Q. My property has an open fireplace in the sitting room which my tenant uses. My tenancy agreement provides for him to sweep the chimney, but he tells me that he has been told it is my responsibility as I have to keep the property in repair. Is he right?
A. He is right that you need to keep the property in repair, and if the flues, chimneys or fireplace are damaged it is your responsibility to carry out repair work.
However, this is not the same as keeping the chimney swept. So long as the chimney is in good repair and newly swept at the start of the tenancy, any soot which accumulates after that, due to the fireplace being used, is down to the tenant to deal with – so long as the tenancy agreement does not provide for the landlord to deal with it (which most tenancy agreements won’t).
There is also a very old case from 1954 called Warren v. Keen where Lord Denning discusses the things that tenants need to do under their duty to act in a ‘tenant like manner’ – which includes cleaning the chimneys.
Incidentally, remember that (if the property is in England) you will need to have a carbon monoxide alarm in the room under the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 – as the room contains a ‘solid fuel’ combustion appliance.
Q. My tenants have accused me of harassment and I have therefore left them alone for the past few months. However, I need to carry out an inspection of the property. Is it all right for me to contact them so long as I do it politely?