Fears have been raised that vital safety checks are being "disregarded" in hundreds of County Durham homes.

More than 20 per cent of shared homes (HMOs) in the county - 193 in total - have expired gas and electrical safety certificates, according to the latest data. 

Durham City residents, where the majority of the homes are, have accused landlords of disregarding vital safety checks and called on local authorities to protect residents. 

Gas safety checks are required to be carried out in HMOs - popular with students in Durham City - annually, and include checking appliances and pipe work. Valid certificates must then be provided to the local authority within 14 days of the renewal date. 

An online register by Durham County Council is updated every three months - but the latest data from August shows hundreds of properties are not properly registered. 

It reveals that 788 gas certificates had expired, amounting to 91 per cent of licensed properties. Figures show: 117 expired in 2021; 595 expired in 2022; and 40 expired in 2023 up to the end of July. A further 36 required an explanation and 34 had no certificates at all. 

Electrical checks must be carried out every five years, with certificates also required to be provided within 14 days. But the certificates in 23 per cent of properties have expired. 

The data shows 198 licences had expired at the last data check. Of those: 19 expired in 2021; 100 expired in 2022; and 79 expired in 2023 up to the end of July. 

Alan Gemmill, a Durham City resident and campaigner against student HMOs in the city, called for residents to be protected after discovering the data. 

He said: “It’s not to do with students per se, it's more that people are living in shared accommodation and we have to be sure they are safe. The worry is there is no enforcement.”

The data is no surprise to students, however. Dan Lonsdale, president of Durham University’s Students’ Union, said housing is already unregulated and expensive and “it is primarily students who face the consequences of this failure”. 

The Students’ Union called for an urgent plan and reform of the current accreditation scheme.

City of Durham parish councillr Grenville Holland said landlords “have clearly chosen to disregard these vital safety checks” and also called for change. 

Durham County Council said landlords failing to comply with the safety checks could face action. 

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Owen Cleugh, safer places manager, said: “Landlords of HMOs are required to have gas appliances checked by a suitably qualified engineer every year, and electrical appliances checked every five years.

“It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure this requirement is met and we have previously written to all HMO managing agents advising them of this.

“We are currently in the process of updating the information on our website and will consider formal action against any landlord that has failed to comply with their legal requirements.”