Appliances – Ask Sharon


 

Appliances & Utilities

Appliances - Ask Sharon Residential Landlord
  ASK SHARON

Scroll down to find the advice you are looking for. Most recent questions and answers are listed first.


Need for cooker

We are letting a house, unfurnished, through a letting agency. It doesn’t have a cooker and the agency has told us we should supply one. Is this correct?

It is not a legal requirement, though may be a preference of your agent and your local authority. However, I think a cooker provided by you and installed by a professional person may make it easier to let and does ensure that everything is done legally and safely. I think it would be good practice to have one supplied.


No gas safety certificate

I have recently rented a house and have no gas safety certificate. I informed the landlord of this and he has done nothing about it. Can I use this as a reason to end my shorthold tenancy agreement after seven weeks?

I think it would be better to contact your local Environmental Services department, as they will take action if there is no certificate. This landlord needs to know that the gas safety regulations are there to protect tenants and he cannot let his property without one. As to ending the tenancy, it is a chance you would have to take. He may feel justified in not returning the deposit as you are vacating early, but you would obviously have a very good case with the Dispute Resolution Service and should get it returned in full. If you have any concerns about the gas system, ie headaches, nausea, which could indicate carbon monoxide poisoning, get someone out immediately to deal with it.


Do landlords have to pay utilities?

Do landlords have to pay utilities? I don’t want to rush into anything so I was hoping you could give me some ideas as to what to avoid.

It depends on the type of property. If it is a house in multiple occupation, then the answer is usually yes. For virtually all other properties, the utilities should be put in the tenant’s name – obviously, so they can be pursued for any outstanding debts. Another good reason for utilities going in the tenant’s name is that it saves unpleasantness if there is a disagreement. ng me a couple pointers?


Installing a gas meter

Can British Gas come and put in a gas meter on my property without my consent. The current tenants have arrears with them and although they have offered payment British Gas says it’s not sufficient and wants to put a meter in. I would prefer for this not to happen.

You need to make a strong case to them why you don’t want this to happen, but I think you will struggle as they are trying to collect a debt. Tell them it is a short-term let and you will be returning to live in it yourself and do not want a meter. You should also ask them, though, how much payment from the tenant would be sufficient to stop this plan of action. It may be possible to work something out.


Cooker confusion

I work for a residential letting company and I am being told that it is a legal requirement for a landlord to fit a cooker for prospective tenants. Is this true? I am being told it is within the housing Act but I would be here for days trying to find one sentence! Please Help!

Strangely enough, I have heard this before, but without any backing from law. How can an unfurnished tenancy have a cooker in it? If you are letting a furnished tenancy, then yes, you must provide a cooker, but if letting unfurnished, I cannot see how the law could force you to provide one. It is good practice to provide one, as it is an expensive item that a tenant may have difficulty in providing, but that means you have to be responsible to keep it going. I have spent some time checking my housing manual and also the act, and cannot find any requirement. If I hear of anything, I will update the column.



Cooker has failed

When I let out my flat there was an old cooker which has now failed. I repaired it before as a goodwill gesture but can’t afford to renew it. My letting agent says it wasn’t on the inventory, which may mean it’s not part of the tenancy. The tenant says I have to renew it. What are your thoughts?

I am sorry, but I am with the tenant on this one. If a cooker was part of the tenancy, i.e part of the reason the tenant accepted the tenancy, you have a duty to either repair or replace. I would not like to use as an argument in Court that it was not noted on the inventory – I think this would be seen as a simple error, particularly as you had previously acknowledged it was part of the tenancy by having it repaired. It is an unhappy truth – landlords cannot say they cannot afford it. It would have been better, under the circumstances, to tell the tenant before the tenancy started, that you intended to dispose of it. If he wanted it, he could sign a disclaimer, which states the cooker is now his responsibility. Sorry!


Landlord gas certificate

I am letting my apartment out to two people. Do I have to issue each of them with a copy of the Landlord’s Gas Certificate? Do I keep the original and just give them copies?

I believe that it is good practice to get an eletrical certificate – what should I check for when I phone around for quotes to have this done? Is there a particular organisation that the electrician should belong to?

For the cost of an extra copy, let them both have one, though if they are agreeable, it is sufficient to have it on the wall, so it can’t get lost and both know where it is.

