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Plumbing issue - who should pay?


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First tenants moved into our first BTL at the weekend....finally!

Obviously prior to them signing, we had a gas check, boiler service, and a couple of small plumbing jobs done - so the whole system was working fine when they moved in.

Almost immediately after they'd moved in on Saturday, the agent called to say that they couldn't get any hot water - and suggested we ring the tenants to advise them what to do. My husband spoke to them and they said they'd sorted it - there was a switch they hadn't turned on.

Sunday morning, hubby gets a text from tenants to say that there was now only intermittent water coming through the hot taps - it would run for a few seconds and then stop. Hubby asked if they were happy for him to deal with it first thing Monday morning (the property is actually meant to be managed by the agency - we are paying 10%), and the tenants answered that they were.

Yesterday (Monday), tenants ring to ask what's being done about it. Hubby spends the morning trying to contact our plumber, who eventualy goes to the property....only to find that the "problem" with the hot water has been caused by the tenants draining the tank in their efforts to get hot water, thus causing a massive air lock in the system.

So -

Is the plumber's costs something we should expect to pay, given that the system was fine when the tenants moved in?

Secondly, do we have reason to complain to the agency that both tenants now have our mobile numbers and see no problem with contacting us on a Sunday/out of office hours? - what exactly should we expect from the agency, as landlords who pay to have the property managed?

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It really depends on your contract with your lettings agent.

* What was included for the 10% ?.....have you just assumed certain things are included ?

* Was someone responsible for showing your tenants into the property and ensuring they were familiar with where the controls are located ?

* What arrangements do you have with the agents regarding emergencies ? Are the agents available 24/7 ? etc etc

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As I understand it, the 10% fee was for the agency to deal with day-to-day problems arising with the property - the agency have now said that the tenants should not contact us without going through the agency first, and that there is an out-of-hours number to call too...but the agents couldn't tell us whether the tenants had actually been given that information.

TBH, we haven't so much as seen a copy of the tenancy agrement, let alone signed it. Nor have we seen any money yet. We were told with a week's notice that they were moving in, th inventory was done without us involved, meter radings were taken by the agents etc. I have no idea whether the tenants were simply given the keys and waved on their way.

Our plumber seems to think that they must have run every tap, shower etc, trying to get the water to heat. The agency has now suggested we get him to write a report with his findings in.

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Unfortunately your approach to letting is not to different to many others. It appears you have assumed that having employed an agent that you can leave everything to them and all will be well. Thats not necessarily the case as you are finding out.

As I understand it, the 10% fee was for the agency to deal with day-to-day problems arising with the property -

As you understand it ?

You should know for sure......you should have signed a contract between yourselves and the letting agent and you should have a copy of it.

TBH, we haven't so much as seen a copy of the tenancy agrement, let alone signed it.

Why should you sign it. You have employed an agent to handle the matters for you, so they will sign on your behalf. You only have to ask and they should forward you a copy in the post.

We were told with a week's notice that they were moving in,

You seem to have this all wrong. Its your property, the agents work for you and YOU call the tune. YOU make the decisions unless you allow the agents to make the decisions for you. Tell the agents EXACTLY what you want. You pay the bills so its YOUR choice.

the inventory was done without us involved, meter radings were taken by the agents etc.

Thats all fairly normal if you are employing an agent.

I have no idea whether the tenants were simply given the keys and waved on their way.

A simple request to your agent should clarify.

Clear up any misunderstandings or methodology you don't like before your next tenancy begins.

Perhaps you should adopt the same approach as me. Assume all tenants are idiots and show them where things are and how they work. Give them a sheet with details in writing that way there is no excuse if they screw up.

Good luck.

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If instruction manuals are not left in the property for the appliances these things happen. Most tenants can work out how to switch things on and off but if they do something stupid and there was no manual some of the blame lies with the landlord.

