Responsibility when Tenant is just plain thick (heating issue)

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    Responsibility when Tenant is just plain thick (heating issue)

    Tenant for some obscure reason decided a few weeks ago that the way to control the heating system was to turn the valves on the radiators (not thermostatic valves just normal valves that are there to balance the radiators not to turn on and off every ten minutes) on and off and on and off and on and off and on and off again multiple times every day. All of the radiators. Not sure what is wrong with the perfectly good thermostat and control system.

    Result:

    At one point ALL the radiators were off with the pumps running. The pump had nowhere to pump. So tens of gallons of boiling water went the only route it could go -- into the header tank in the roof, which overflowed and then down the walls and into the electric sockets which are now also stuffed.

    Some of the valves broke and are now leaking.

    Now we have a big bill, probably not an insured event (?), and probably me who is responsible. Bloody hell. Take that to all these pontificating politicians who think being a landlord is just such a wonderful gravy train.

    #2
    In my standard tenancy agreement, responsibility for the repairs would fall to me, but the cost of the repairs to the tenant:

    The Tenant will be liable for the reasonable cost of repairs where the need for them is attributable to the Tenant’s failure to comply with the obligations set out above in clauses x and y or where the need for repair is attributable to the fault or negligence of the Tenant, any member of the Tenant’s household, or any of the Tenant’s visitors;
    But you'll probably struggle to get the money. Are you taking steps to get rid of the tenant?

    Comment


      #3
      We should take it this is a new tenant? (hopefully 6 months only...)..

      Not a problem I've ever had (yet...). Think I'd write him a calm, polite, letter explaining what he should do, and that any further such result will end issuing of notices: (I'd put it no stronger than this at this stage).

      What job does this paragon of IQ tests perform?
      I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

      Comment


        #4
        The IQ paragon is in fact an extremely nice person. One of the nicest tenants I have had.

        He is a mature (circa 45 year old) MSc student.... (although in a soft science -- city planning or some such).

        I have an extensive (100 page) house manual which details all sorts of stuff (who to contact, how to set the alarm, how to clean the washing machine trap, to check pockets before chucking clothes into the wash....). I'll have to add an extra page to leave the things you don't understand alone -- and then list the things you don't understand because you don't understand.

        The background of the tenant is important - he has lived in high rise serviced apartments somewhere similar to Chicago. So I guess things that seem glaringly obvious to me are not so obvious.

        Comment


          #5
          Being intelligent, indeed being very intelligent, is no bar to also being stupid (indeed, sometimes extremely stupid...).

          I have a relative like that (sad face....) v intelligent, also v stupid....
          I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

          Comment


            #6
            Obviously I don't know the details of your boiler or heating system, but assuming that it's a standard boiler or combi boiler then playing devils advocate-

            At one point ALL the radiators were off with the pumps running. The pump had nowhere to pump.
            Even thermostatic valves could all be closed at once.
            Why had the water nowhere to go? It should have just circulated around the pipes. (Unless the radiators had all been fitted 'in-line' with no bypass loop or bypass valve, not good practice).
            Even then, what happened to the overpressure valve (PRV) on the boiler?

            So tens of gallons of boiling water went the only route it could go -- into the header tank in the roof....
            It's possible that the overpressure valve pipework could have been lead to the header tank I suppose, but that is not to regulations.
            (Building regs. Approved Document G).

            A boiler Pressure Relief Valve pipework (not condensate pipework) should lead to discharge outside the building or into a soil stack.
            If this is not the case then I'm surprised your annual boiler maintenance check did not give an 'advice note' with regard to the discharge routing.

            ....the header tank in the roof, which overflowed and then down the walls and into the electric sockets...
            Why was there no overflow outlet on the header tank itself then? (or was it overwhelmed by the volume from the incorrectly routed PRV).

            Another question is how you had 'tens of gallons' of water in the pipes of what should be a sealed heating system?
            Do you have the filling loop permanently open to the mains?. (The pub next door did this last week and was merrily discharging hot water, via the PRV, into the back yard for 3 days).

            Sorry but playing devils advocate it sounds like a botched plumbing job / boiler installation to me, at least as far as the safety features (bypass loop/valve and PRV).
            I don't see how you can blame the tenant for a faulty plumbing installation.

            There again if you have some other kind of heating system than a boiler then the above comments may not apply.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by nukecad View Post
              Obviously I don't know the details of your boiler or heating system, but assuming that it's a standard boiler or combi boiler then playing devils advocate- <snip>
              I am no plumbing expert but will try to answer some of your (good) questions.

              a) Yes there is an overflow pipe. However it is not intended to handle large quantities of boiling water over the long distance between the tank and the wall. It simply melted.

              b) You are correct that all thermostatic valves could be closed at once, but older (perfectly good and legal) systems are not necessarily designed that way. The taps (which require a spanner) are not there to turn radiators o n and off. They are there to balance the system. My understanding is that abuse of the system can well create a situation where the water cannot get where it needs to get as fast as it is pumped (or at all).

              c) It is not a closed system -- it is open vented with a feed and expansion tank. I think (I may be wrong) that the quantity of water is therefore unlimited, and a problem at the boiler end will not be detected by a much higher pressure (because the pressure does not rise).

              The water may well just go round and round in many systems if every single spigot is turned off, but I bet you there are gazillions of (older) systems out there that will not do this.

              It may well not be optimal 2017 plumbing with every possible fail-safe, and that (as you point out) -- whilst at the same time being perfectly good and legal -- and that is exactly where the problem lies with locating blame. I doubt it is different from many of the other 100 houses on this street all built around 1960.

