If you’re a landlord, you have to understand that there are certain responsibilities that you have towards your tenant. Sometimes, things can malfunction within an investment property, like any home, and any faults should be addressed urgently. Problems can range from a broken door handle to a broken boiler. It’s your duty as a landlord to take care of these issues and maintain the basic living requirements for your tenant.
So how long can you leave a tenant without hot water if there is a problem with the boiler or hot water cylinder?
Reported faults to a hot water supply must be dealt with immediately. A heating engineer would reasonably be expected to visit the property within 24 hours, and the tenant should not be left without hot water for more than two days. A period beyond two days could be critical to the tenants health.
If there is a problem with the boiler, hot water cylinder or any other part of the plumbing which causes the hot water supply to stop working, landlords are to address this issue as a matter of urgency.
Hot water not working isn’t a real problem – but not fixing the hot water supply would be a real problem.
Whether the property is managed by the landlord directly, or through a property managing agent, either party has the responsibility of ensuring that faults to the hot water supply are fixed as a matter of urgency. Although I would also like to point out that the overall responsibility of any issues always rests with the landlord.
This is plainly and simply defined in Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. The landlord is responsible for: keeping in repair and proper working order the installations in the dwelling for the supply of water, gas, electricity and for sanitation (including basins, sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences), and keeping in repair and proper working order the installation in the dwelling for space heating and heating water.
Responsibilities Of The Tenant When There Is No Hot Water
Tenants have a responsibility to keep their living environment healthy and to report any faults to the landlord or property managing agent as soon as possible.
A lack of hot water is considered an urgent matter as it could have a detrimental effect on the tenants health within a relatively short period of time. For this reason, the tenant is responsible for:
- Reporting the fault immediately.
- Granting access to the property to allow the landlord or managing agent, and/or, professional tradesmen to carryout repairs.
If the hot water is not working due to damage caused by the tenant, the tenant still has the responsibility of reporting the fault to the landlord or property managing agent.
While it may be reasonable to expect the cost of the repair to fall to the tenant, the landlord still has the responsibility to ensure the repairs are made.
Responsibilities Of The Landlord When There Is No Hot Water
As a lack of hot water can have a serious impact on the tenants health, a landlord is responsible for ensuring:
- The fault is attended to within 24 hours
- Repairs are made within two days
Problems like lack of hot water, running water and electricity are considered urgent matters and should be taken care of within 24-hours of the landlord being notified of the problem.
Although repairs should be made within two days, landlords cannot be held accountable if parts needed to fix the problem take longer than two days to arrive. Providing all ‘reasonable’ efforts are being made to fix the problem promptly, the landlord will be meeting their obligations to provide a habitable property.
The landlord is responsible for all major repairs to a property, even those caused by the tenant – whether intentionally or not. In which case, the repair will be managed by the landlord, but may be paid for by the tenant depending on the circumstances.
When a landlord has to access a property, they need to serve the tenant with a minimum of a 24-hour notice period and arrange a suitable time for the visit. So communication is key when arranging visits for either yourself or professional trades to visit the property to arrange repairs.
Notify the tenant at the start that you will need to keep lines of communication open until the hot water supply is fixed. Although the tenant can grant permission for the landlord and/or tradesmen to access the property when they are not home, I always do my best to arrange a time when they are at home so they have the opportunity to discover first hand how the fault occurred and to ask any questions that they may have.
Support For Landlords With Fixing Hot Water Supply Faults
If the landlord doesn’t react to the problem, they’re breaching the tenancy agreement on two fronts – keeping the property free from hazards and keeping the property in a good state of repair.
Landlords have a number of options to help them provide a good service for their tenants, and to ensure they always meet their obligations.
Property Maintenance Cover
For a low monthly fee, landlords can get cover for their boiler, central heating systems, plumbing, electrical installation, drainage system and more.
Cover can include both ‘call out fees’ and repairs so landlords never have to worry about receiving unexpected high bills during the time that they have tenants occupying their buy-to-let property.
PlusHeat is a company that I recommend. They provide 24/7 support and advice with the ability to book an engineer 365 days a year. PlusHeat offer four different levels of cover to suit every landlord; Standard, Premium, Platinum and Custom.Their rates are very competitive and they offer fantastic value for money which is why I am happy to recommend them to my friends and family.
A reputable letting agent will have a list of approved tradesmen for dealing with faults to the hot water supply.
Depending on the type of service you have hired the letting agent to provide, will depend on their involvement. A ‘part management’ service will give the tenants direct communication to the letting agent to report faults. The letting agent will then likely contact the landlord to relay the message and ask them how they would like to proceed.
This will give the landlord the choice of sourcing their own engineer or requesting the assistance of an engineer who is registered with the letting agent.
A ‘fully managed’ service could allow the letting agent to deal with the fault without the need to contact the landlord first. Although I would expect the letting agent to notify the landlord in slow-time, so they are aware that a fault had been reported by the tenant.