You need to write to your agent and request copies of the tenancy agreement and inventory. Also make it clear you want the final say of any future tenants and NO ONE to be granted a tenancy without your approval and you want to see the results of the checks.

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I don't see how the tanks can be drained unless the cold water supply was turned off. You've not been told the proper facts!!

I agree BUT..........

By turning on a number of taps the water demand becomes greater than the ability of the supply pipe to replenish the

tanks and often when tanks become low ball valves stick.

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Thanks for all your replies.

I rather think that in our case, it's the blind leading the blind - we are first-time landlords, our tenants are first-time tenants (and relatively young).

Not having previous experience, we followed all advice offered on here - such as no HB, no pets,no children, no smokers, get gas checks, electric checks etc, etc, but of course details like making sure there were appliance manuals and doing a walk-through with tenants didn't occur to us. I guess some things you learn from experience!

TBF, we haven't had a great experience with the agents and I think the plumbing issue is sypmtomatic of that - they don't communicate with us, despite us asking to be kept informed every step of the way.

The house, though in a great area and in tip-top condition, had been on the books for over 2 months, despite more than a dozen viewings. We have been particular about the sort of tenants we want, so when this couple requested to move in, we were keen to get things sorted asap. We didn't hear anything for ten days while the checks were being carried out, then we were given a week's notice for the date they wanted to move in. The afternoon before they were due to move in, the agency called to say they hadn't got the money together, so would we mind waiting another week - we said yes, we DID mind...only at 5pm that day did we find out they would be moving in the next morning. The first call about the plumbing came at lunchtime (they couldn't work out how to turn on the heating). The rest is as I've already said.

We didn't have instruction manuals for the house anyway, nor were we familiar with how the heating/water system worked - our fault, but we made sure that the plumber checked it was all fully functioning.

Our plumber is writing his findings, so maybe that will throw some light on things.

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I'd like to concur the need for leaving instructions AND instruction books.

I'm probably a bit OTT where this is concerned. Where they are supplied by me I leave instruction books for..........

cooker, fridge, freezer, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, shower, heating controls, hot water controls, washing & cleaning instructions for all soft furnishings such as curtains etc. Make sure you include the instuction books on the inventory check list

If you don't have the books they are easily obtained either as a free download from manufacturers web sites or for just a couple of £'s.

That way if anything goes wrong the tenants have no excuses.....we all know they won't bother to read them so, its an added insurance policy for you.

I also leave a short help list of do's & don'ts......I'lll post it here as it may help you to draft something that suits you.

Tenant Help Sheet

This sheet summarises the main Do’s & Don’ts of your rental of…………………


  • You can arrange to have a water meter fitted if you wish. You should contact Essex Water to arrange. They will ask you to obtain written permission from your landlord….I will supply this on request.
  • You can change you gas or electricity supplier but must advise the landlord of any change of supplier.
  • You are NOT permitted to have a pre-pay meter installed.

    Letter/ Notices addressed to the Landlord/ Owner

    • You MUST deliver/ forward any letters or notices addressed to the landlord/ owners to the landlord promptly.

      Regular Tasks expected of the Tenant

      • Keep the oven & hob clean.
      • Ensure the fridge/ freezer is defrosted regularly.
      • Check smoke alarm batteries regularly.
      • Clean / Change filters on washing machines & hob extractors as required.
      • Clean shower head as required.
      • Fit new vacuum cleaner bag when required.

        Repairs/ Maintenance

        Tenants are responsible for carrying out small repairs themselves. Here is a list of examples:

        • Changing light bulbs.
        • Replacing batteries in smoke alarms, clocks, door bells etc.
        • Replacing fuses.
        • Fixing tap washers.
        • Unblocking sinks & toilets.
        • Tightening loose screws or hardware.

      You should contact the landlord if you have any difficulty or if there is anything you are unsure of.

