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Rental Property Boiler Not Working? Here’s What To Do

image of frozen pipe

Boiler breakdowns can be a distressing event, especially in the chilly months. If you’re a tenant in a rented property with a private landlord, understanding your rights and the steps to take when your boiler stops working is crucial. Whether it’s a sudden lack of hot water or the heating system giving up, knowing the procedures can save you a lot of hassle.

Since many UK homes have inadequate insulation, they can get extremely cold in the winter. Mould, condensation, and other issues might arise from insufficient heating in your house. In addition to causing property damage, this may result in health issues.

A recently published study by the Resolution Foundation (RF) shows that around 20% of UK homes have no roof insulation and 40% have walls that are rated as poor or very poor for insulation.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the process and ensure you stay warm and comfortable.

Understanding Your Rights and Responsibilities

When a boiler breaks down in a rental property, both the tenant and the landlord have specific responsibilities. These are primarily governed by the tenancy agreement and relevant legislation, such as the Landlord and Tenant Act and the Tenant Act. It’s essential to be aware of these to ensure proper action is taken.

Landlord’s Responsibility

Under the Landlord and Tenant Act, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the heating and hot water systems are in good working order. This includes regular boiler maintenance and addressing any issues promptly, many reputable plumbers offer landlord services which can keep plumbing in all properties in working order. The law mandates landlords to provide a safe and habitable environment, which includes functioning gas appliances and an annual gas safety check.

In London it is more common for people to be renting their home than to be homeowners. In fact, London has the lowest percentage of homeowners at just 46.8%.This may lead to more boiler breakdowns as the responsibility for servicing, repairing or replacing the boiler falls to the landlord rather than the tenant.

The highest number of boiler repairs are needed in London with 2.91% of the capital’s households requesting boiler repair quotes. 

Tenant’s Role

As a tenant, you are expected to report any problems with the heating or hot water immediately. Failing to do so could potentially delay repairs and may affect your rights if you need to seek legal advice later on. Documenting the issue and keeping a record of communications with your landlord is always a good practice.

Immediate Steps to Take If Your Boiler Breaks Down

  1. Report the Issue: As soon as you notice the boiler isn’t working, inform your landlord. This should be done in writing, such as an email or a letter, to have a record of the notification. Mention the specific problems you are experiencing, such as no hot water or heating, to provide clarity.
  2. Check for Safety: Ensure there are no gas leaks or other immediate plumbing safety issues or dangers. If you smell gas, it’s critical to leave the property immediately and contact the gas emergency services.
  3. Temporary Solutions: While waiting for the boiler to be fixed, you might need to use portable heaters to stay warm. Ensure these are used safely to avoid any risk of fire.

Landlord’s Actions

A responsible landlord should take immediate action upon receiving a report of a broken boiler. This typically involves:

  • Contacting a Gas Safe Registered Engineer: Only a qualified gas safe engineer can safely repair a boiler. The landlord should arrange for this as soon as possible.
  • Providing Temporary Heating Solutions: If the repair is expected to take time, the landlord should provide temporary heating solutions, such as portable heaters.
  • Regular Updates: The landlord should keep you informed about the progress of the repair and any expected delays.

When the Landlord Fails to Act

If your landlord refuses or fails to repair the boiler in a reasonable timeframe, there are several steps you can take:

  1. Seek Legal Advice: You may need to seek legal advice to understand your options. Organisations such as Citizens Advice can provide guidance.
  2. Contact the Environmental Health Department: The local council’s Environmental Health Department can intervene if the property is deemed uninhabitable due to the lack of heating or hot water.
  3. Withholding Rent: In some circumstances, tenants may consider withholding rent until the repairs are made. However, this is a legal grey area and should only be done after seeking legal advice, as it can lead to rent arrears and potential eviction.
  4. Emergency Repairs: If the landlord fails to act, you might be able to arrange for emergency repairs yourself and deduct the cost from your rent. This should only be done after notifying the landlord in writing and getting multiple quotes from Gas Safe registered engineers.

Preventative Measures You Can Take

Preventative measures can help avoid the inconvenience of a boiler breakdown:

  • Annual Gas Safety Check: Ensure your landlord conducts the annual gas safety check. This not only keeps the boiler in good working condition but also provides a gas safety certificate.
  • Regular Boiler Maintenance: Regular servicing of the boiler can prevent many common issues. Discuss with your landlord the possibility of a boiler cover plan, which can provide routine maintenance and swift repairs when needed.
  • Understanding the Tenancy Agreement: Familiarise yourself with the terms related to boiler maintenance and repair in your tenancy agreement. This will help you know what to expect and what is required of both parties.

Read more: 6 Common Plumbing Problems & Solutions

What If a New Boiler Is Needed?

Sometimes, a boiler breakdown might lead to the need for a new boiler. This can be due to the age of the boiler or the extent of the damage. The landlord should cover the cost of a new boiler, as this is part of maintaining a habitable property.

