It’s a familiar situation for most landlords. The weather takes a turn for the worse, and right on cue, a tenant gets in touch to say the gas boiler has broken. Indeed, one study showed that 15.6% of boiler breakdowns happen in January, with 12.01% occurring in December.
While boiler breakdowns can happen at any time of year, they can be a headache. However, landlords need to take gas safety seriously. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 43 people died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 2021 – with a third dying in their own homes.
Failing to take care of gas safety can also land you in a lot of trouble and expense. In 2023, a landlord in Belfast was fined £3,000 for failing to arrange a gas safety check on a tenant’s boiler. A few months later, a Glasgow property owner was struck off the register of private landlords after she failed to provide gas and electrical safety certificates to a tenant – and left them with a boiler that had been condemned.
While ensuring boiler and gas safety is paramount, there is sometimes confusion about landlords’ responsibilities for tenants’ boilers. In this article, we explain what landlords should do about boiler maintenance and repair to keep their tenants safe and comply with the law. We also look at how the right insurance can help you avoid expensive repair bills when you least need them.
- How often should a boiler be checked in a rental property?
- What to do if a boiler breaks in a rented property
- Is landlord boiler cover worth it?
- Common issues landlords have with boilers
- Tips to help maintain a healthy boiler
The law is clear about how often a tenant’s boiler should be checked. To comply with the Landlord and Tenant Act (1985), landlords must get boilers and flues serviced in their rental properties annually. This task should be carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer. The engineer can conduct the legally required annual gas safety check at the same time and then issue the landlord certificates that list all the checks that have been carried out.
If a boiler breaks in a rental property, what you should do depends on the problem. Below are some of the common actions you’ll need to take.
What to do if the boiler is unsafe?
If the boiler is unsafe – or the tenant believes it is – then you should ask them to turn it off and not use it. It’s illegal in the UK for anyone to use a gas appliance if they suspect it isn’t safe.
What to do if there’s a gas leak?
If the tenant believes there is a gas leak, tell them to open all the doors and windows. They should then shut off the gas supply using the meter control valve. Always ensure you know where this can be found in case the tenant has forgotten. You should then call the National Grid’s gas emergency line on 0800 111 999.
Organise a boiler repair
If the boiler repair is an emergency, the law says you need to get it fixed within a ‘reasonable time’. This is normally interpreted to be within 24 hours. Emergencies include the tenant not having heating or hot water, particularly in winter as this can have an impact on health.
If the boiler problem isn’t an emergency – such as a small water leak that isn’t causing damage to anything else – then you have a bit longer to organise a repair. The National Residential Landlords Association says that if the issue is a major problem, you should get it fixed within two weeks. We advise getting any gas appliance fixed as soon as possible before any problem gets worse.
Use a Gas Safe registered engineer
It’s worth adding a reminder that you must choose a Gas Safe registered engineer to work on boilers and any other gas appliances. This helps ensure tenant safety and gives you peace of mind that you’re complying with the law.
If the boiler can’t be repaired
If a qualified gas engineer can’t repair a boiler, they may switch it off. If this happens, you will need to get a replacement boiler fitted as soon as possible. If tenants are without heat, then you must provide them with suitable heating equipment. It’s important not to delay getting the new boiler installed. If you don’t get it done within a reasonable time, your tenants may be able to claim compensation by claiming you have breached your responsibilities under the Tenancy Act 1985 and the Fitness for Human Habitation Act 2018.
Deciding whether landlord boiler cover is worth it is up to you. Landlord boiler cover from Alan Boswell Group will provide a temporary repair and £500 towards a new boiler if the boiler cannot be repaired, helping you to fulfil your obligations to your tenants and minimise the cost of a replacement boiler. Many landlords choose to combine regular maintenance checks with boiler cover, helping to protect them from multiple repair bills.
Does landlord insurance cover boiler breakdown?
No, normal landlord insurance doesn’t cover boiler breakdown. However, you can purchase landlord home emergency cover for a relatively small cost. Our home emergency cover has no excess and not only covers boiler breakdown but also covers you for problems with heating and plumbing systems, failure of the gas and electricity supply, infestation, damage to locks, doors and windows, plus a certain level of alternative accommodation costs.
You may also think it worth taking out an extended warranty on any new boiler.
Can I claim for a boiler in a rental property?
If your boiler is insured with landlord home emergency cover, you can claim according to the policy terms. If you have to install a new boiler, you can claim the cost of the equipment and installation as an ‘allowable expense’ against tax (minus any payout from your insurance policy). You can also claim related costs, such as replastering and redecorating the wall the boiler is attached to.
