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The cold snap and checking boilers – tips for landlords

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It’s that time of year to turn the heating up and make sure you are warm and snug at home. It’s something you’re quite likely to do, of course, so it is more than reasonable that your tenants are hoping to do the same. 

That’s all very well if the central heating is working as it should, but what if the boiler packs up just when we’re in the midst of winter’s coldest grip?

As the landlord, you have a legal responsibility for ensuring that your let property is fit to inhabit – and this means providing a suitable form of heating. If the central heating boiler breaks down, therefore, you have an obligation to get it repaired.

Gas-fired heating

Whether the let property has gas-fired heating or there are individual gas fires installed, you have a further responsibility for ensuring that, not only do they work, but that they are safe to use.

The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 require landlords to arrange an annual inspection and safety check of all gas supplies and installations in the property at least once a year and to make a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate available to their tenants.

The check needs to be carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer and, although the law requires only an annual inspection, British Gas recommends that your gas installation is checked more regularly – say, whenever there is a change of tenancy.

Related to gas safety and the use of gas fires and boilers, legislation in most parts of the UK typically also requires that you install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your let property.

The gas safety checklist

In order for the gas safety certificate to be issued, your installation needs to be inspected for any faults and the correct operating environment:

  • all fittings and appliances need to be checked for tightness and gas leaks; 
  • if there are test points in your system, these will be used under both working pressure and standing conditions;
  • the gas rate and burner pressures are checked against the information recorded on the manufacturer’s plate; 
  • checks are made to ensure that the boiler and appliances have adequate ventilation;
  • the flow of exhaust gases through the flue is tested;
  • the safe and appropriate operation of “flame failure” devices is checked;
  • the existence of, stability and effectiveness of fixing brackets are tested where appropriate; and
  • if any signs of unsafe operating are detected, these are also reported by the Gas Safety engineer.

For your gas safety certificate to be issued, the entire installation needs to pass all of these inspections and safety checks.

Inspection, repair and servicing

Your obligations as a landlord therefore extend to ensuring that any gas central heating boiler has a safety inspection and the relevant certificate is issued each year and, more generally, that you attend to tenants’ requests for any necessary repairs when they are made.

To avoid the risk of breaking the law through a faulty gas installation and to avoid the costly expense of a call-out in the event of the boiler breaking down in mid-winter, therefore, you might want to consider the prudent step of having it checked and serviced on a regular basis – and certainly in advance of any cold snap, when a surge in demand for their services is likely to significantly increase any boiler engineer you need to call out in the event of a breakdown.

With the next cold snap possibly just around the corner, you might want to act now to reduce the risk of your boiler breaking down at the least convenient – and costly – moment and to ensure that any gas installations are functioning properly and safely.