  • Installation Timeframe: Installing a new boiler can take some time. During this period, the landlord should provide alternative heating solutions.
  • Choosing the Right Boiler: A modern, energy-efficient boiler can save on energy bills and reduce breakdowns. Discuss with your landlord the options available.
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Dealing with Disputes

Disputes between tenants and landlords regarding boiler repairs can be stressful. Here’s how to handle them:

  • Mediation Services: Sometimes, a neutral third party can help resolve disputes amicably. Mediation services are available that specialise in tenant-landlord disagreements.
  • Small Claims Court: If all else fails, you might need to take the issue to a small claims court. This should be a last resort after exhausting all other options.
  • Rent Repayment Orders: If the landlord has failed to maintain the property to a habitable standard, you might be entitled to a rent repayment order. This can be pursued through the housing tribunal.

Emergency DIY For a Common Boiler Problem

Unusually cold weather in the UK is starting to play havoc with boilers, with many of us waking up to no heating or hot water. If this is you, you may find that your boiler is flashing up an error message on its screen or making strange gurgling noises.

As annoying as this is, with temperatures below freezing, the likely culprit for your problems with modern condensing boilers is a frozen condensate pipe.

Condensing boilers produce slightly acidic condensation as a by-product, which is expelled via a pipe to the outside of your house via a polymer pipe. When the temperature drops, this pipe can freeze, eventually creating a blockage and preventing your boiler from working.

Although boilers are supposed to show an error message that helps you track this down, sometimes it’s not that simple. For example, it can show error messages such as F1, F9 and F13, even though the problem is the same.

The fix

Before you start, turn your boiler off at its dedicated switch. If your boiler is on the ground floor, go outside and look for a plastic pipe that comes out from the wall that your boiler is mounted on. If you can see the end of it, take a look and see if it’s frozen throughout; if you can’t see the end, then it’s worth trying the method to fix it anyway. If you can’t see a pipe coming through the wall, you may have an older type of boiler and will need to call a heating engineer.

Likewise, if your boiler is mounted higher up, it’s dangerous to get to, so you’ll need to call a registered heating engineer.

Now, you need to thaw out the pipe, clearing the ice blockage. You can strap a hot water bottle to the pipe, although this takes time. The better option is to use warm water to melt the ice. Don’t use boiling water, as this could be dangerous; start your kettle, but cut it off when the water is warm, but not boiling.

Now, go outside and pour the warm water up and down the length of the condensate pipe. Use a full kettle-load of water to make sure that you’ve got everything out.

Now, go back in and turn your boiler on. It should start automatically, running through a start-up cycle. If you still get an error message, then you may have to reset the boiler by checking the manual (these are available online if you Google the manufacturer and model name).

With the boiler fired up, you can now try your heating or, if you have a combi-boiler, turn on the hot water. The boiler should fire into life, and you should get hot water.

Still facing issues? Our annual boiler plumbing service might be what you need.

How to prevent the condensate pipe freezing

To prevent further issues, you can try lagging the pipe, insulating it from cold weather. A lot of boiler installations use small pipework for the condensate pipe, but larger pipes (25mm+ in diameter) make it harder for the ice to block the run. When you get your boiler serviced, you can ask the engineer to make these changes for you.

Looking For Reliable Landlord Plumbing & Heating Services?

Living in a rental property comes with its set of challenges, but knowing your rights and responsibilities can help you handle a boiler breakdown effectively. Always communicate promptly with your landlord, keep records of all communications, and don’t hesitate to seek legal advice if needed. Regular maintenance and understanding your tenancy agreement can prevent many issues, ensuring you stay warm and comfortable throughout the year. 

From the legal considerations of your Gas Safety certificate to making sure everything is working as it should, you’re guaranteed a reliable landlord service with Lazard, thanks to our years of experience helping landlords across Essex and London look after the plumbing and boiler maintenance in their homes.

Get in touch to find out more about our landlord services.

Rental Property Boiler Not Working FAQs

What should I do if my boiler stops working in my rented property?

First, inform your landlord immediately in writing, detailing the issue. This ensures there is a record of your notification. While waiting for repairs, you can use portable heaters to stay warm.

Who is responsible for fixing the boiler in a rented property?

The landlord is responsible for maintaining the heating system and ensuring the boiler is in working order. This includes arranging for repairs and conducting regular maintenance.

How long does my landlord have to fix the boiler?

The landlord should arrange for repairs as soon as possible. For essential services like heating and hot water, this typically means within 24 hours. However, exact time frames can vary depending on the tenancy agreement and the severity of the issue.

Can I withhold rent if my landlord doesn’t fix the boiler?

Withholding rent is a risky move and should only be considered after seeking legal advice. Improper withholding of rent can lead to rent arrears and potential eviction.

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