Landlords & Tenants

Landlords & Tenants

My advice for all landlords is to take control of all sweeping requirements in their tenanted properties.

It is the opinion of the Health & Safety Executive that all landlords should take responsibility for chimney sweeping and not delegate this to the tenant.

Under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the Landlord is legally responsible for ensuring the safety, working and servicing of all heating and hot water installations. Although the wording can seem ambiguous, this also refers to any open fire, Rayburn, Aga, solid fuel or wood burning stove. This responsibility includes all flues and ventilation, therefore under this Act, it is the landlord’s responsibility to have all chimneys swept regularly in a rental property.

I know many landlords who believe that if the tenant uses the fire, they should arrange sweeping, but unfortunately the landlord cannot contract out of his responsibility. Even if a tenancy agreement were worded to state that a tenant is responsible, this would not stand up in court. Landlords need to be aware that such signed contracts may not always be legally binding and may in fact be unlawful since some of those clauses may be in breach of existing housing laws and tenant's rights.

Just because a tenancy agreement is well written does not mean that established laws can be over ruled by it. The law is the law.

The reality is tenants do not always use solid fuel appliances correctly and may be using the incorrect fuel. Such practices can cause chimney fires if the flue has not been swept regularly.

Given that a chimney fire could potentially cause considerable damage to a property, it should give landlords piece of mind to know that a chimney is being regularly cleaned and inspected. Should a chimney fire occur then many thousands of pounds could be lost in damage and loss of earning potential while the house is repaired. Not to mention any claim that a tenant may make.

A simple annual sweep at a modest cost will greatly reduce exposure to the risk of a chimney fire through poor tenant usage.

Landlords should also pay particular attention to their property insurance policies. A number of insurance companies stipulate in their policies that chimneys and flues should be adequately maintained. Failure to do so could render the insurance policy invalid in the event of a chimney fire.

If the landlord looks after a solid fuel appliance then they would have discharged their duty of care towards their tenants and would be keeping their own property safe from unnecessary fire risks and unwanted legal claims.

Remember, as a landlord you have a legal duty of care to your tenant.

This stove had been neglected by both the tenant and landlord. A new tenant moved in and on lighting this stove for the first time found the room filled with smoke. On inspection I found the stove had been heavily used and the flexi-liner was actually blocked from excess soot. The bag is full of a huge amount of soot removed from the flue. This could have been a very dangerous situation.