A Durham MP has urged a council to toughen its stance on landlords who haven’t updated key health and safety checks in hundreds of homes. 

The latest data on 864 licensed Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in County Durham shows 285 electrical inspection certificates and 115 gas certificates have expired. 

Mary Kelly Foy, Labour MP for the City of Durham, said the latest data is “extremely concerning” and expressed unease over the safety of residents. 

Gas safety checks are required to be carried out 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. 

Electrical checks must be carried out every five years, with certificates also required to be provided within 14 days. 

Fears have previously been raised that the vital safety checks are being "disregarded" by landlords after data in August showed more than 20 per cent of HMOs in County Durham had expired certificates. 

The Northern Echo: Mary Kelly Foy, Labour MP for the City of DurhamMary Kelly Foy, Labour MP for the City of Durham (Image: PA)

Ms Foy MP has now written to Durham County Council leader Amanda Hopgood to demand further action. 

She said: "It's extremely concerning that so many HMOs in Durham seem to be missing vital safety certificates and in fact the certificates they need to even operate as HMOs.

“One of the key issues that students contact me about is the quality of their housing, and it's vital that students are able to rent properties in the city in the knowledge that their property is correctly licensed and safe.”

The Northern Echo: Mary Kelly Foy's letter to Council Leader Amanda HopgoodMary Kelly Foy's letter to Council Leader Amanda Hopgood (Image: Mary Kelly Foy MP)

Following the latest data, Durham County Council has now pledged to investigate every property in County Durham without gas and electricity safety certificates. 

The local authority said it will take action against anyone in breach of the legislation. The government confirmed local authorities have the power to prosecute or fine landlords up to £30,000 if they are found to be flouting the law.

But the City of Durham MP called for urgent action, adding: “It is the responsibility of the local authority to ensure that HMO licences are granted, and to keep track of the gas and electrical safety certificates for these properties. 

“This new information seems to suggest that key safety checks are either not being carried out by landlords, enforcement action is not being taken against rogue landlords, or Durham County Council's record keeping is not good enough.

“If these certificates are in fact missing, this will be a huge worry to students and their families, and we can't wait for a tragedy to occur before this issue is dealt with.”

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Joanne Waller, head of Community Protection Services at the council, 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.

“Last month, we completed an update of our records and we are now carrying out further investigations of every property where our records show that a gas or electric safety certificate may have expired. 

“If any breaches of legislation or licence conditions are found appropriate action will be taken.”