It is very good practice to have an electrical check done, though not a mandatory requirement at present. The electrician should be NICEIC registered. Your local accreditation scheme, or the Environmental Services, may be able to put you in touch with one, so ring them.



Repair to gas fire

Two years ago, I took a career break to go abroad and have let my property to the same tenants from thereon. I have always been really fair with them, especially on the several occasions where they have been unable to pay their rent. I have been tolerant of this, and have made allowances in my own finances to cover mortgage payments, until their rent was back up to date.

The gas fire in the property was brand new four years ago, and has passed the two previous safety inspections with no problems. I have just had the gas checked for this year, and have been informed by the engineer that the ceramic tiles at the front of the fire are broken. He informed me that this is not possible under normal wear and tear, they may crack over many years, but in order to break they need force against them. I have instructed the tenants that they are liable for this cost and that they must get this fixed as soon as possible in order for the safety certificate to be completed. At the same time they have defaulted on payment again, promising to pay double rent next month, and I am struggling to get commitment from them to pay for the repair to the fire.

Am I within my rights to demand payment for this repair? Should I offer to pay for it, but take it out of the deposit. If I do this, should I put this in writing first, and get them to sign it? The certificate is now out of date so I want to get it fixed sooner rather than later.

If you have not already done so, you need to put in writing what you have been advised and that you therefore hold them responsible. Offer them the opportunity to discuss it with you, but state that you are prepared to pay for the repair but would expect to deduct this from the deposit. Give them a time-limit to respond, stating that the urgency is because a valid gas safety certificate must be issued. Keep a copy of the letter, of course. If you have to pay for the repair yourself, confirm in writing that is what you are doing and deducting cost from the deposit. Wherever possible, get them to sign to confirm received and understood any letters you send.


Checks and repairs not done

I’ve been letting a property to the same tenants for the past three years but they have now left owing me one month’s rent. I have their bond, but when I asked for the rent they said they were going to seek legal advice as I hadn’t got the gas tank checked for three years. This is true. I know I should have – also I was asked by Transco to have the outside gas meter earthed as this was found not to be done, but I never got round to it. Can they sue me?

I am not sure what exactly they could sue for, as they do not appear to have suffered, but they could certainly cause a lot of trouble for you. I suppose a case could be made on what could have happened, but depends whether they get a solicitor who would think it was worth handling. I would get Transco to deal with this immediately.



Electricity certificates

I currently let a two bedroom flat in Scotland. Would you please advise whether an electrical certificate is required? If yes, how often does it have to be renewed?

The property is let unfurnished but does contain a cooker, fridge freezer and washing machine. By law, should these appliances have any regular checks undertaken?

Scottish law is sometimes different. Currently, there is no legislative requirement for electricity certificates in England, though some accreditation schemes may make it a requirement of their scheme. If there is an accreditation scheme in your area, ask your local authority. Schemes I am aware of that ask for a certificate state they should be re-done every five years. Again, not sure of the situation in Scotland, but I don’t think there is a legal requirement for testing these appliances, though it is good practice to undertake some Portable Appliance Testing – there will probably be someone able to do this in the telephone directory. You could discuss with your local landlord association, who may know someone.



Electricity certificate

I think I read on your website that there is no legal requirement to get an electricity certificate. Firstly is this still the case and if so why would anyone get one?

Yes it is still the case though energy performance certificates are planned to become a legal requirement from October this year. Why would you get one? It is good practice; it ensures the property is safely wired; it may be a requirement of an accreditation scheme or of some managing agents.


Broken hob

We recently moved abroad and decided to rent our property out until we returned. We decided to rent through a estate agent who manages the property for us, We had just had a new kitchen installed four weeks before we moved so we had a new cooker/hob and dishwasher installed. The property has been let for nine months and when we returned to the UK at Christmas we wanted an inspection of the property before we renewed the contract with the estate agents. The day before we were due to visit our property we were told that the tenant had broken the hob beyond repair.

Can you tell me who should pay for the damage as the tenant refuses to pay and says we should claim on our house insurance as she has been told that she cannot claim on the contents insurance because they are fixtures and fittings? Any advice would be gladly appreciated.

