Boilers, heating and hot water: What are landlords' legal responsibilities? - Total Landlord Insurance

February 14, 2020
Total Landlord Insurance
Boilers, heating and hot water: What are landlords' legal responsibilities? - Total Landlord Insurance

Warm tenants make for happy tenants. What’s more, landlords have a legal responsibility under the 1985 Tenancy Act “to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for space heating and heating water.”

Faulty boilers and plumbing can cause serious problems for landlords. In fact, damage caused by escape of water (usually a result of frozen pipes) is our number one property damage claim. 34 per cent of all claims paid out since 2008 were for escape of water, which is two and a half times higher than the next most common claim type.

When it comes to boilers, heating and hot water, it isn’t always easy to know who’s responsible for what. Landlords may be responsible for ensuring that the heating is operational, but who’s responsible for bleeding radiators?

These grey areas can lead to confusion and even disputes around what landlords need to do to make sure they’re holding up their end of the tenancy agreement. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the landlord and tenants’ responsibilities when it comes to boilers, heating, hot water and fireplaces.


Landlord’s responsibilities

Landlords are responsible for making sure that the boiler in the property is serviced on an annual basis. You’re also responsible for making sure that the person you get to do the servicing has the proper qualifications and certification. And you should ask for a copy of the safety certificate and keep it on record, this record should show:

  • The appliances that were tested
  • The results of the assessment
  • Any issues or repair work that are required
  • The engineer’s name and contact details
  • The name and address of the property and its landlord

It’s also important to make sure that the engineer gives the boiler a thorough going over. This will commonly include:

  • Ensuring that the controls that you use to operate the boiler are working
  • That gas and water pressure are at typical levels
  • That all internal components or parts are in working order and don’t show signs of damage or wear
  • That the flue and combustion release are clear and not blocked
  • That all seals are watertight and that there are no signs of rusting that may indicate a leak
  • That all electrical connections are secure

Find out more about the top five boiler problems and how to solve them.

Tenant’s responsibilities

While the landlord is responsible for making sure that the boiler is in good working order, the tenant is responsible for using it in the right way and reporting any faults or issues quickly.

This includes making sure that the property maintains a minimum temperature of 12°C – 15°C  in order to prevent the pipes from bursting. Simple maintenance like re-pressuring the boiler is also the tenant’s responsibility and any issues that are caused by intentional or accidental misuse of the boiler are the fault of the tenant.


Landlord’s responsibilities

Landlords are responsible for making sure that the entire heating system is operational and sufficient to keep the property warm throughout the winter.

The minimum acceptable standards are to be able to maintain at least 18°C in sleeping rooms and 21°C in living rooms when the temperature outside is minus 1°C.

While the UK climate is considered temperate by global standards, British winters can still be fatally cold and cause a range of health risks and illnesses.

As a result, landlords who fail to provide adequate heating systems can be found guilty of causing major health risks for their tenants and taken to court.

Tenant’s responsibilities

Similarly to the boiler, the tenant is responsible for using the heating system in an appropriate way and reporting any issues quickly.

If the heating systems are misused or damaged, for instance by someone sitting on a radiator, this is the fault of the tenant and they will be eligible to pay for the repairs.

Bleeding and draining radiators

There is a bit of a grey area around bleeding and draining radiators. In general, bleeding radiators counts as day-to-day maintenance.

As a result, the landlord is responsible for making sure that the radiators are bled at the start of the tenancy and tenants will be responsible for bleeding radiators during the tenancy.

That said, some tenants may not know how to bleed a radiator. Landlords with younger tenants such as students may offer to do it for them as a sign of goodwill.

Draining radiators is a more substantial task and may require professional help. As a result, this is the landlord’s responsibility.

Hot water

Landlord’s responsibilities

The landlord is legally responsible for ensuring that tenants have hot water and adequate sanitation at all times. This includes boiler repairs but also making sure that the plumbing delivering hot water to the kitchen, toilets and bathrooms is in good working order.

Total loss of hot water in a property over the winter months is considered an emergency and should be dealt with immediately after it’s been reported.

Tenant’s responsibilities

The tenant’s responsibilities for hot water are similar to the boiler – the tenant is responsible for managing the usage and reporting any issues, such as leaks. When it comes to plumbing, reporting issues quickly is vital, even small or slow leaks can cause serious structural damage over time. It may be worth explaining this to your tenants when they move in.


Landlord’s responsibilities

Fireplaces are another grey area and different sources online can vary in their interpretation of the rules. The Landlord Law Blog is a reliable source of information on these matters.

Their interpretation is that landlords are responsible for making sure that the chimney, fireplace and flues are all in good working order at the beginning of the tenancy. The landlord is also responsible for dealing with any structural repair work required at any time.

Tenant’s responsibilities

The tenant is responsible for the safe use of the fire such as keeping flammable objects far from the hearth and using a fireguard. They are also responsible for keeping the chimney in a safe condition – including keeping it swept – once the tenancy is underway.

Make sure your tenancy agreement reflects your responsibilities

It’s vital to know the rules. But it’s also important to make sure that your interpretation of the rules is reflected in your tenancy agreement. Without this, your legal footing in the event of a dispute will be seriously undermined.

Tenants who are left without basic amenities such as heating and hot water over the winter months are likely to end their tenancy and may even take legal action against their landlords. Both of which are situations that landlords should avoid if possible. Understanding where your responsibilities start and end is a good way to make sure that you’re doing everything you should be doing to ensure your tenant’s health and comfort.

If you’re looking for more information, check out our winter advice page to find out how to prepare your property for winter, including making sure the boiler and heating are taken care of.

Become a Total Landlord.
Get a quote for our award winning landlord insurance.