Landlord heating responsibilities…
Warm tenants are happy tenants. But if you’re a landlord; there’s more than your tenant’s happiness to consider when it comes to heating your rental property.
Unfortunately, faulty boilers and heating systems can cause serious problems for landlords.
At worst, dangerous gas appliances pose an immediate threat to life in terms of risk of fires; explosions; and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Every year there are around 60 deaths from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in England and Wales. Less dangerous, but nevertheless costly problems include damage to property caused by escaped water.
But as well as these safety and financial implications, there are legal ones too.
As a landlord, you have a legal responsibility to provide and maintain the heating and hot water for your tenants. And to ensure your property is safe, and energy efficient.
In this blog, we take a closer look at landlord heating responsibilities; so that you can be sure that you understand what your obligations are.
What does the law say?
The key legal obligations on landlords when it comes to heating are that:
1. Landlords must provide access to heating and hot water – The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985;
Under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985; as a landlord you are responsible for keeping the following in repair and proper working order – supply of:
- sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and toilets);
- hot water.
Unless your tenant has damaged the facilities; it’s your responsibility to ensure that the property has heating and hot water at all times.
It’s a hazard to have no heating and hot water, especially in winter. And if no alternative source is provided.
A 2016 report by The Energy Saving Trust found that 48% of renters are finding home heating a struggle. And frankly, that’s not good enough.
Minimum acceptable standards are that bedrooms should be able to maintain at least 18°C; and 21°C in living rooms when the temperature outside is minus 1°C.
Local Authorities can force you to upgrade your property under the Housing Act 2004.
2. Landlords are responsible for repairs, and must keep the heating in proper working order
As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to maintain and repair the heating in your rental property; under Section 11 (c) of the Housing Act 1985.
Some landlords try to avoid this responsibility by including clauses in their tenancy agreements. But such clauses will be void.
Your tenant is responsible for reporting any issues with the heating and hot water supply to you. And it’s your duty to respond within a reasonable time (see below).
3. Landlords must react to any heating problems that may occur within a few days after the tenants’ notification
Obviously, you can’t be liable to carry out any repairs until you’ve been told about the issue by your tenant.
But once they have notified you of an issue, you need to carry out the repair within a ‘reasonable time’.
There is no definition of what constitutes a ‘reasonable time’. Instead, several factors will be taken into account, for example:
- the extent of the disrepair;
- what time of year it is;
- the age (and health) of residents living in the property;
- availability of replacement parts;
- Whether any alternative heat sources have been provided.
You’ll need to react faster to problems with the heating or hot water supply; when this affects families with small children.
Failure to respond to notice of disrepair means that you will be breaching your tenancy agreement on two fronts; keeping the property in repair AND free from hazards (see below).
4. Landlords must keep the property free from hazards
Maintaining central heating and hot water is an important part of keeping your property free from hazards.
The Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS) introduced by the Housing Act 2004 came into effect on April 6th 2006.
The HHSRS provides guidance about hazards under section 9 of the Housing Act 2004.
The underlying principle of the HHSRS is that any residential premises should provide a safe and healthy environment for any potential occupier or visitor.
To satisfy this principle, your rental property should be designed; constructed; and maintained; with non-hazardous materials and should be free from both unnecessary and avoidable hazards.
The HHSRS introduced 29 categories of housing hazard. In terms of heating, you should be aware of the following particular hazards:
- Physiological hazards:
- damp and mould growth;
- excess cold or heat;
- carbon monoxide and fuel combustion products;
- uncombusted fuel gas;
- Infection hazards
- hygiene, Sanitation and Water Supply
- sanitation and drainage
- Water supply
- Accident hazards
- Fires, Burns and Scalds
- Electrical hazards
- Position and operability of amenities
5. Landlords must arrange an annual gas safety check of all gas appliances in the property
Under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998; as amended by the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2018; you are under a statutory duty for the safety of your tenants in relation to gas safety.
By law you must:
- Repair and maintain gas pipework, flues and appliances in safe condition;
- Ensure an annual gas safety check on each appliance and flue;
- Keep a record of each safety check.
Annual Gas Safety checks are vital because if any of your gas appliances have been improperly fitted; repaired; or maintained; or any of their vents; flues; or chimneys have become blocked; they can pose a risk to your tenant’s life.