Not nice. Most landlords I speak to have an excess so will end up paying something. Most also hesitate to make claims as they fear an increased excess at renewal. I think your tenant needs a firm (though not threatening or unpleasant) letter explaining what I have just said, re. excess. Offer her the facility to pay a small sum weekly or monthly until the debt is cleared. If she continues in this arrogant manner, serve her notice on a section 21 and ensure that you are totally honest if you are approached for a reference. Did the agent take next of kin details? If so, you have an address which you can use in a small claims court claim.


Going digital

I have been living in my rented flat for 10 years and have a very good relationship with my landlord.

What I wish to know is, all television is changing to digital, is it mine or the landlord’s responsibility to upgrade and change the TV aerial, so I can receive this service? All I get is terrestrial TV and the reception on this is very poor, I cannot get satellite as the property is in a bad position to get any signal, I cannot get cable, as the company’s refuse to put this in due to high costs, what are my options?

I am not an expert re. technology. However, if you have Sky or a freeview box (about £23 now) you should be able to get a service. The problem, however, may be that the position of the property is such that a freeview box does not work. If that is the case, you may need a new aerial and because that is associated with the property rather than your equipment, the landlord should pay. Have any of your friends/neighbours had anyone out to do aerial work? If they have used somebody reputable, it is worth discussing. Otherwise, ring someone up from your local newspaper and see what he says.


Gas certificates

I have a property which is let out. I am aware that by law you have to have a gas safety check every 12 months. This may be a stupid question but the property I have purchased has no gas appliances, everything is electrical that I am aware of. I have got an electrical certificate. Would this be sufficient or do I need a corgi certificate stating they are no gas appliances?

I cannot see that you need to pay for a gas engineer to come out to see there are no gas appliances. Obviously, if you have a gas fire installed which cannot be used, you would need this to be inspected, but not necessary for the circumstances you describe. If enquiries are made by Environmental Services, just explain and, if needs be, prepared to let them inspect.


Sub let of a flat

I lease a shop which has a flat that I sublet with the freeholder’s agreement. Who is responsible for the gas safety checks and the fire extinguishers? There where no fire extinguishers in the property at all when I took it over. Is it me or is it my landlord?

Discuss with the Environmental Services. My rule of thumb would be – who is the landlord, who gets the rent? If the lease you hold is for the whole property, think it may be you, but the Environmental Services will be happy to discuss with you.


Question about cookers

I have a property which is let out .I have to replace the old electric cooker and have now managed to source a second-hand one (only one year old) in excellent condition. Can I simply just get an electrician to install it or would I have to get the cooker tested? If I do have to get it tested any ideas of cost? It may be, weighing it up, more simple to buy a new cooker?

You should get it properly serviced, though I know such a new cooker should not have any problems. Speak to a local repair and maintenance shop – I seem to have a figure of about £40 in mind, but prices may vary depending on area. I think about £90 in Bolton would get a serviced, second hand cooker, with a six month warranty. It is best for the sake of your tenant to ensure that you follow all health and safety procedures and servicing any electrical appliances you provide is included in that


Washer-dryer disposed of

I have let a house to a benefit-claiming tenant for nearly two years. Although the let is on an unfurnished basis, I fitted a new washer-dryer at the outset of the let. The machine has recently developed a fault and I told the tenant to use his portion of the rent (the council pays the majority of the rent) to repair the machine. Instead of doing this he replaced my washer-dryer with a washing machine (which obviously has fewer features) and insists it is his property despite disposing of my washer-dryer without my consent. What can I do about recovering the cost of my washer-dryer?

It will have to be the small claims court. You should never think that tenants will behave in the manner you would expect and always ensure that you meet your responsibilities – which were to put back into working order appliances that were in the property when you let it. I think it is unlikely that you will get anything from this tenant; you would also have to decide what was a reasonable sum to claim for a machine that is two years old and was not working when disposed of; did the tenant get anything for trade-in is another question to ask; did he or you get an estimate of the cost of repair? Perhaps he felt the cost was prohibitive. BUT – make sure you get the rental shortfall back. If he is retaining that to pay for the washer, then the washer is still yours.



Frequency of checks

Please can you tell me how often a landlord should have a professional gas and electricity check in a property which is rented out.

