Do I need to compensate tenant for emergency boiler repair that needed parts?

by Readers Question

14:18 PM, 4th January 2016
About 3 years ago

Do I need to compensate tenant for emergency boiler repair that needed parts?

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Do I need to compensate tenant for emergency boiler repair that needed parts?

Four days following the annual gas cert and boiler service (no problems found) a tenant notified me the heating had stopped working. bend over backwards

I got the gasman back out and he found it was working fine. Few hours later tenant called gasman direct to say it wasn’t working again. Gasman revisited and concluded it must be an intermittent fault, but returned following day, on Christmas Eve, to replace – I think, the PCB.

He also at that stage discovered a small leak, but couldn’t repair it as a particular part had to be ordered. New year’s day (Friday) tenant calls me to say heating had stopped again. Knowing the gasman was waiting for the part, and expecting to do the repair on Monday I suggested I would pay for electric heaters if she could buy some (I was unable to get to the property) and I would agree that the tenant could deduct a day’s rent from her normal payment (tenant is in fact in arrears) for any days she felt it necessary to move out to eg a hotel (there are children).

Tenant wants me to pay for a couple of days she spent at a relatives house before Christmas (when everything appeared to be working) and for additional electricity costs and has accused me of trying to save money, because I wouldn’t call out an emergency plumber on new year’s day. She is convinced British Gas engineers carry every conceivable part on every van!

I feel I have done as much as I could given the circumstances and if I had not already known we were waiting on a part I would have certainly called out someone on new year’s day. I always effect repairs as soon as possible.

I have agreed to pay for any additional energy costs, but tenant wants me to more or less write a blank check and is affronted that I have requested some proof of the additional costs.

Question – is there anything I should have done/should do now?

Ann



Comments

Gary Dully

3:22 AM, 5th January 2016
About 3 years ago

I assume that you have a tenancy agreement, if so what does it say?

The way you react to a "screamer" sets you apart from a professional landlord and a quivering wreck.

On my agreements the use of additional heating is restricted to oil filled radiators, (thanks to my insurance company terms with me).
British Gas also provide electrical hot air heaters if they fall below a certain repair time standard.

I suppose you could offer your tenant two weeks holidays in the Seychelles as well.

For Gods sake, get a grip of this tenant and learn to say no.

British Gas do NOT carry all the parts required, especially PCB,s and they can usually make my tenants wait up to a week or longer.

You now have a tenant that will exploit your perceived weakness and you appear to be under the illusion that you are at fault.

You have acted in a reasonable fashion, if your tenant doesn't want to cooperate, tough sh*t.

The boiler passed its inspection and has broken down, oh dear that's never happened before has it?

You are NOT qualified to assess a boilers faults and neither is your tenant.
You are reliant on the engineers that you appoint, if a part isn't available then it isn't available.

Do you fear being reported as a lousy landlord? - Why?

There is a procedure for disrepair that they can follow, it's called Civil Procedure Rules for Disrepair that all UK tenants and landlords have to abide with and provided that you have acted within its terms it favors neither party.
Just relax and let British Gas go at their own speed.

As for your tenant, offer alternative heating and leave it at that. If they want to start bleating then eventually get the repair done and let them escalate if they want to, but I would be surprised if any legal Boffin would back them.

I may be setting the wrong tone for your New Year and your tenant relations, but stop worrying and just offer in writing alternative temporary heating.

Chris Byways

6:52 AM, 5th January 2016
About 3 years ago

When did you do your last routine inspection/welfare visit?

Do you really have a long term relation going forward with this tenant?

Is is worth writing to local housing office and EHO explaining situation, steps you have taken, and seek advice - to not only show you have acted reasonably, but have nothing to hide, and tried to resolve both direct and through them?

This must stand you in good stead if this ended in court for a s21.

I found Gary's reply helpful.

Kathleen Gell

9:39 AM, 5th January 2016
About 3 years ago

Gary.
I find it interesting that you make mention of "a small leak " in the boiler
Do we assume this was a gas leak?
Why then had British Gas passed this boiler as safe and presumably issued a landlords gas safety certificate?
If British Gas are slow to address a problem with a boiler in a tenanted property where there are children; if they are failing to identify a leak and not placing a DO NOT USE sticker on the boiler then why are you using them?
Indeed, they may well have done so but if you cannot get to the property then you may not be aware of this.
I suggest you think about using an agent to manage your property ...someone who wil be in a position to carry out routine visits and ensure that all is well.
Presumably your landlord insurance will provide cover for alternative accommodation in a situation like this. If a combi boiler, then your tenant and her children wil have no heating and no hot water.
I cannot agree with Gary who refers to your tenant as a 'screamer'

Stephen Smith

10:31 AM, 5th January 2016
About 3 years ago

Ann,

It seems you have done more than enough.

