In this post, the term “solid fuel” means any fuel that is not a liquid or gas (e.g. wood, coal, mineral smokeless fuels, wood derived fuels and biomass). The term “appliance” means any device or fire manufactured to be used for heating within a domestic property which uses solid fuel (e.g. an open fire, woodburner, pellet stove, biomass boiler, cooker solid or fuel boiler).
● The laws, duties and responsibilities of a landlord towards tenants can seem a little ambiguous when it comes to the maintenance of solid fuel fire appliances and chimney flue sweeping. This is largely due to the absence of words such as, ‘chimney’ and ‘sweeping’ in most legal publications and guidance papers. Instead, generic terms and words have been used in Government guidance publications. For example, landlords are deemed responsible for’ ‘heating systems’, ‘ventilation’, ‘gas appliances’ and ‘flues’.
● All solid fuel appliances, be it an open coal fire, a wood burning stove or a solid fuel cooker will give off combustion gasses (as all fires produce poisonous gasses). All solid fuel appliances fall within the category of heating appliances.
● The Landlord of a rented property has a legal responsibility to maintain the gas heating system, including the chimney/flues and any ventilation associated with the gas heating appliance. Therefore, the issue of who is responsible for maintaining solid fuel appliances and the chimneys/flues that expel dangerous gasses becomes less ambiguous.
THE LANDLORD HAS THE RESPONSIBILITY
● A solid fuel fire appliance (heating system) will obviously produce poisonous gases that will require a clear and unobstructed flue to carry them away from the property. The property will also require an adequate ventilation system, such as air vents or airbricks that are of an appropriate size to serve the appliance.
● A landlord’s legal responsibilities to their tenants are tough enough, and the cost of meeting those duties and responsibilities can weigh heavy. A landlord has a lot of capital invested in a rented property, and the last thing they would want is to see their investment go up in smoke as a result of a chimney fire. Worse still, is the possibility of being the defendant in a criminal case of negligence where imprisonment may be a possibility.
● The reality is that tenants do not always use solid fuel appliances correctly, and this can result in dangerous occurrences and chimney fires. Entrusting their property investment to a tenant may be a risky venture for a landlord in certain circumstances. The modest cost of a simple annual sweep by a trained professional will greatly reduce exposure to the risk of a chimney fire or dangerous incident through poor tenant usage.
● Landlords should also pay particular attention to their property insurance policies. A number of insurance underwriters 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 claim.
Nicole from Vogue Real Estate is a property investor and has been a licensed agent for almost 20 yrs. “My role is to educate my clients (landlords) of current and changing law I also ensure that I am minimum the risk for my clients at all times. So before a tenant moves in i do a walk over the property with my client to see if I can find any risks then i do a comprehensive written report as well as discuss issues such as smoke alarms, pool compliance, strata issues – fire safety. Upon inspections and keeping in mind our third party checks the smoke alarms the first thing I do is verbally ask the tenant if all the smoke alarms are working (some tenants due to their cooking tend to cover the smoke alarms with a plastic bag or shower cap) which a) makes a mess of the ceiling or b) voids the owners insurance) so we check that and we also check to ensure the alarms are working.”
● A landlord may (through misguidance or ignorance) construct a rental or tenancy agreement with various clauses that attempt to transfer certain of their responsibilities over to the tenant. The tenant may well sign that agreement in order to secure the accommodation. However, landlords need to be aware that such signed contracts may not always be legally binding and may, in fact, be unlawful since these type of clauses may be in breach of existing housing laws and tenant’s rights.
● Just because a tenancy agreement or contract is well written and contains impressive legal terms and jargon, it does not mean that established laws can be over ruled by it. The law is the law and it’s only an Act of Parliament that can amend an existing law, not a landlord’s tenancy agreement.
● Before constructing a tenancy agreement, a landlord should seek professional documented legal advice to ensure they protect both themselves and their investment. More information can be found below:
● While the premises are occupied under a tenancy (or licence), the landlord must ensure that a smoke alarm is equipped on each storey of the premises on which there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation. This means that a smoke alarm must be provided in working order on each storey.
● Individual flats located on one floor demand that at least one alarm is installed within the flat itself. Alternatively, they must be provided on the same floor outside the flat (i.e. a communal alarm).
CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS
● When the premises are occupied under a tenancy or a licence, a carbon monoxide alarm must be provided by the landlord in any room which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and which contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.
● Any kind of wood burning stove or an open coal fire is applicable. It will also extend to equipment such as a solid fuel Aga in the kitchen.
● It is a requirement to fit an alarm for a new installation of solid fuel burning combustion appliances before it can be commissioned. This is also extended to any existing appliances already in place before Building Regulations imposed this requirement.
WHICH TYPE OF ALARM IS REQUIRED
● The Regulations do not stipulate what kind of alarm is required, though ideally, it should be a hard-wired alarm system. It can, however, be a single standalone alarm. Landlords are recommended to fit – ten-year life, (non)tamper proof alarms, otherwise there is a problem of batteries being taken out and not being replaced.
WE FIT ALARMS
● We fit carbon monoxide alarms in compliance with building regulations. Just inform us of this requirement when booking an appointment.