Here is a question to the blog clinic from Alice (not her real name) who is a landlord
I am a Landlord. My tenancy agreement says that my tenant should arrange chimney sweeping every 9 months and provide a receipt.
He is regularly using an open fire and has advised me that it is, in fact, my responsibility and that the wording in the agreement is not corrrect. This would appear to be the case. Can you confirm, please?
NB He says he has swept it himself and has a qualification from years ago which entitles him to do this. My building insurers say that I need a proper certificate from a professional. I just want some clarity?
There are really two issues here
- Who is responsible, and
- Your insurer’s requirements
Who is responsible?
Under law, (section 11 onwards of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985) there are certain things which landlords are responsible for keeping in repair. This includes:
11 (1)(c) to keep in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling-house for space heating and heating water.
There is a question mark over whether this would include the chimney and flues for an open fire. Having done a quick search on the internet:
- This site believes that the wording DOES include flues and chimneys and the landlord is responsible for chimney sweeping. However,
- The TDS site has a page which says that the tenant is responsible and
- The relevant Shelter page seems at first glance to go both ways saying that the landlord is responsible for chimneys and ventilation and then lower down saying that you must keep chimneys and ventilation free of blockages!
The answer is almost certainly as follows:
- The landlord is responsible for ensuring that at the start of the tenancy the chimney, flues and fireplace are in good order and repair, with the chimney swept and in a safe condition.
- If during the tenancy the chimney, flues or fireplace fall into disrepair – then the landlord is responsible for dealing with this under the statutory repairing obligations.
- However (unless the tenancy agreement says otherwise) the tenant is responsible for keeping the chimney free from blockages (ie soot!) and in a safe condition. This means having it swept regularly.
There is also a very old case from 1954, called Warren v. Keen, where Lord Denning discussed the tenant’s obligation to act in a ‘tenant-like manner’ under the common law.
The tenant must take proper care of the place. He must, if he is going away for the winter, turn off the water and empty the boiler. He must clean the chimneys, where necessary, and also the windows. He must mend the electric light when it fuses. He must unstop the sink when it is blocked by his waste. In short, he must do the little jobs about the place which a reasonable tenant would do.
Your insurer’s requirements
If your insurance requires a certificate then it will be invalidated if a certificate is not provided. However, in your tenancy agreement, you only refer to a receipt. It does not (from what you have said) mention a certificate – which is different.
So at present, it looks as if you can require your tenant to get the chimney swept but not to obtain a certificate – only a receipt.
This is not sufficient to satisfy your insurance and so I am afraid you may need to get this work done yourself in order to obtain the certificate your insurers require.
This will not be implied into your tenancy agreement, by the way. You have to be precise in what you say.
I would suggest that you take a look at your insurance policy and see what else it requires, and make sure that this is included in any new tenancy agreement which your tenant signs at renewal.