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Heating and Hot Water – Repair of Rented Properties

Your rented home requires a reliable source of heat and hot water and it is the landlord’s legal responsibility to provide these at all times. When there is a break down of any kind, and, where the tenant has not damaged the installation in any way, it’s entirely the landlord’s responsibility to repair or replace the broken equipment and to restore access to heating and hot water for the tenants. How quickly your landlord deals with repairs usually depends on whether they are emergency, urgent or routine. It is the landlord’s responsibility to tell you what will be done to fix the repair and how long it will take.

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Fast facts

  • Your landlord has to provide you with water, gas, electricity and sanitation facilities.
  • Tenants are entitled to have central heating or other equipment for heating each occupied room and a boiler for heating water.
  • The minimum heating standard is at least 18°C in sleeping rooms, and 21°C in living rooms, when the temperature outside is minus 1°C and it should be available at all times.
  • Your landlord is responsible for any repairs and replacements required under the Landlord and Tenant Act (1985) and overrules any other document or statement.
  • Tenants are responsible for damages they have caused to the property and equipment.
  • It’s unacceptable to be left without utilities for more than a few days without any work done towards removing the problem.
  • If left without heating or hot water, or you’re experiencing malfunctions preventing your access, get in contact with your landlord. You need to do this in writing or over email and clearly explain the situation.
  • Use our template letters to properly request repairs in your home. The PDF guide will explain exactly how to use them and at what order. They are free to download.
  • If the landlord is unresponsive, you have to send a second letter. Re-state the existing problem and note that this is your second and final letter to the landlord before requesting aid from the local council.
  • If you have not succeeded, you have to contact the Environmental Health Department at the local council. Environmental Health can enforce your landlord to uphold their responsibilities. When urgent, the department can authorise the repairs and serve your landlord the bill.
  • As a final resort, you can implement the repairs yourself and then seek compensation from your landlord in the courts.a

A home is more than just walls and ceiling. Every property needs to provide basic systems for provision of fuel, electricity and water, so they can be used to create comfort in everyday life. Landlords need to cater to these very basic needs of their tenants. Your rented home requires a reliable source of hot water and heating. It is the landlord’s legal responsibility to provide this.

This is included in every tenancy agreement and is a critical requirement for landlords and property owners.

The Landlord is required to provide you with reliable heating and hot water

The law is clear-cut and simple – under the Landlord and Tenant Act (1985) your landlord is responsible for:

  • Keeping in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling for the supply of water, gas, electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences)
  • Keeping in repair and proper working order the installation in the dwelling for space heating and heating water

Landlords cannot avoid their legal obligations to do major repairs and maintenance. There may be a clause in your tenancy agreement that states flues and chimneys are your responsibility. Read it thoroughly to know what is expected. You cannot be held responsible for any major repairs. However, daily maintenance is expected by the tenant.

This law includes the following facilities and equipment in your property:

  • Gas fires
  • Water boilers (gas, electric or other type)
  • Central heating systems
  • Radiators
  • Electrical heaters (if such are provided by the landlord)
  • Gas supply and water supply
  • Bathrooms, toilets and other sanitation equipment

Unless you have caused damage through maltreatment then it is the legal obligation of the landlord to ensure the property has heating and hot water at all times. The lack of these utilities is considered a hazard, especially in the cold seasons and if no alternative source is provided by the landlord.

Landlords need to react faster to problems with the heating or hot water supply that with general disrepair especially, when this affects families with small children.

Otherwise, they are breaching the tenancy agreement on two fronts – keeping the property in repair AND free from hazards.

Tenant’s responsibilities regarding heating and hot water

Tenants need to properly use the provided facilities and take care of daily maintenance in the property. Any damage caused by the tenant knowingly or by incorrectly using the equipment in the property will breach the tenancy agreement. This means repairs will be either deducted from the tenancy deposit, or the renter will be required to pay for them.

Tenants are responsible for reporting all issues with the heating or hot water supply to the landlord. Here is what to look for:

  • Faulty heating including leaking/inefficient radiators
  • Blocked chimneys, broken grates, unsealed stoves
  • Water that won’t heat properly or does not heat up at all
  • Showers with no hot water or barely warm
  • Any clauses in your tenancy agreement which state that heating and hot water are your responsibility

It is illegal for your landlord to put clauses in your tenancy agreement which say that you have to do major repairs.

If the radiators are working, but heating up inefficiently, there might be air trapped in the system. In this case, the radiator in question needs to be bled. Bleeding the radiators falls within the daily maintenance of the property and tenants are expected to perform it every time there is need for it.

Repairs such as leaking taps and blocked drains, sinks or toilets are usually the responsibility of the tenant, so check your tenancy agreement.

What to do if heating/hot water is not working properly

How quickly your landlord deals with repairs usually depends on whether they are emergency, urgent or routine. It is the landlord’s responsibility to tell you what will be done to fix the repair and how long it will take.

If the problem is not urgent, for example a radiator won’t turn on after you have bled the radiators, then report the problem in writing. This can be a letter or an email; include the date and keep a copy for your own records. You will find the landlord’s address on your tenancy agreement or if the property is managed send correspondence directly to the letting agent. It is always a good idea to follow up with a phone call to the agent; make a note of who you spoke to, the time and date.

If the matter is an emergency or urgent, phone the landlord/letting agent and document the call. Emergency repairs include a total loss of water or total loss of heating during cold weather; urgent repairs include plumbing leaks and central heating faults. Urgent issues are usually carried out within a day. If it is out of normal office hours, use the letting agent’s emergency number. It is good practice to have contact details for preferred tradespeople written down in a safe place such as your TTV welcome pack.

The level of emergency would be dictated by the current temperature and the need to use heating in the property. However, you shouldn’t experience loss of heating during the cold season for more than 24 hours. Anything more than two days can be interpreted as a hazard to the tenant’s health and therefore a serious breach in the tenancy agreement.

Lack of hot water is an emergency regardless of the season. Tenants can use a kettle for boiling water for washing purposes, but that doesn’t mean landlords can hold out on the repairs.

Some repairs might take more than the reasonable time, in which case the landlord needs to provide equipment for heating. If your landlord cannot fix the problem in time and cannot provide any replacement heaters, you should ask for temporary accommodation. You can stay with a B&B or a hotel for a few days, while waiting for the repairs to be done. This should be covered by your landlord, but if it is not, you have a strong claim for compensation with the courts.

If the landlord doesn’t accept the responsibility at all, you can issue the repairs by yourself and then begin court proceedings against them to cover the expenses and even compensate you.

Where to go for help

If you’re unable to get hold of your landlord or they are uncooperative in handling the repairs, you should seek further help with the local council. The Environmental Health Department can serve your landlord with an improvement notice. It will force them to do the required repairs until the property meets the minimum standard for legal renting. In addition, according to the newest legislation, from October the 1st 2015, landlords cannot evict tenants for at least six months after the improvement notice has been served.

If the landlord is still unresponsive about repairs, the local council can do the repairs instead and then charge compensation from the landlord.

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This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.

We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our All advice category.

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