Housing

Broken boiler left you with no heating or hot water? Here’s what to do if you rent

What help is available for tenants when a landlord isn't doing their duty?

A man fixes a broken boiler

A broken boiler shouldn't lead to days with no heating or hot water. Image: CORGIHomeplan/Flickr

A broken boiler that leaves you with no heating or hot water can be stressful. It can be even more stressful figuring out who is responsible for taking out boiler cover, and getting it fixed or replaced in a reasonable timeframe. 

Many homes in the UK are poorly insulated, which means houses can get very cold during winter. Failing to adequately heat your home can lead to problems including condensation, dampness and mould. This can cause damage to the property, and potentially lead to health problems. 

If you are renting from a private landlord, they are responsible for keeping your home safe and healthy, and for carrying out most major repairs to your home. 

If your boiler is broken and you have no heating or hot water, then you should inform your landlord immediately. If you’re not seeing any progress in getting it fixed, here’s what you can do.

How long can a landlord leave you with no heating or hot water?

Boilers should be repaired within 24 hours – especially during cold seasons. Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 sets out the requirement and is an implied obligation on landlords to ensure that the property is kept in a state of good repair and must be working.

“Although the law is not explicit on a time frame, it is expected that the landlord should ensure the issues are fixed within a reasonable time,” explains Nollienne Alparaque, head of Landlord and Tenant at OTS Solicitors. “No heating and hot water is considered as an emergency and thus should be resolved within 24 hours as an acceptable ‘reasonable time’.”

If repairs take more than the reasonable time, your landlord should temporarily provide you with replacement equipment to heat your home. 

Should a landlord compensate for no heating or hot water?

“If your landlord has failed to adhere to their obligations in resolving the issue within a reasonable time, then as a tenant, you may be entitled to compensation. Although, this will be determined on a case-by-case basis,” explains Alparaque.   

If your landlord fails to fix the issue, you may be able to claim compensation on the basis that the landlord has breached their implied obligation as per the Landlord & Tenancy Act 1985 and the Fitness for Human Habitation Act 2018. 

If there are any specific clauses regarding your boiler in your tenancy agreement, you may also be able to claim compensation on the basis of a contractual breach. 

You can ask your landlord directly for compensation, such as a rent reduction or refund, if they fail to carry out repairs within a reasonable time. If they agree to this, you should get it in writing. If they won’t give you compensation, you can take legal action

Do you have to pay rent if your boiler is broken?

Even if your boiler is broken and you have no hot water or heating, you should adhere to your contractual obligation and keep paying rent. You’ll get into rent arrears if you refuse to pay rent, and your landlord may try to evict you. 

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Can your landlord make you pay for a new boiler?

If your landlord can provide evidence to show that you are responsible for damaging the boiler, then you could be liable to pay. However, if an expert can determine that a boiler was at the end of its life span, then it is the landlord’s responsibility to pay for a new boiler. 

What rights do tenants have if their boiler breaks?

Once you have informed your landlord that your boiler is broken, they need to act and repair the boiler within a reasonable time – around 24 hours. If several days have passed and you have heard nothing from your landlord, you should email them again to remind them that the heating system is broken and highlight how it is affecting your well-being. Politely request that they tell you when the repairs will be carried out. 

If you don’t get a reply after a couple of days, follow up with another email. John Lowry, director at CEL Solicitors, suggests that having a professional body contact your landlord on your behalf might help to put pressure on them to carry out maintenance quicker. “Keep a record of your communications with your landlord as this could support your claim for compensation,” he says.

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If your landlord is still failing to cooperate, you can also reach out to your local council’s Environmental Health Department to make a complaint. They may want to see evidence that you’ve reported the problem to your landlord, and copies of any emails or letters that you have sent to them. They may ask you for permission to negotiate with your landlord on your behalf.

If your local council is slow to respond to your complaint, be persistent. Take a note of anyone who you speak to, ask them what the next steps will be, and follow up if you don’t hear anything. 

If you do not feel that your local council has dealt with your complaint appropriately, you can ask to see a copy of their housing enforcement policy, or raise a complaint. If you are unsatisfied with their response to your complaint, you can complain to the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman, or raise the issue with your local councillor or MP.

Have you been affected by a landlord who isn’t fixing a broken boiler and left you with no heating or hot water? Let us know at letters@bigissue.com.

The Big Issue’s #BigFutures campaign is calling for investment in decent and affordable housing, ending the low wage economy, and millions of green jobs. The last 10 years of austerity and cuts to public services have failed to deliver better living standards for people in this country. Sign the open letter and demand a better future. 

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