Gas is easy – it should be re-checked every year and a new gas safety certificate issued. There is no legal requirement to have an electricity check, though accreditation schemes may ask for one and it is good practice to have one at least every five years.


Windows worries

My daughter recently left her rented flat. In order to have her £500 bond refunded, she was told to decorate the flat which she has now done. She has not, however, painted the window frames, which are in a poor condition. Adjoining flats have recently had their windows replaced with PVC due of their poor condition. Because of this, £150 has been retained by the landlord. There was nothing in her tenancy agreement which stated woodwork had to be painted regularly. Surely, the windows are the concern of the landlord?

This seems a little harsh, but I suppose it depends how long she lived there and whether the way she lived had had a detrimental effect on the paintwork – for example smoking, so white paint now yellow. Generally speaking, I would not expect a tenant to decorate, unless a child had crayoned on walls or the tenant had painted the room black, so my thoughts are that the landlord should be told pleasantly that the windows are not in a fit state to paint, that they are not the tenant’s responsibility and failure to return the deposit, in full, will mean your daughter will go to the small claims court. Of course, if there are any factors which could be held to her responsibility, negotiation may be required.


Dangerous gas fire

I am currently renting a home for myself and family, and have had no problems for the first four months. But recently when moving some furniture around in the bedroom above the lounge I spotted what looked like some smoke damage. I was very worried and contacted my landlord who said that he previously had an old fire before installing the gas fire and that this was probably where the smoke had come from. However he sent someone over to check out the fire as well as the heating system in general.

Once he arrived I showed him the mark on my bedroom wall and his first thought was that it might actually be dirt from a possible hole in the chimney. He then checked over the gas fire and told me that it was the worst job he had ever seen. He said that when the person fitted the gas fire in the lounge, he or she had realised that the lounge floor was solid and so had run the gas pipe from my garage on the other side of the house, routing it between the first and second floors into and down the inside of the chimney to the gas fire below..

The repair man said if there had been one leak the entire house could have been blown up and destroyed. He immediately disconnected the gas supply and told us not to use the gas fire again as it was a criminal offence to turn it on as it was so dangerous. He contacted my landlord who brought a new electric fire to the house the next day and simply put it against and in front old gas fire.

This time the landlord claimed that the gas fire had been in the house when he moved in 18 years ago. In my opinion it does not look 18 years old.

The repair man also said that there was further damage to the top of the chimney which was not venting properly, and that someone had put a further hole in the chimney to rectify this. The result was that it did not vent at all and dirt was escaping into the house.

Although there is now no apparent danger posed by the gas fire, I feel totally cheated and scared that I have been living in a house for four months when at any moment my whole family could have been killed. Is there any further action that I can take against my landlord? I wonder whether he might have changed his story about when the gas fire was installed so as to limit his liability for the poor installation. Is he liable to pay compensation as he did not check the property before renting it out? Or can I get a further remedy from the original installer of the gas fire?

I think I would discuss with Environmental Health or the Health and Safety Executive. I don’t see that when the fire was installed is an issue – he should have had the whole system thoroughly examined when he bought the house. Did he have regular gas safety checks done? This should be done annually. If he did, and it was not spotted because of the way the furniture was arranged, I can’t see that there is much ground there, as of course, he would not have chosen to have his house in an unsafe condition.

I think you should put it in writing to him that you rented the property on the basis it had a safe gas fire, which you no longer have. I think you can ask for compensation for this, though he may respond that he has replaced one source of heating for another so compensation is not required. I’d see if there is a solicitor locally that does a free surgery and see if he thinks you have any grounds.


Certificate applicability

My sister has recently bought a property from me which I had previously let out. She kept the same tenants, giving them a new tenancy agreement.

Just before I sold the property I had the electrics checked. Does my sister now need a new NICEIC certificate with her name as landlord or is the one I had good enough?

The gas man told us we needed a new corgi certificate, but the electrician told us that as long as the tenant stayed the same, the certificate was fine. How can we find out for certain?

Speak to your local Environmental Services and/or Accreditation Scheme. I think it is always better having paperwork in the current landlord’s name, and as the electrical certificate lasts five years (it is not like gas, which has to have an annual check), it may be as well doing what they recommend, though I can understand why it should seem unnecessary.