There are lots of issues that both landlords and tenants can encounter with boilers. These are some of the most common.
- Leaking / dripping – This normally happens because an internal component has failed. Sometimes, the tank will have corroded, which generally means you need to replace the boiler.
- Kettling – Strange noises that sound like a boiling kettle can mean you’ve got sludge in the boiler. This is more common in areas where the water is hard. It may be repairable with a chemical cleaning solution or power flush, but the noises may indicate a more serious problem. It’s not wise to ignore kettling – build-ups in the system can cause dangerous levels of high pressure.
- Low pressure – If boiler pressure drops, it’ll normally get picked up at the annual inspection, and the engineer will repressurise the system. If the tenant has the boiler manual, they may be able to repressurise the boiler themselves. However, if the low pressure is due to a leak, you’ll need an engineer to investigate the problem.
- Frozen condensate pipe – In colder weather, the condensate pipe – the pipe that carries away wastewater that has condensed – can freeze. You can generally fix this by pouring warm (not boiling) water on the pipe.
- Radiators – Sometimes tenants believe the boiler has broken because the radiators aren’t working. Often, they’ll just need bleeding. Another cause can be smart thermostats that lose connection with the boiler. You can normally get them to reconnect by reading the instruction manual and following the reconnection instructions (though if the thermostat has batteries, check these first).
- Extinguished pilot light – If the pilot light goes out, it’s likely to shut down the gas supply. As with any problems involving gas, you should get a suitably qualified engineer to look at the problem.
As we’ve seen, boilers are expensive items, and it pays to look after them. But what can you do to help maintain a boiler and, ideally, extend its lifespan?
- Don’t forget the annual service – The best way to keep a boiler maintained is to arrange an annual service by a Gas Safe Registered engineer. They are often able to spot problems in their early stages, preventing them from becoming more expensive issues later on. An annual check is a legal requirement, so be sure to get it done.
- Bleed radiators – Not all tenants know how to bleed radiators correctly. If you have any doubts, ask your engineer to bleed them during the boiler’s annual inspection.
- Check for leaks – It’s worth asking your tenants to keep an eye out for any leaks from the boiler. Catching some types of leaks early can save a lot of hassle and expense.
- Be aware of noises – Also, ask tenants to report any noises coming from the boiler. It’s usually easier to deal with kettling as quickly as possible.
- Insulate pipes – If possible, insulate the boiler’s condensate pipe. This can help prevent it from freezing up, saving you the expense of a callout.
- Keep an eye on the pilot light – A boiler’s pilot light can be an important indicator of its health. It should normally burn a clear blue colour. Ask tenants to report if the flame shows signs of yellow. If it does, get the boiler inspected as soon as possible. Some boilers won’t have a visible pilot flame (be careful not to confuse a blue LED for the flame).
How long can a landlord leave a tenant without a boiler?
If a boiler has stopped working, it’s usually classed as an emergency. You should get it repaired within 24 hours if possible.
How often does a landlord have to replace a boiler?
You’ll need to replace a boiler whenever it breaks beyond repair. Modern boilers generally have a lifespan of up to 15 years, though this is dependent on them being regularly inspected and maintained.
Do I have to pay full rent if my boiler is broken?
Yes, tenants should pay full rent if a boiler is broken. If you don’t, you risk eviction for breaking the terms of your tenancy agreement.
What happens if the landlord doesn’t fix the boiler?
If a landlord doesn’t fix a boiler, a tenant should contact them to ask for repairs to be made. If they don’t make the repairs, tenants can complain to the Environmental Health department at their local council. They may ask permission to negotiate with the landlord to complete the repairs.
It’s also worth noting that if a tenant damages a boiler, they could be liable. The landlord will need evidence to prove the tenant was responsible for the damage.
As every landlord knows, gas boilers can be temperamental things. When one thing goes wrong, it’s common for others to go wrong soon afterwards.
Because boilers are a landlord’s responsibility, they need to factor in maintenance, repair and replacement costs for each property they own. Many landlords, having been stung by boiler costs in the past, opt to give themselves peace of mind with landlord home emergency cover. This excess-free insurance can help them avoid costly boiler repair bills at the wrong time, and protect them against a range of other risks, from broken plumbing and heating to storm damage.
If you own rental property, Alan Boswell Group’s landlord specialists can put together a bespoke range of policies that meet your exact requirements. For more information, speak to a member of our team today at 01603 649650.