      Restrictions contained in Property Deeds or Lease

      [*]No aerials or satellite dishes.[*]No window boxes.[*]No trailer, caravan or boat to be parked on the estate.[*]No vehicle maintenance to be carried out.[*]Parking is for private motor vehicles only.[*]No commercial vehicles are to be parked on the estate.[*]You are not to obstruct entrances stairways or corridors (with or without bicycles).[*]You are not to exhibit any notice or advertisement on the premises.[*]No music, radio or other instrument or singing between 11pm & 9 am[*]No dog, cat or other animal or reptile to be kept at the property.[*]Not to carry out any business at the property.[*]Not to store flammable liquids (other than in the tanks of motor vehicles).[*]Not to hang washing or other articles outside of the premises.

      Restrictions contained in Tenancy Agreement

      [*]No sub-letting of the property is permitted.[*]No decorating, no alterations & no additions are permitted without the landlord’s written permission.[*]Do not affix anything to the walls without the landlords permission[*]Heating must be left on at all times during winter months.[*]Tenants are responsible for ensuring adequate ventilation to minimise condensation & prevent damage by mould. See pamphlet ‘Controlling Condensation & Mould’ already supplied.

      Your Tenancy Agreement should be referred to for more detailed information concerning do’s and don’ts.

      If you fail to comply with any of the items it may result in a financial claim against you or your guarantor and may affect the amount of deposit that is returned to you at the end of your tenancy.





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Guest caravanj

That's a good list. It's extremely important to give advice on condensation / ventilation issues since since these areas, if neglected, can destroy the fabric of a property in a short time.

One way of ensuring at least some ventilation is to either fit or convert existing trickle vents into non-closeable vents.

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Adequate instructions are not OTT in my view. (...not even condensation advice for the Essex welsh!)

I supply a house manual (plastic sleeve variety) listing 'where to find' and 'how to do' for all items I expect the tenant to look after. It also has emergency contact numbers for utilities, etc.

Even if excessive it shows you care for your property and expect tenant to do likewise.

For appliances a 'Quick Guide' may be helpful with references to the manufacturers' manuals filed in back of the house manual for further details if/as required.

I believe manufacturers have an obligation to supply missing manuals by request (given model/serial number). I have never had a problem obtaining one.

The manual, part of inventory, can be used as a reference list when showing a new tenant how to look after your property.

Even if not much used by the tenant after arrival, it's a handy on-site reminder (for me) when attending to a problem.

Things will still happen!

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Chestnut darling.........Are you suggesting that my lovingly prepared instructions are merely adequate ? I have been complimented many times on my OTT documents. Yours may be adequate but mine can certainly not be described as anything quite as basic.

Totally unbelievably ! You have the cheek of a man.

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On the contrary, Richlist.

I was not specifically commenting on your instructions, which are no doubt as thorough as your lists.

I was stating my opinion about supply of instructions. OK?

'Adequate' in my context = sufficient, satisfactory. Not 'basic'. 'Full' might have been a better word.

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My view of residential letting is that its a business that can carry a lot of risk. Minimising that risk by purchasing the right property in the right location and letting to the right tenant helps to minimise the risks.

Virtually anything that a landlord can do to minimise those risks, provided they cost little in time, effort & money, are a must.

Things like a proper inventory, rent guarantee insurance, getting a home owning guarantor and extra contract clauses are examples of ways to minimise that risk and protect yourself.

Providing tenants with instruction books meets all those criteria and drafting a help sheet only needs to be done once so again it would be crazy not to bother.

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Thanks all.

Richlist, your list is great and I will definitely be using it in future.

My irritation is with agencies, who are in the best possible position to offer new landlords (and new tenants) advice on such things, but would rather take both parties' money and not bother. We have had absolutely no advice from our agents, no checklist of things we need to do (other than gas checks), and whilst I understand it's ultimately down to the landlord to make sure things go smoothly, I do think that a managed property means the agents would save themsleves some hassle by pre-empting basics like recommending that we get manuals for the heating system etc.

If a landlord on a forum is happy to impart advice for free, why shouldn't an agent who's making money all round?

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