A South-West housing firm, North Devon Homes Ltd, has been sentenced after capping off a chimney at one of their occupied properties despite the chimney being in use.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which prosecuted North Devon Homes Ltd at Barnstaple Magistrates’ Court on 13 August.

The court heard North Devon Homes Ltd employees were investigating damp at a property at Church Lake, Landkey and in an attempt to solve the problem removed a chimney and tiled over the roof leaving the chimney terminating within the home’s loft despite that fact the chimney was being used to flue the gas fire and gas boiler.

Several weeks after the work was completed the tenant went into the loft and found that there was a very strong unpleasant smell.  At around this time the tenant’s carbon monoxide alarm was also sounding. The tenant called the emergency gas services who came to their home and classed the situation as ‘immediately dangerous’ meaning the situation could be an immediate risk to life.

North Devon Homes Ltd of Westacott Road, Barnstaple, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined a total of £6,000 and ordered to pay £833 in costs.

HSE Inspector, Simon Jones, speaking after the hearing, said:

“This was an incredibly dangerous situation where gas appliances were left to pump potentially poisonous and fatal gasses into the loft space of a home instead of to outside the property.  Whenever a chimney is removed or capped careful checks should be taken to ensure that the chimney is not being used and cannot be used in the future.

Proper control by North Devon Homes Ltd and clear work instructions would have prevented this dangerous situation from arising and putting the lives of their tenants at risk.”