Cooker problems

I am renting a house with a cooker supplied as per the tenancy agreement but this has now stopped working. I have contacted my rental agents and they can give me no time as to when this will be fixed – they say that I am fine for the moment as I have four rings to cook with. Please can you advise how long a landlord has to get this oven fixed as it is his property?

I am not aware that there is a time limit, but we are coming up to Christmas and I don’t see that you can cook a turkey on four rings, even if they are all on at the same time! Write to them, stating that as they were advised on……, you would expect them to now to be able to tell you when the repair will be carried out. In the depths of winter, I would expect a broken oven to be repaired as a matter of urgency. If you do not hear from them within three days with a date, you will invoke the Right to Repair.

After the three days, write again and explain that if you do not hear within three days, you will invoke the Right to Repair by having the repair done yourself and deducting the cost from the rent.
I know it’s a drag, but you have to write a third time saying ‘I am now instructing someone to repair the cooker, the estimated cost of which is….which you will pay and them deduct from the rent’.
Hope it works.


Fridge problems

I am currently renting my flat out to a single tenant. We have had a good relationship so far. However recently he notified me that the fridge had stopped working. He had contacted me two weeks earlier to say it was playing up but my advice seemed to solve the problem and we had heard no more. I rang him back immediately for further information but did not hear from him again until a few days later when I agreed to sort the problem out as soon as possible.

I had an engineer visit the flat two days later. He has now informed me that the fridge needs replacing. It is a fitted fridge freezer unit, and we have organised to have this done as soon as possible.

In the meantime my tenant has contacted me again to say he cannot live like this and is moving in with his parents until the problem is resolved. I expect him to refuse to pay rent for this time.

I am happy to reimburse him for the inconvenience involved but do not feel I have taken too long to sort this problem out, nor do I feel he is being reasonable in his response, which was aggressive and involved threatening legal action.

Where do I stand on this issue, and how much compensation should I offer him? Any advice would be gratefully received as I am keen to maintain our relationship on the best possible level.

There have been questions in previous months on the same lines. As the tenant took the tenancy with a fridge-freezer in place you have a responsibility to replace it, as you have acknowledged. You do not seem to have prevaricated about this and have now arranged replacement. I am still trying to work out what he would do if it was his own fridge that had broken – would he have decided he could not live like that and move back to mum’s? That is not an option most of us have, and I am by no means convinced that if my appliance broke, I could get it replaced within a week – delivery alone, could take a week.

You say you wish to maintain a good relationship with the tenant, but it seems to me he is making an excuse to pay no rent for a week or so. All I can suggest is that you discuss it fully with him.

Although the property was let with a fridge, it is not specified in law that a furnished tenancy should provide a fridge, so it follows that many people do find they can live without one.

As regards compensation I think you could take a view as to which part of the rent covers accommodation, and which appliances. A proportion of that part of the rent that applies to one of the appliances would perhaps be a good starting point.

See what figure you come up with and whether he agrees. It is not reasonable to expect that he pay no rent for the period – the tenancy was not let on the basis of the fridge alone. Had he chosen to stay, but advised that because of the lack of the fridge he had to shop daily/buy takeaways, I would have more sympathy with his argument.


Damage issue

I am currently in a house where I have been living with two other people for around eight months. Recently the front panel fell off the oven door. This means that the oven still works but because of the lack of weight the oven door doesn’t stay down. Two metal hinges on the door have snapped due to wear and tear.

Our landlady says the damage is our fault and is our responsibility to get it fixed otherwise we will have to pay for a new one. Is this the case?

Quite difficult, but I would have said that the front panel falling off was a wear and tear issue. If you failed to notify the landlady that this had occurred, which led to further damage, then yes, you may be held responsible. Also, if she has receipts to show this was a brand new cooker at the start of the tenancy, you may have a problem. However, if the property was let with a cooker, she needs to get it replaced or repaired. If she will not move on it, go to your local Citizens Advice.


Gas appliance checks

I have just let out a property for the first time. Am I right in saying that I have 12 months from the start of the tenancy to do the gas appliance safety checks?

Also as three unrelated people who share the property have separate agreements, do I need a licence.

The new gas safety certificate needs to date from when the tenancy commenced, otherwise your tenants could be living with unsafe appliances. Carbon monoxide leakage is very dangerous and if the worst happened and someone was taken ill (or worse) because of that, a court would not be interested in the fact that they had only lived there six months – it stands to reason it should be done at the start of a tenancy.

