The occurrence of chimney fires (around 7000 per year in England, most of which are avoidable) highlights the importance of ensuring that all chimneys are swept every six monthly/annually by a professional chimney sweep. A chimney’s primary function is to carry dangerous flue gases from the fireplace or wood burner safely out of the property.
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, Rayburns, Agas, coal and wood burning stoves. It stands to reason that this responsibility should also include all flues and ventilation, therefore under this Act, it is the Landlord’s responsibility to have all chimneys swept as required in a rental property.
We know many Landlords believe that if the tenant uses the fire, they should be liable but unfortunately the Landlord cannot contract out of this responsibility. Even if a tenancy agreement were reworded to state that a tenant is responsible, it would not stand up in the courts and would be overruled by S11. Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Given that a chimney fire could potentially cause considerable damage to a property, it should give Landlord’s peace of mind to know that a chimney is being regularly cleaned and inspected.
We are not qualified chimney sweeps or heating engineers, therefore we must take advice and guidance from trusted local companies. In most circumstances with rental property, it would be advisable to sweep the chimney twice per year; it is possible that the tenants may be burning coal, unseasoned wood or simply not building a good fire, which may cause excessive soot / tar build-up or even cause damage to the chimney or flue.
As part of our management process, we now insist that all properties have chimneys/flues swept where necessary. The cost for a chimney sweep to attend the property is miniscule compared to the potential financial loss and trauma you could suffer as a result of a chimney fire.
See: s.11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (this was drawn up after the court ruling Warren v Keen 1953)