Jacqueline Gallazzi-Ritchie, Director of All England Gas, offers her boiler care advice for landlords of student properties.
University life is hard enough without the basic essentials, yet a recent study has shown that 32% of students often have issues with a lack of water or heating while renting (Save the Student). Most students are first-time renters and won’t be clued up on household appliances, so a lot of boilers get ignored. This means small faults that aren’t addressed can lead to bigger problems for you, their landlord.
However, a lot of issues can be fixed if you are able to identify them straight away without having to call out an engineer, which also saves you money on costly repairs and replacements. And, with a bit of care, boilers can last even longer without having to be replaced.
Below are some tips for boiler maintenance that you and your student tenants can take on board.
Common boiler and heating issues and how to fix them
Common boiler problems include but are not limited to:
· Strange sounds coming from the boiler, including kettle noises,
· Low pressure,
· Hot water but cold radiators,
· Leaking or dripping from the pipes or the boiler,
· No heat or hot water at all.
If the boiler or pipes are leaking, you should call an engineer immediately as it could be dangerous. Similarly, if there is no heat or hot water at all, it’s likely there’s a major underlying issue and it’s important to get it seen to by a professional as soon as possible.
For anything else, encouraging your tenants to perform these quick fixes should solve most problems but, if the issue persists, then you should call an engineer.
· Bleed the radiators: This can help fix gurgling noises caused by trapped air as well as raise the boiler pressure to where it needs to be. Your students will need to be provided with a radiator key and lay down towels or a container to catch any escaping water, then open the radiator valve very slightly to let out trapped air. When water starts sputtering out, it’s time to close the valve again.
· Re-pressurise your boiler: If the boiler pressure gauge is below 1, they’ll need to re-pressurise it. Ensure they have the boiler manual and maybe even highlight which procedures that they are likely to need. Better still, why not give new tenants a short, five-minute training session when they move in? Always encourage them to follow the manufacturer’s instructions: this will often require a reset, but remember to inform them that they are never, under any circumstances, to remove the front boiler casing.
What your student tenants can do to help prevent breakdowns
Student tenants should be encouraged to heat their homes efficiently to increase the lifespan of their boilers. A lot of breakdowns happen in winter because the boiler has been sitting unused for the rest of the year, so ask your tenants to turn on the heating for 15 minutes or so every month to make sure everything is working. That should help keep things running smoothly.
It can also be helpful for student tenants to know how to switch off the gas, water and electricity at the mains in case of an emergency. They should be encouraged to get into the habit of checking their boiler for strange noises, leaks, and warning signs that there may be a fault, too. Students should never tamper with the boiler, though, as it could be dangerous.
Most importantly, everyone will benefit if your tenants know they should contact you to report any faults as soon as possible, rather than waiting until it gets worse. They should also be able to contact you easily and feel confident that the issue will be resolved.
What your student tenants need from you
As a landlord, you have certain responsibilities when it comes to boiler care. You’re responsible for the safety of your tenants and the property must be in a fit state for them to live in, complete with heating and hot water. You’re legally required to organise an annual Gas Safety check each year and keep a record of the certificate, and you’ll also have to give a copy of this certificate to each new tenant and provide one when asked.
You’re also responsible for repairs to heating, hot water, and gas appliances. So, if your tenant reports a fault and the steps above don’t work, it’s down to you to get it sorted out in a reasonable amount of time — and certainly within 24 hours for emergency situations.
It’s in your interest to get it fixed as soon as possible, because if the boiler breaks down beyond economical repair, you’ll have to organise and pay for a replacement which can cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds. Look into getting boiler cover if you’re worried about fronting the cost of boiler care: it’s separate from your home insurance, and a lot of policies will cover repairs and servicing, too.
Hopefully, the tips in this guide will help you and your tenants prevent most common boiler problems, eliminating the need for potentially costly callouts.