The finer details for addressing faults reported by the tenant, should be agreed and understood before the landlord commits to using the services of a letting agent. I have written an article on 20 Tips When Looking For A Property Managing Agent which explains this in more detail.
One other thing – if a landlord has a cover plan with a third party, they can give the details of that plan to the letting agent. This practice is perfect for ‘armchair’ investors who may not have the time, or are perhaps overseas or are not contactable for any period of time, as they will have systems in place to deal with urgent faults whilst avoiding any unexpected bills.
Sourcing Professional Trades
For landlords who have the time to manage their buy-to-let property themselves, but for whatever reason, are having problems reaching an engineer to attend to a hot water supply fault, I can recommend using RatedPeople.
It’s an online service that is completely free to use. You just simply need to register with an email address, postcode and a telephone number.
Once registered, you select the type of tradesmen you need and the type of job you need them to attend to. RatedPeople will then notify the relevant tradesmen in your area, and those who are available and interested with assisting you, will pay a small fee to obtain your contact details to call you and arrange a quote.
I have used this website a lot in the past. It’s a great way for finding reputable trades for any type of job that needs doing around a home. All registered trades are vetted when joining, and each has a profile page which customers have access to, so that they can read reviews and feedback comments from previous clients before deciding whether to hire them or not.
I think word of mouth is always the best option when searching for a tradesman, but if you find yourself in a pinch, I am happy to recommend RatedPeople.
How Long Can A Tenant Be Left Without Running Water?
A landlord cannot leave a tenant without running water for more than two days. Running water is essential for the health and wellbeing of a tenant, and a landlord must not restrict the supply of water for any reason other than urgent repairs to the plumbing or water supply fixtures and fittings.
That said, with notice and prior approval from the tenant the landlord can arrange for the water supply to be turned off to make improvements to the property.
Whether a new bathroom, en-suite or kitchen is planned to be installed, there will be times when the supply of water will need to be restricted. It would still be rare though to cut the water supply to the whole property when carryout renovation works. It is more likely that the water will only be isolated within the room that the works are being carried out.
For example, it might take five days to install a new bathroom suite. Water to the bathroom will be restricted for a period of time, but water in the kitchen will still be available. With prior notice and approval from the tenant, alternative arrangements can be made for bathing and shower facilities.
Communication is always key to maintaining a good relationship between the tenant and landlord or property managing agent.
Can A Tenant Withhold Rent If There Is No Hot Water?
No. A tenant cannot withhold their rent payment if hot water is not available at the property. If the tenant has reported the fault of the hot water supply to the landlord, and the landlord has failed to act within a reasonable timeframe, the tenant should seek advice from their local council.
Withholding rent can cause additional problems for tenants as landlords will be within their rights to start an eviction process once two monthly payments are missed.
A tenant would be in a stronger position to continue paying their rent as per their tenancy agreement, whilst holding the landlord to account for failing to meet their legal obligations.
If tenants are unable to reach their landlord or property managing agent to report a fault with the hot water supply, or if the landlord or property managing agent do not make arrangements to have the problem seen to within 24 hours, tenants should contact their local authority.
The Environmental Health Department within the local council can assist with complaints about landlords who do not address repairs to the property which would place a tenants health and wellbeing at risk. The local authority will likely serve the landlord with an Improvement Notice, which will force them to carryout the required repairs until the property meets the minimum standard for letting within the private rented sector.
Can Tenants Claim Compensation For The Lack Of Hot Water?
If a tenant reports a fault with the hot water supply, and the landlord fails to act within a reasonable timeframe, the tenant maybe entitled to claim compensation.
The amount of compensation that could be awarded to a tenant will largely depend on the length of time it took to get the hot water supply fixed, and any personal damage that was caused to the tenant.
As I mentioned earlier, a landlord cannot be held accountable if they are making every effort to have the hot water supply fixed at the earliest opportunity. There may well be instances where replacement parts for the boiler or heating system are not available for a few days, or instances where engineers fail to turn up to pre-booked appointments.
This is why it is essential for the landlord to ensure that there is good communication lines between themselves and the tenant. If the tenant is fully aware of the events that the landlord is taking in order to get the problem fixed, they will be rest assured that every effort is being made.
The tenant may also be able to assist if they have a full understanding of the actions being taken to get the hot water supply fixed. They may be in a position and be willing to chase the heating engineer themselves for an update, if the landlord isn’t available and the problem has taken longer to repair than first expected.
Decide What You Will Do Before It Happens
My best advice would be to consider what your preference would be before it happens.
If you are using a letting agent, would you prefer that they deal with the issue before contacting you, or would you prefer to be informed when the fault is reported so you can decide whether to take the reins yourself and arrange for the repairs to be carried out?
In addition, would you prefer to pay for the repairs as and when they are needed, or would you prefer to have cover in place to avoid any unexpected bills?
Everyone is different and everyone will have their own preference when it comes to looking after their customers and investment properties. But knowing your preference in handling an urgent situation before it occurs, will help minimise stress and help make your life as a landlord that little bit easier.