It’s set to be a particularly cold winter in Cheltenham this year, with the mercury regularly hovering around zero at night. Keeping your home warm enough is often a concern for people, especially if you’re worried about a huge electricity or gas bill in the New Year.
If you actually have control of your heating and thermostat then you’re lucky compared to some tenants in the UK, who don’t have access to the controls for their heating and hot water.
Is it legal for a landlord to control the thermostat in one of their properties?
It all depends on the terms of the tenancy. If the tenants are responsible for the utility bills then they should have control of the thermostat in the dwelling. If they run up a big bill, that’s their responsibility.
However, if the tenancy includes bills, then the landlord can control the thermostat, but only to a reasonable degree. If the internal temperature of a dwelling falls below 19C, the risks of health problems increase, rising even more sharply at 16C and under.
The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 states that all residential tenancies granted or renewed after March 20 2019 must be free from hazards. If the landlord refuses to raise the temperature or increase the hours of heating, then tenants can take action against them.
Negotiation is always best
Anyone living in a tenancy that includes bills can and should approach the landlord during cold spells to make sure that the property is adequately heated. It may be that the landlord pays a fixed amount on gas and electricity each month throughout the year to cover the changes in demand, in which case they’ll be happy to increase the heat.
If this isn’t the case, then tenants could offer to make extra monthly payments to cover the increase in gas or electricity consumption. It may be tempting to circumvent the thermostat altogether and buy electric heaters to warm up the dwelling, as this offers some independence. If there’s a huge gas bill that the landlord is liable for, however, then he or she could put up the rent permanently or even apply to evict the tenants.