Chimney sweeping requested but tenant put gas fire in themselves?

by Readers Question

14:46 PM, 30th January 2017
About 2 years ago

Chimney sweeping requested but tenant put gas fire in themselves?

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Chimney sweeping requested but tenant put gas fire in themselves?

My tenant has asked for her chimney to be swept as soot has blown down onto her new carpet during a very windy spell. The property has full gas central heating, but also has a gas fire which the tenant had installed at her own expense before I acquired the property. My tenant has told me on several occasions she owns the fire, despite this I still get the gas engineer to check it when he does the annual inspection.chimney sweep

On the advice of my Gas Engineer I no longer install gas fires in rental properties where they have central heating. Instead I install an electric fire which obviously reduces risk and saves money in areas such as servicing, maintenance, repairs, chimney sweeps etc.

• My initial thoughts are to have the fire removed, block the opening and install an electric fire….. under the circumstances can I do this?
• My tenant won’t be happy if I suggest an electric fire and will probably argue it won’t be warm enough. What if she offers to pay for sweeping herself …… can I agree to this ?
• My concern if she agrees to pay for it she might not actually get it swept…… if she does agree to pay for it can I ask to see proof such as a receipt so that I know it has been swept and the chimney is safe?
• How often does a chimney need to be swept in rental properties?

I am trying to keep rents low and affordable, but if I incur additional running costs on top of the effects of Section 24 I will have no alternative but to pass it on and put the rent up significantly. My tenant has lived in the property for 16 years and pays £150-£200pcm less than her neighbours for the same property.

Your comments would be greatly appreciate.

Thanks in advance.

Helen



Comments

Neil Patterson

14:50 PM, 30th January 2017
About 2 years ago

Hi Helen,

From the looks of it a sweep is going to be less than £100.

Then you have saved installing a new electric fire and I can't imagine only using Gas it needs sweeping very often.

Also on a point of self preservation, and interest, soot in a chimney can catch fire and that would be far worse a scenario.

PS I am no expert though.

Gary Dully

16:07 PM, 30th January 2017
About 2 years ago

Helen,
Firstly you should bring your rents to a market rate.
Section 24 may cripple lots of landlords, so get your tenant to pay it.
Ask your tenant what she would prefer in regards to a fire or blocking up and say that you have a budget of £150, as you are already subsidising her rent each month by £1800 per year and money doesn't grow on trees.

Anything above that she can contribute to if she wishes.

If she insists the current fire stays, it should stay.
Providing it is safe, but with a soot fall, is it still venting properly?

H B

21:52 PM, 30th January 2017
About 2 years ago

If the tenant wants to have a fire unnecessarily then it should be their responsibility to clean up. After all, I do not provide a window cleaning service for my tenants.

But I will disagree with Gary in the rents point - a tenant who has been in a property for 16 years is probably generally a good tenant - forcing up their rent to market levels will alienate them and you just end up with the usual cycle of tenants leaving, vacancies, fees and the occasional non-payer. Question is, would this be worth the couple of grand? Obviously it would be proportional to the rent levels.

It can be difficult to put a value on a long-term tenant but it is worth considering.

Also, once the chimney has been swept clean, it should notcause any more problems - it probably hasn't been swept since it was blocked up in the 1960s or whenever.

Mark Alexander

22:09 PM, 30th January 2017
About 2 years ago

Having Chimney's swept is a tenants responsibility, the law is very clear on this point.

The case law on this came from Lord Denning, the famous words to remember are "tenant like manner" - see >>> https://www.google.co.uk/amp/swarb.co.uk/warren-v-keen-ca-1954/amp/?

A brilliant man - see https://www.google.co.uk/amp/www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/obituaries-lord-denning-1078629.html%3Famp?

MY EMPHASIS ..

Lord Denning said: ‘The tenant must take proper care of the place. He must, if he is going away for the winter, turn off the water and empty the boiler. HE MUST CLEAN THE CHIMNEYS, where necessary, and also the windows. He must mend the electric light when it fuses. He must unstop the sink when it is blocked by his waste. In short, he must do the little jobs about the place which a reasonable tenant would do. In addition, he must, of course, not damage the house, wilfully or negligently; and he must see his family and guests do not damage it: and if they do, he must repair it.’ and ‘if the house falls into disrepair through fair wear and tear or lapse of time, or for any reason not caused by him, the tenant is not liable to repair it.’
.

Helen (up North)

9:59 AM, 31st January 2017
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "30/01/2017 - 22:09":

I wasn't expecting that! I thought it would be something else I was responsible for. Many thanks for your input.

Mark Alexander

10:00 AM, 31st January 2017
About 2 years ago

You're welcome 🙂
.

Steven Burman

11:19 AM, 31st January 2017
About 2 years ago

Mark, that made me laugh out loud! So there is something landlords are not actually responsible for?!

Helen, I would convey the information in Mark's response directly to your tenant - both verbally and in writing. There can then be no doubt!

Romain Garcin

15:58 PM, 31st January 2017
About 2 years ago

The thing is that Gas Safety Regulations make the landlord responsible for keeping flues in a safe condition.

So if you install a gas fire and use the chimney as flue then I would think that you become responsible for keeping the chimney in a safe condition, which may include sweeping it if your gas engineer decides so during checks (the flue has to be included in the annual check).

However, if the gas appliance belongs to the tenant, as in this case, then you are not responsible for the appliance or the flue that serves it.

Mark Alexander

7:37 AM, 1st February 2017
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Steven Burman" at "31/01/2017 - 11:19":

To balance the books, so to speak, here's a law for you that goes the other way. Another old law that sits in the statute books.

Did you know that it's illegal for landlords to stop tenants owning chickens and rabbits as pets?

Don't believe me?

Search Google for "Landlords and chickens"
.

Peter Harris

10:10 AM, 3rd February 2017
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Helen " at "31/01/2017 - 09:59":

I'll just add my 'two penneth' ... as M.D. of Wilkins Chimney Sweep Ltd, a chimney sweeping franchise, I would like to let you know that the Fire Service recommends that gas fire flues (chimneys) should be swept annually. All responsible bodies connected with chimneys, sweeping associations, Gas Safe and the like strongly recommend a bird proof cowl be fitted. Assuming this is done possibly having the chimney swept every other year would suffice!
I am also a landlord and I believe the tenant is responsible for having the chimney swept, you can ask to see the sweeping certificate and insist it is swept by a professional trade association member. HETAS only recognise three such associations, APICS, GOMS, and NACS...
The chimney obviously needs sweeping however, many gas fires need to be removed prior to sweeping and, once the chimney is swept, re-fitted by a Gas Safe engineer (some do not)... most sweeps do not offer this service. This cost would also need to be covered by the tenant.As you probably know as a landlord you are responsible for providing a carbon monoxide alarm in each room where there is a gas appliance, I would put one in the room where the gas fire is too, just to 'cover your bottom'...

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