Often faults are not apparent at the time of inspection, engineers try to replicate the issue by asking the tenant when problems occur etc, however an experienced engineer would know that certain boilers present with certain problems and that may indicate the area of investigation.

As others suggest, engineers do not keep every spare for every appliance therefore there will inevitably be delay. The tenant has to expect such delays. As long as you, the landlord, has undertaken the repair, by that I mean engage the services of an engineer, then you have done all you can.

To Kathleen; it is assumed that it is a small water leak, should have been identified on first visit, I would advise Ann to take it up with the engineer if two call outs are charged. It would not be a gas leak since the engineer would be prevented from putting the boiler back into service if there were any safety issues since specific checks have to be carried out. (I am a Gas Safe registered engineer)

There is no obligation to provide heating in the event of a failure of the boiler, nor provide recompense in terms of free rent, unless, in the unlikely event, that the tenancy agreement provides for it.

I will leave the matter of the suitability of the tenant for your judgement however my first reaction is to move her on before she causes any further trouble.

Stephen

Mandy Thomson

10:43 AM, 5th January 2016
About 3 years ago

Although British Gas are not always the promptest to get to a property and get parts, and often fall down on customer service (why I terminated my plan with them) I find it hard to believe that they would employ an engineer who would miss a gas leak, and wrongly pass a dangerous boiler.

I agree with Gary; I believe this tenant is milking this situation for all it's worth, the intention being to cancel out her rent arrears and to get a bit more out of you. Moreover, bad tenants are not above actually creating maintenance issues or making existing ones worse, although of course no one can say this is what has happened here.

I would make sure you back up copies of ALL emails and text conversations with this tenant and minimise any future phone conversations, so you have proof should this issue go further.

My extinct, assuming the property isn't in an area of low tenant demand, is to let some time pass after the repair, then terminate this tenancy as soon as legally possible. I'm afraid this is the REAL reason behind most "revenge evictions".

Ian Ringrose

11:22 AM, 5th January 2016
About 3 years ago

As the tenant is in arrears (assuming there is not a good reason for them that will be fixed soon) I would issue a S8 if the tenant is in enough arrears.

I would also issue a S21, telling the tenant that you will enforce it unless the rent arrears are sorted out quickly.

Also consider "money claim on line" for the rent arrears, if the tenant is likely to care about their credit rating and/or is in a job. But send a "before action letter" saying you will do so, giving them at least 7 days to pay.

Then present your case INCLUDING what you did about the boiler, so that the judge can see you are not hiding anything. Make clear that a home owner could not have got their boiler fixed any quicker.

Joe Bloggs

16:18 PM, 5th January 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mandy Thomson" at "05/01/2016 - 10:43":

we find bg are very prompt both in the initial callout and returning with the parts.

BTW
1) i suspect the tenant had arranged to spend xmas with her relative and then exploited or created the 'intermittent' breakdown.
2) there is no guarantee that boilers will not go wrong and as long as they are repaired in a reasonable time (which depends on the time of year) then a LL has fulfilled the duty owed.

Gary Dully

16:55 PM, 5th January 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Kathleen Gell" at "05/01/2016 - 09:39":

Kathleen,

The chances of a British Gas or Registered Gas Safety Engineer missing any gas leak on any boiler supply circuit is NIL!

It's the first thing they will check for before even lighting it up.

They connect up a pressure loss gauge to it and time it, any loss will be detected and the readings are placed on the gas safety certificate.
any fall in pressure that exceeds a maximum allowance would trigger an instant prohibition label.

Being without hot water and heating is an annoyance, but there are such things as kettles, pans, electric showers and cookers, for hot water and the tenants had already been offered alternative emergency heating, but instead chose to go to her sisters.

My point was, and still is, that based on what we are being told in the posting, is that the landlord has tried to be reasonable, but the tenant is giving them a hard time.
We call them "Screamers" in my part if the Bronx, but you may consider them as you wish.

The landlord has done nothing wrong, a machine developed a leak, (it won't be gas or it would have been condemned as unsafe or at risk).

The landlord is liable for the repair, but can't be held to ransom over parts that can't be obtained during a public holiday period.

These things happen to boilers, ferries, cars, planes and push bikes. It was nothing personal against the tenant it was something beyond the landlords control. ( a bit like the weather).

Mandy Thomson

17:28 PM, 5th January 2016
About 3 years ago

I use Homeserve for plumbing and boiler issues in one of my properties, and so far they've been nothing short of excellent.

Joe Bloggs

17:50 PM, 5th January 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mandy Thomson" at "05/01/2016 - 17:28":

thats funny...i had a terrible experience of homeserve albeit many years ago! after that we went with bg.

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