How quickly do I need to fix hot water and heating issues?

In this weather, it’s important to get heating and hot water issues sorted ASAP!

And It is a truth universally acknowledged that hot water and heating always breaks down in the middle of winter

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According to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, all repairs should be carried out in a ‘reasonable time’. Frustratingly, there is no definition of what this reasonable time is when it comes to non-emergency repairs.

However, hot water and heating issues are considered an emergency, so you have 24 hours to get this fixed.

As a landlord, you are not expected to carry out repairs until you have been alerted to them by the tenant. However, if you are aware of an issue and have not dealt with it, your tenant would have a case against you, even if they hadn’t made you aware of it.

Does my tenant need to move out while I fix the heating?

If the heating or hot water is off and it cannot be made to work that day, then yes, your tenant will have to move out. 

You have 24 hours to fix the emergency, but you cannot reasonably expect your tenant to sleep in an unheated home while it is fixed. If you are unable to get the heating or hot water back on by the evening, you should offer them the option of safe and warm overnight accommodation until the issue is resolved and they can go back to a property with reliable heating and hot water.

This is often something that landlords don’t consider when budgeting for their properties. While you may have the money to fix flooding or replace a boiler – do you have the cash to put your tenant in a hotel for a day or two until everything is fixed and habitable again?

Make sure that your Home Emergency Insurance offers provision for this as it could cost you dearly if it’s a big job that will take several days.

How can I prevent heating or hot water issues in my flat?

Prevention is better than cure – it’s less stressful for your tenants and it’s much cheaper for you!

  • Speak to your tenants. Make sure you check in regularly so you know about any little faults that you can nip in the bud before they grow (see below for the things to check on!)
  • Boiler service. You are legally required to have an EICR to make sure your electrics are in good working order and a Gas Safety Certificate does the same for your gas. However, did you know that you are also legally required to annually service your boiler? We recommend organising this for the summer months, so any repairs can be done before the chill sets in. These regular checks can help you avoid costly emergency repairs
  • Stay up-to-date. If you are advised after a check that there are some repairs to make – do it immediately! It can be tempting to hold off small repairs until payday, especially if you do your servicing in the summer. But it’s easy to delay and forget. Get little problems nipped in the bud immediately! Track your expenses to make it easier to keep on top of things.
  • Have maintenance on hand. Try to have a reliable person that you can go to when you need services or repairs. If you already have someone on speed dial, you’ll save yourself a lot of time looking for the right person. If you don’t have a go-to person yet, make sure you’re looking for them in reliable places.

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How can I prevent general emergency issues in my properties?

We recommend checking in on your tenants regularly. This doesn’t mean dropping in for a weekly chat over a cup of tea! But a monthly or quarterly message, just to see if there’s anything you need to be aware of, is useful.

Asking after something specifically is more likely to get an answer than asking generally and this way, you might hear about a small issue that you can fix now a lot more easily and cheaply than you would when it becomes an emergency problem.

  • Fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Are these working ok? Do they need batteries replaced or any other fix?
  • White goods. Is the fridge/freezer, oven, washing machine and tumble dryer all running well?
  • Radiators. Do they need to be bled? Are they making any strange noises that might need looking into?
  • Boiler. Is the water heating up ok? Does it sound all right?
  • Mould and damp. Have they noticed any in the property?
  • Any cracks or other issues? Have they noticed any cracks in the walls or ceiling over the last couple of months? Is there a noticeable draft through any of the windows that will get worse in the colder months? Do they have any worries about the electrics (you’ll have an EICR, but it is always worth checking if you or your tenant are at all worried!)

We don’t recommend asking all of these questions every time you check in, as your tenants may tire of this and stop responding!

Try to ask seasonally appropriate questions, like asking after the boiler or radiators towards the end of the summer/early autumn, so if they do mention any issues, you have time to look into them and resolve them before the winter bites.

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