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By Bay Estate Agents
A tenant in an HMO in West London found, to his surprise, that their landlord had "caged in" the thermostat. But is this legal?
Those of you that watched the Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show may remember David Mitchell’s character, Mark Corrigan, being a little parochial over the central heating controls. His flatmate Jeremy (Robert Webb) was often told to put a jumper and ‘walk about a bit” rather than crank the heating up.
It turns out that a tenant in West London, named Alex Milsom may relate to this very situation. His landlady had visited the property and installed a clear thermostat cover over the Google Nest thermostat - which can control heating and hot water – so that the tenants cannot access it.
Alex, 21, has been living with six or seven others in a semi-detached house and rents from a private landlady. He pays £700 a month, and the landlady covers his utility bills.
In a multi-occupancy dwelling like Alex's, the landlord is permitted to control the heating, with no rules against boxing off the thermostat, experts say. The same is true of a standard rental property with fewer than three tenants, if the landlord pays the bills.
Alex shared his story on Twitter on Saturday, which went viral and prompted queries over the legality of the move. Some landlords responded to the thread by saying the move could be understandable in a situation where tenants were being careless with the heating.
Can a landlord box off a thermostat?
David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, says there are no rules around boxing off thermostats.
However, he does add, "It is a matter of good tenancy management and we encourage landlords to speak first with tenants before taking such action.
"In shared homes there can often be disputes between tenants who want the thermostat set at different temperatures."
However, a tenant has a right to heating and hot water and it could be viewed as a basic right to be able to turn on heating and hot water and it would be a breach of health and safety if the tenant could not.
Housing experts from Citizens Advice say the legality of a landlord-controlled thermostat is likely to rely on whether it results in hazards - excess cold or possibly extreme heat.
According to the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), which governs housing conditions, heating can be centrally controlled by the landlord in a house in multiple occupation.
But the guidance adds that if this causes "unreasonable extremes in temperature" then this may represent a hazard - over which the local authority can take action against the landlord.
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