Thursday, 17 April 2014

Maria Ighodalo died three months before similar death at Notting Hill property

L&Q tenant killed by carbon monoxide

A housing association tenant died of carbon monoxide poisoning three months before a similar death in a flat with the same type of heating system prompted a national health and safety warning.

Last year, Inside Housing revealed that 26-year-old dance teacher Elouise Littlewood died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the flat she co-owned with housing association Notting Hill. Ms Littlewood died in February 2008 (see timeline).

All of the newly built flats in the Bedfont Lake development, which was built by Barratt, had a full set of gas safety certificates.

Following her death, the Health & Safety Executive issued a warning that thousands of people across the UK could be living in homes that pose an immediate threat to their lives, after investigating the commonly used type of heating system in the development.

Inside Housing has now learned that Ms Littlewood was not the first person to die from carbon monoxide poisoning in a new-build block of flats with a concealed flue system.

Three months before her death, on 14 November 2007, a 28-year-old housing association tenant, Maria Ighodalo, died in a block of flats, known as Beulah Hill, in Upper Norwood.

The flat, which had a gas safety certificate and is owned by landlord London & Quadrant Housing Group, also used a concealed flue heating system. The system gets its name because the flue is concealed from sight and does not immediately exit the home through an external wall, making it difficult to check.

A spokesperson for L&Q said the HSE was still investigating the death of Ms Ighodalo and that it was waiting for its conclusions.

She said that following the incident the landlord had checked all boilers and flues in every flat in ‘all three blocks of the Beulah Hill development and found them to be in a safe condition’.

‘We installed carbon monoxide detectors for added protection and continue to carry out full boiler services each year,’ she added.

L&Q had checked boilers in all of its properties since Ms Ighodalo’s death as part of its regular annual checks.

A spokesperson for the HSE said the investigations into both accidents ‘remain ongoing’. He said the circumstances in the two cases were different.

A safety alert had been issued last year because ‘initial investigations suggested the circumstances of the Bedfont Lakes incident could be present in other properties’.

A spokesperson for Notting Hill Housing Association said: ‘We have cooperated fully with the HSE in its thorough investigations of the factors involved in the tragic death of a resident at Bedfont Lakes.’

Timeline

14 November 2007
Tenant Maria Ighodalo, 28, dies of carbon monoxide poisoning in a block of flats owned by London & Quadrant Housing Group.

27 February 2008
Elouise Littlewood, 26, dies of carbon monoxide poisoning in the new build flat she co-owns with Notting Hill Housing Association.

September 2008
House builder Barratt, which built Ms Littlewood’s flat, reveals it has stepped in to make sure residents are safe in three further developments, which contain similar gas heating systems, to ensure their safety.

October 2008
The Health & Safety Executive warns landlords to check a specific type of flue system - known as concealed flues - even if they have gas safety certificates. It estimates there are 1,200 homes which could be ‘immediately dangerous’.

Readers' comments (13)

  • What is going on with leasehold properties maintained by London housing associations?! This is yet prove that we really need a shake up of people on the Executive boards of Notting Hil Housing, London Quandrant and Barratts. They should go now and a criminal investigation should be made and the necessary legal action against these people. Come on residents let start a petition and affirmative action.

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  • CO-Gas Safety is an independent, registered charity launched in 1995. It is run almost entirely by volunteers. We have been lobbying for many years for the Landlords' Gas Safety Certificate, which in our opinion is not worth the paper it's printed on, to be changed to a full service. We have also lobbied for licensing of landlords, which could provide decent worthwhile jobs while reducing deaths and injuries and could easily be paid for by landlords. Dog kennels have been licensed for over 30 years but then they have fur!
    Do visit our website and encourage students aged 10-11 and 16-17 to enter our free Schools Poster Competition to raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Great prizes! £100 per winning student and £500 per winning school. Every entry ensures knowledge of how to avoid the dangers. Visit www.co-gassafety.co.uk and learn how to prevent death or injury from the silent killer now. Please lobby your MP.

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  • I think there has been a slight over-reaction here. Whilst it is extremely sad and unfortunate that these two residents have died, in both cases the landlord has taken reasonable steps to ensure their safety through ensuring that they had up to date gas safety certificates. A concealed flue is a very common feature in new build properties and, until the HSE's notice, was not considered a significant risk. I agree that someone is at fault for these deaths in that there was probably a break in the flue when it was installed, but it is not fair to say that it is the landlord's fault when they have done all they can to ensure that it is safe.

    Incidentally, I live in a new build flat with a concealed flue and have a carbon monoxide detector in both the boiler cupboard and my bedroom (where the flue runs). In terms of taking action, I think that a more productive route than an attempted prosecution that will inevitably fail would be to lobby landlords to provide free carbon monoxide detectors to all residents that have a concealed flue in their property.