With regard to licensing, it is only three storey HMOs with five or more tenants in two or more households that are covered by the mandatory licensing requirement. It does not sound as though your property comes within the definition, but it would be as well to check with the local authority since it may have introduced discretionary additional or special licensing.


Maintenance contracts

I’ve recently moved out of my house and let it to tenants. Prior to this I had an electrical safety test carried out (although not necessary) and also a gas safety check.

The only gas appliances in my house are the boiler for the water and central heating and a gas hob. I’ve always had a British Gas 3 Star (now Homecare 200) maintenance policy to cover the boiler.

Time is approaching to renew my BG policy but when I called to amend the correspondence address I was told (by a very rude person on the other end!) that my policy was illegal as I was renting the house out. Should there be any problems, an engineer would refuse to attend the property.

This person told me there were new regulations as of 1 January 2006 and unless British Gas had carried out my gas safety certificate or tested every gas appliance within the house, they would not attend any callouts. However, should I choose to cancel my maintenance policy with the company, that would be OK and I would be complying with the law again.

If I’m legal without a maintenance contract, how can I be illegal with one?

The BG person was insistent that this was due to changes in the law and not British Gas policy, it wasn’t a scam just to get more money out of me. Is he right?

I was very surprised at this as I always recommend landlords to take out this cover. I have spoken to British Gas which confirmed there should be no problem. This cover includes a safety check every year, so the safety certificate should be covered by this. Perhaps the person you spoke to meant there was a more in-depth safety certificate you should have had, but certainly there is no reason not to have the cover. Ring the BG Regulator on 0845 601 3131 to discuss further.


Certified safe but not working

I recently had a gas safety inspection for a property I was about to let. The Corgi engineer said everything was OK and issued a safety certificate.

The tenant has now moved in and has informed me that the oven does not work. Is this something that ought to have been mentioned on the safety certificate, as surely an appliance is not certified as ‘safe’ if an aspect is non-operational? Do I have the right to instruct the Corgi engineer to fix the problem as, for all I know, the engineer may have caused the problem in the inspection?

I would think it unlikely that the engineer has caused the problem, but I would certainly want to discuss with him whether he had tested the cooker, as I believe that the safety certificate does make reference to appliances. He may volunteer to fix it, if he feels he has not tested as thoroughly as he should.


Smoke alarms

I currently rent a flat and at the moment have no smoke alarms and wondered if this is a legal requirement.

It depends on the type of flat. Contact your local Environmental Services to discuss.


Winter freeze ups

Freezing weather has been forecast and my tenants are going to be away for a couple of weeks. Can I insist that they leave the heating on low to avoid freeze-ups and if they don’t leave heating on and we do have a burst pipe, can they be held responsible?

I think you should have a discussion with your tenants about this. I would have hoped your tenants would be sensible enough not to want burst pipes damaging their goods. However, I suppose they may say they go away in the winter to save on the heating bills and don’t want to leave the heating on. Is any compromise possible? I think a landlord in your position may be able to work out how much it would cost to keep the heating on low over two weeks and maybe split the cost? If you show you are being fair to your tenants, they may want to behave the same to you.


Kerosene boiler

I have moved into a property with a kerosene fuel boiler system which heats water and radiators. Can you let me know if I need any certificates or checks from my landlord? I am aware that kerosene gives off carbon monoxide, and this particular boiler does give off an unusual smell when it starts up, although this usually wears off in 20 minutes or so.

Discuss this with Environmental Services in your area. This is quite unusual nowadays, but they will either know, or know where to get the information required. I think I would get a carbon monoxide detector, just to be sure that you are in no danger (the cost is £5 to £10 from your local DIY store).


Provision of heating appliances

A friend of mine moved into a rented property in August 2005. Lately it has become apparent just how cold the property is – it really is freezing most of the time.

There is only an electric fire in the lounge, which obviously can only be used when at home, and electric heaters in the hallway and the bedroom – but these take almost a day to warm up.

What are the legal requirements re temperatures and what heating must landlords provide?

