Private tenants across the Westcountry are at greater risk of fire, explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning than homeowners, a leading gas authority warns.
Gas Safe Register inspected more than 5,500 homes and almost a fifth of private rented accommodation was found to have been unsafe.
With nearly 400,000 let properties in the region, Gas Safe Register says more than 70,000 homes could be at risk.
The warning comes less than a year after John Cook, 90, his wife Audrey, 86, and their 46-year-old daughter Maureen, died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a static caravan at Tremarle Home Park, Camborne, in February.
Sarah Hill, director at Gas Safe Register, said: “We would expect private tenants to be safer than homeowners, as landlords are legally obliged to maintain appliances and flues and get them checked on an annual basis. However, our investigations show that in reality, this is clearly not the case.”
Gas Safe’s findings also reveal 14% of privately-owned homes and 12% of homes rented through a local authority or housing association were found to be unsafe and could have resulted in a gas fire, leak, explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Paul Slaven, a spokesman for Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue, said the figures show how important it is to have carbon monoxide detectors as well as smoke alarms.
He said: “However, carbon monoxide alarms are not a substitute for proper installation and maintenance of gas appliances. You can’t see the poisonous fumes, you can’t taste them and you can’t smell them and you won’t realise you are being overcome by the fumes until it is too late.”
Councillor Geoff Brown, Cornwall Council cabinet member for homes and communities, said these damning figures come as “no surprise” as a survey in 2010 found the county had a higher percentage of non-decent private rented homes than the national average.
The private rental sector in Cornwall has risen by 10,000 properties in 10 years and MrBrown said more improvements need to be made.
Cornwall Housing, which manages 10,500 council houses in mid and east Cornwall, is currently installing carbon monoxide monitors in all homes which have oil, gas or solid fuel heating systems.
The gas authority, appointed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), is also urging tenants and landlords to sign up to a free gas safety check reminder service.
Mrs Hill added: “Some landlords aren’t taking their responsibilities seriously and, by the same token, tenants are not aware of their rights.”
Landlords are legally required to ensure all gas appliances and flues are safe by making arrangements to get them checked every year.
Mark Pratten, from Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service, said Gas Safe Register’s interactive map is “extremely useful” in targeting potentially high risk areas for potential carbon monoxide poisoning or gas leaks across Cornwall.
He said: “We also need to be aware of any fossil-fuel based heating system including open fires, wood burning stoves and oil-fired heating across all housing types.”
The death of the family was caused by carbon monoxide poisoning following the “incorrect operation of the gas cooker” inside the static caravan. Investigators said the family would have been “unconscious within minutes”.