Property Management

Call of the Week- Responsibility for clearing chimney in time for Santa

Call of the week

In the weeks before Christmas, landlords shouldn’t be surprised when their tenants contact them about repairs or issues with the house.

At this time of year many tenants will be rushing round, getting the house ready for a family visit, or preparing the perfect Instagram Christmas with their kids.

This week’s call was about a particularly demanding tenant preparing Christmas for their entire extended family.

They had rented a lovely five bedroom property in a village outside Chester for the previous two years.

As with many of the properties in the area it included an open fire as a feature that the tenant used regularly.

The tenant contacted the landlord to inform them that the chimney was now built up with soot and the landlord needed to clear it immediately.

She was adamant that this must be done before Christmas as she had her family attending and the day needed to be perfect.

She was quite rude to the landlord when they said they wouldn’t be able to attend immediately.

The landlord contacted us for advice on this matter as they didn’t understand why it was their responsibility to clean this part of the property as they had provided it in a clean state to the tenant at the beginning.

We checked what type of fireplace was in front of the chimney.

Here we were specifically checking to make sure that the getting into the chimney would not require the assistance of a specialist technician to remove the fireplace.

The landlord informed us this was not the case though and the fireplace was an open one.

We informed them that it was in fact the tenant’s responsibility to keep the chimney clean.

In fact, it was one of the specific examples given by Lord Denning in his judgement that defined tenant like responsibilities (the things that tenants would be expected to do around the house).

As such, the tenant could safely be told to clean up their own soot for Christmas.

Rupinder Aujla, LAT Manager, said “It’s often a surprise for tenants and landlords to discover tenants are responsible for keeping their own chimneys swept but we are always glad to help make people aware of this.”

Find out more
  • The RLA run courses for landlords on repairs, which covers in detail which repairs a landlord is responsible for dealing with, and which are the responsibility of the tenant.
  • Landlords can also access helpful guides and documents on the RLA website to learn more about making repairs to a property.

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4 Comments

  • I have my concerns witg relying on Lord Denning’s ruling in 1953 today.

    Yes, Lord Denning gave chimney sweeping as an example of tenant-like conduct, but this was in 1953, when the standard of living was quite different to what it is now. Lord Denning made this ruling more than 60 years ago, and the more than 30 years prior to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

    Under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the Landlord is legally responsible for ensuring the safety, working and servicing of all heating and hot water installations. Although the wording can seem ambiguous, there is no evidence to suggest that this should not also refer to open fires, and coal and wood burning stoves. It stands to reason that this responsibility should also include all flues and ventilation.

    Regards
    Paul

    • What would you class removing the ashes of the fire grate after you have used the fire? A service that the fire requires after each use and require the landlord to do it when the tenant wants to light the fire again?

      From my own point of view, I would not have an open flued gas or solid fuel appliance in any of my rental properties. Prone to ventilation and removal of products of combustion problems. Not worth the risk nor hassle. Room sealed flues or electric all the time.

  • Hi all,
    I am a little surprised that you have advised that chimney sweeping is the responsibility of the tenant without some caveats for landlord protection.
    Firstly it may be worth checking insurance policies as some may put onus on landlord.
    An unswept chimney left for too long could cause a chimney fire with disastrous consequences.
    If the responsibility is left to the tenant they might just take the easy cheap way out by burning IMP or similar products that supposedly burn off accumulated soot.
    Also if they hired a cheaper sweep to do the job then it might be done poorly or with damage to chimney lining, pots or carpets/flooring.
    If any of my properties had open fires I would want to personally organise the chimney to be professionally swept twice a year and perhaps either reflect cost in rent or via tenancy agreement have a clause where tenant reimburses landlord.
    What do you think??

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