The minimum is one fixed heating appliance, which can be an electric fire or the storage heaters you mention. I would advise her to speak to Environmental Services – they may be able to assist the tenant or the landlord with a grant and would certainly tell him if something more was needed.
Whilst storage heaters do take a while to warm up, having got to operational temperatures, I would expect that they would continue to work through the winter provided they are not switched off. Has your friend asked the landlord to check that they are working properly?

This kind of situation really needs questions on both sides – the tenant moved in last August – she needed to question then whether the fire was adequate for the winter. The landlord also really needs to ask himself whether he thinks the fire is adequate.


Mains supply

The rent a two bedroom flat in north London on the top floor of a converted public house. When the water stopped working recently the landlord told me a pump that supplies the flat must have broken. He was correct. It turns out mains water runs into a tank on the flat roof of the ground floor flat and is then pumped up to my flat.

I was under the impression that every residential property had to have a direct mains water supply, and am slightly concerned that I don’t have drinking water since if the taps were not run for a few days water would be sitting in the tank until drawn off. A plumber told me there are certain rules, such as the need for a cover and the like.

As I want to buy the flat this is a concern and has made me think twice. Could you please let me know what the law states when it comes to drinking water and mains water supply?

I am sorry, but other than knowing that there should be a cover on the tank, I cannot assist. Your local Environmental Services should be completely up to date with the legislation and can assist. I believe the main concern with standing water is the possibility of Legionnaires Disease. The solicitor who deals with your conveyancing will need to be aware of anything that Environmental Services report.


Gas cooker

I let out a property which has a fitted kitchen with a freestanding cooker. I was informed by my tenants that the gas cooker wasn’t working properly so I ordered a brand new one. The old cooker was disconnected by a Corgi registered engineer but the replacement cooker wasn’t connected until six days later. Should I give the tenants a reduction in rent and if so what do you think would be an acceptable amount?

What a lovely landlord! I think the concern you are showing to your tenant is great. I would be thinking of a token payment only. Offer £20, as a good will gesture, see what the tenant says.


Responsibility for bills

I have been informed by United Utilities that I, as the landlord, am responsible for any unpaid bills as the tenancy is only a six months assured shorthold tenancy and the tenants were not at the property for more than 12 months. Is this true?

I have never heard that, as tenants can move in and out with some regularity. I have checked with United Utilities which says that this is not its standard practice. In the case of a normal domestic letting the firm expects the tenant to be responsible for his or her bills and would pursue any outstanding amount itself (and in a manner that would not be open to a private landlord). If they insist, ask to see their regulations.


Faulty flu

I have entered into an assured shorthold tenancy agreement which provides that the gas appliances for which the landlord is responsible are safe, in proper working order and in repair both at the commencement of and during the tenancy.

After the tenancy had commenced the boiler wouldn’t work and neither would the fire. The boiler is now fixed but the fire isn’t and the tenancy is now in its second week. The fire is dangerous and has been inspected by a British Gas engineer who has told me that fumes could escape even though it is turned off and that Transco will condemn it.

Although it may be unlikely that fumes will escape I am not prepared to take the risk as I have a baby. Can I get out of the tenancy agreement?

You could try to terminate the agreement if you feel the property is unfit to live in. However, before you do that, I would write a letter to the landlord, asking for a speedy response. State that you have had an opinion that the gas fire, as condemned, could leak fumes and he will be aware of the serious consequences of this, particularly as you have a baby. You would be obliged if he would have the fire repaired or replaced, or alternatively, release you from the tenancy agreement. See what response you get to that.


Dishwasher dilemma

I am currently renting my two bedroom house (unfurnished) to a couple with a teenage son. I decided to leave a washer/dryer and my dishwasher in the house and listed these on the inventory. We have just extended the tenancy for the first time and we are now seven months into the original tenancy. And the tenants have just informed that both the dishwasher and the washer/dryer have stopped working.

If we cannot fix them, am I responsible for replacing both? Is the dishwasher not a luxury and where do I stand in terms of replacing the current washer/dryer with a washing machine.

I am afraid that you are responsible for replacing any electrical items present when the tenancy commenced should they stop working. As they brought all but these two items themselves, would they be prepared to buy their own? I might be inclined to offer them a small cash sum in compensation if they agree to replacing with their own, but if it comes down to it, I think you do have to replace like with like.

 


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