Dangerous gas appliances pose risk of gas leaks; fires and explosions; and carbon monoxide poisoning.
If any of your gas appliances aren’t burning their fuel as they should; they can produce a highly poisonous gas called carbon monoxide (CO). This gas is responsible for around 60 deaths per year in England and Wales.
Thankfully all these dangers can be easily avoided with a gas safety check once a year; by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Only Gas Safe registered engineers can legally fit, fix, and service gas appliances. This requirement ensures that engineers who are working on gas hold valid and current qualifications.
Rest assured, all our engineers at The Heating People are Gas Safe registered.
What happens during a Gas Safety check for landlords?
During a gas safety check, our engineers will check that your appliances are:
- Properly set and adjusted so the gas burns correctly;
- Are suitable for the room it’s located in;
- Is physically stable, securely fitted and properly connected to the gas pipework.
We will also check that:
- There’s an adequate and permanent air supply that’s suitable for the appliance installed;
- All safety devices are functioning properly;
- Any flues, chimneys and air vents are operating correctly.
This can be extended to a full gas installation safety check, in which we will:
- Check the installation is in good condition by visually inspecting the pipework as far as reasonably practicable;
- Test the gas pipework to make sure there are no leaks.
When we have finished the safety checks, we provide you with a Landlord Gas Safety Record.
You’ll then be able to give a copy of this record to your tenants; so that they know that their appliances meet the appropriate safety standards.
The law on gas safety is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). And there are severe penalties for non-compliance that can be imposed and deaths can result in manslaughter charges for landlords and agents.
Noncompliance is a criminal offence and courts can impose unlimited fines and custodial sentences.
6. Landlords should bleed the radiators at the start of the tenancy agreement. Once occupied, bleeding radiators becomes the tenants’ responsibility
In general, bleeding radiators is classed as day-to-day maintenance.
It’s good practice for you to make sure that the radiators are bled at the start of the tenancy. Tenants are responsible for bleeding them thereafter.
7. Landlords must ensure that their property meets the current minimum energy efficiency requirements
The Domestic Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) Regulations set a minimum energy efficiency level for domestic private rented properties.
Landlords must ensure that their Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) have a minimum rating of E.
An EPC rates your property’s energy efficiency from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient).
It’s valid for ten years, but if you don’t have one when you need one; you’ll face a fixed penalty notice of £200.
The government has recently published an energy efficiency proposal for the private rental sector. The energy performance standard of privately-rented properties will be raised to an EPC level C by 1 April 2025 for new tenancies and by 1 April 2028 for all tenancies.
General tips for landlords
Once you’ve checked that you’re complying with all the relevant legislation; there are some general maintenance tips that you can follow.
These will help to avoid heating problems in your rental properties:
Tip: make sure external pipes are well insulated
If you have an external condensate pipe or an outside tap at your property; make sure it has a foam sleeve around it to prevent any issues when the temperatures drop.
A frozen condensate pipe will cause your boiler to shut down, meaning no heating and hot water for your tenants!
Tip: Look at your windows and doors
If you have old windows and doors on your property, it might be time to consider investing in an upgrade. Draughty windows and doors will make your property less energy efficient; and makes it harder to keep the property warm and dry.
Tip: Have your chimneys swept
If your property has a fireplace or log burner; you need to have your chimney swept at least once per year. This will ensure that carbon deposits are removed, minimising the risk of a chimney fire.
Check extractor fans
The last thing that you want is mould and damp forming in your kitchens and bathrooms. Check that extractor fans are working properly to avoid warm air causing damp; mould; and mildew problems.
Encourage your tenants to use the heating
By encouraging your tenants to use the central heating (and leaving it on low if they go away for a few days) you’ll help to avoid damp forming, and pipes bursting. It also means that any issues can be reported to you promptly.
Test smoke alarms and CO detectors
It’s important that you test smoke alarms and CO alarms at least once per year. There must be a working smoke alarm on each floor of the property.
A CO detector is required by law in any room with a solid fuel appliance.
Tip: Check your insurance
Ensure that you have a good insurance policy that is designed for landlords. This gives you the peace of mind that if a problem (such as a burst pipe) should arise, you’re covered.
We hope you’ve found this blog helpful.
If you want us to help you meet your responsibilities as a landlord; call one of our friendly team who will be happy to help.