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  • My post was made whilst Stephanie's was being moderated. I agree that the gas safety certificate is not the most thorough of documents. When I had mine done, the inspector did not investigate the flue - the cause of these deaths - for the very reason that it was concealed. I am not sure a full service is adequate either as the CO is an inevitable result of combustion. Regulatory action is required -either banning concealed flues entirely, or making a CO alarm mandatory where a concealed flue is used.

    I am not sure why licensing of landlords is relevant. All RSLs and Councils are already heavily regulated.

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  • I am a London and Quadrant tenant - very unsatisfied about their services. They even insisted in charging me about £80 for checking my boiler - which is was duty to keep in order and safe at all times. Also the boiler of the flat above me ejects and spurts hot water into my backgarden patio and on several occasion has hit me, scalding me or spoling my clothes, food and keeping me off my backgarden. I cannot have visitors in my back garden or children or disbaled people or any guests for fear they might get hit. It's gone on for years, reported many times, complained many times, but no change. this is fullfledged harasmment and breach of tenancy agreement to provide me with peace and quiet going on for years.

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  • I was in housing need and looked at a house offered me by a RSL HA. There was electric heaters hanging off the walls in all rooms. In the kitchen the gas boiler had been "disconnected" by simply pulling the electric plug out. The boiler started up when the plug was put back in. All the neighbouring houses had the same boiler and they were all "disconnected" in the same way.

    I complained to the HA but they ignored me. I complained to the HSE Inspectors (that in itself was quite difficult). All they did was to phone the HA and ask them about the boiler. At no time did the Inspector ever look at the boiler himself. The HSE refused to take any action and told me the file was closed. I complained to my MP but the HSE told him the same and he said it was not worth pursuing further!!

    The HSE Inspectors are a useless lot of lazy, idle, incompetent, worthless lot of idiots -- IMHO!

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  • This is a comment for dear Sancho - Perhaps if it had been a member of your family that had died in these circumstances you wouldnt be so quick to think that having a gas safety certificate makes it all ok. You cannot imagine the devastation that something like this causes to families and since that first lady died still it happens and nothing to date has been done to eliminate this problem. Think before you open your mouth in future!

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  • clive | Sat, 30 May 2009 20:25 GMT.... I agree with you... I had a similar experience when I viewed some London and Quadrant properties for a transfer... on one occasion in this flat 2 boilers where lying on the floor (obviously one new and the other old) and the workman didn't even know which was whcih and which one to replace... When I asked for clairifcation to the L&Q officer present at the viewing she said something like "you first take the flat and if then there is something wrong you can complain"... What his the name of your HA?... If you do not want to say it here maybe you can let me know privately, this is my email jagsw2@yahoo.co.uk

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  • I'm disgusted with the comments Sanco wrote, we are not talking about an isolated incident here. There have been numerous failers in relation to the instalation of boilers and flue pipes at Wooldridge Close and its a mirical that there were no further deaths. In fact me and my partner had been exposed to carbon m for three months due to a missing test nipple that should sit at the base of the boiler housing. The boiler was not put in according to building or manufactures regulations but was signed off as having been. In fact a number of certificates were signed of on the same day which means that the compotent person would have had a very long day carriny out a number of boiler inspections.
    Defective premises act springs to mind.

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  • I wrote to Lord MaKenzie about concealed flues via Lynn Griffiths of CO Awareness a year or two before the Bedfont Lakes incident expressing concern that it was impossible for service agents to check them properly especially as was the case at Bedfont Lakes, when a 2 pipe flue system is used, as a split in the products tube does not lead to vitiation of the incoming air. This led to a meeting of the HSE with British Gas and others such as the NHBC(not exactly gas experts but a group that is intimately involved with the interests of builders). No independent gas installers were invited even though it was myself as an independent engineer who raised the issue.

    This led to a technical bulletin being issued which had loads of responsibility for gas engineers including ripping down ceilings if necessary but had the weak statement "perhaps architects and builders could be persuaded wherever possible to install boilers on outside walls." includd at the end of the document. An admission in itself that these flue systems were considered risky.

    Naturally architects and builders like to conceal boilers to make their properties more saleable and so this advice has little effect on their decisions.

    That is supposing the HSE and CORGI had made any effort to make them aware of this advice. So often in these situations it is the man at the bottom they try to blame but in my opinion there is a lot that those nearer the top could have done to prevent such incidents.

    Bear in mind that even if the flue is perfect at the time of installation it is always possible that seals or plastic pipe might degrade over the years.

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