. Install an electric boiler which will remove the need for the pipe altogether

As you mentioned it is a major upheaval but given the fact that CO is a poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels such as gas, oil or solid fuel. You can’t see it, taste it or smell it, but it can kill and injure quickly, and without warning. It would be in your best interests to follow the instructions laid out by your managing agent to assure that you remain safe in your apartment. Unfortunately this is a problem that is affecting many leaseholders as this was a common way of running flue pipes by developers from around the year 2000, so this HSE Safety notice is going to have a wide spread affect.