              There are many other examples we could give of situations where a tenant abuses a system which also does not have optimal fail-safe mechanisms. For example a tenant could leave a tap on and go out to work. There is an overflow, but that overflow does not handle the rate of the tap. That does not mean that the tenant is not at fault.

              As far as I know there is no specific regulations to do with changing bypass radiators in existing systems (simply recommendations) - so the problem is with tenants interfering with what is intended to be a balanced system, and is not intended to be bypassed.... but not sure.

              Comment


                #8
                • Firstly, suggest you attempt to get a written/email confirmation from him about what went wrong before you mention repair bills!
                • Secondly, if you have an open vented system then it's probably quite old and probably isn't a combi. Most radiators have two valves, one on the input side that's either thermostatically controlled or a traditional manual knob. The one on the exit side is a balancing valve that is normally set once and once only when the system is installed. The 'balancing' valve is normally under a brass cap that's impossible to access without a spanner. Are you sure your tenant adjusted the 'balance' valve? This would take a lot of determination on his part? Are you sure it wasn't just the manual valve that he adjusted? A lot of manual valves lose their plastic cap and leave a little square shaft that must be turned with a pair of mole grips. This seems a lot more likely than adjusting the balance valve!
                • Thirdly, whether the tenant turned the wrong valve or not, I think something must have gone wrong with your system. All heating systems are supposed to be fail-safe, so even if an idiot fiddles with it, it shouldn't over flow. Normally there would be a by-pass valve, or a single radiator on the system that doesn't have any valves.


                Finally, I would expect that a major leak like this would be covered by standard Landlords Insurance

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by AndrewDod View Post
                  a) Yes there is an overflow pipe. However it is not intended to handle large quantities of boiling water over the long distance between the tank and the wall. It simply melted.
                  Thanks for the explanation of what happened Andrew.

                  So the pipe melted, wow that must have been very hot water.

                  THB I think it probably softened and deformed, breaking the joints, rather than melted,
                  Assuming its the white PVC stuff then the melting point is 160 degrees C, much higher than boiling water at atmospheric pressure.
                  Of course though it softens and deforms at lower temperatures than that.

                  It is recommended that PVC pipe is not used at more than 60C for continuous flow, and it should be able to withstand 88C to 95C in cyclic use without deforming.
                  http://www.vinidex.com.au/technote-p...vc-u-dwv-pipe/
                  It also depends on the size of the pipe, the length of the run, and the operating pressure. There are manufacturers tables for these variables.
                  Other types of plastic pipe usually have higher operating temperatures.
                  http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/pl...re-d_1621.html

                  As I didn't know what system you had I had also been thinking about electricaly heated systems, with an imersion heater instead of a boiler, in which the bypass loop or pressure relief is often just an open return to the header tank.
                  Again there should be a ball valve or similar on the header/expansion tank to stop the mains inlet.
                  But if a pipe broke (melted/deformed) then the water would just keep pumping out of the break and being replaced from the mains. Which sounds like what happened to you.

                  I hear what you say about older systems not haiving the same level of safeguards as newer installations.
                  But I bet you are looking at any other installations you have now, and maybe thinking of replacing any plastic piping with copper and/or adding further safety features.
                  One of these may have limited the damage: http://www.wayscale.com/water-leak-d...-leak-detector
                  Maybe every landlord should consider fitting one in each property.
                  Cheaper than paying repairs if/when something goes wrong.

                  PS. For anyone wondering I am not a plumber (although my dad was). I'm an engineering designer.
                  Among many other jobs I have designed various process pipework installations for Sellafield nuclear site, so domestic installations are pretty simple by comparison.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Thanks nukad -- yes I think your description as to why the outlet pipe failed is more accurate than my "melt".

                    This particular property is not a flat, but I have considered getting these types of aquastop devices for flats (either the cheap ones built into appliance hoses or the big jobs that go after the main stopcock. Do they actually work well? Why isn't everybody fitting them as standard in all properties? Any experiences would be appreciated. The hose ones are pretty cheap, the big things can cost a lot...

                    Comment


                      #11
                      All the vented systems I have come across which have thermostatic valves fitted throughout have at least one exception radiator where there is no thermostatic valve, the aim being to provide a return path that will not normally be closed. That radiator is normally chosen to be in a hallway or bathroom since it will always be providing heat. The one in my house does not have valve caps that would enable the valves to be closed by hand, they just have plastic valve covers.

                      I don’t think it’s obvious to everyone what will happen when all radiators are closed, so I’m not sure that describing the tenant as ‘plain thick’ is justified?
                      I also post as Mars_Mug when not moderating

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by AndrewDod View Post
                        Do they actually work well? Why isn't everybody fitting them as standard in all properties? Any experiences would be appreciated.
                        I fitted one to my house, cost about £50, but I also connected it to a self-built home monitoring system so I can see remotely when there is water flow and I can turn off the house supply from anywhere where there is Internet access.
                        I also post as Mars_Mug when not moderating

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by Moderator2 View Post
                          All the vented systems I have come across which have thermostatic valves fitted throughout have at least one exception radiator where there is no thermostatic valve, the aim being to provide a return path that will not normally be closed. That radiator is normally chosen to be in a hallway or bathroom since it will always be providing heat. The one in my house does not have valve caps that would enable the valves to be closed by hand, they just have plastic valve covers.

                          I don’t think it’s obvious to everyone what will happen when all radiators are closed, so I’m not sure that describing the tenant as ‘plain thick’ is justified?
                          Yes, I agree this must have been badly wired plumbing. But the fact is that there are no thermostatic valves involved here. They are just normal square bolts at each end of all radiators that tenant would have had to get a spanner to shut off (that have probably not been turned for 40 years).

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by Moderator2 View Post
                            All the vented systems I have come across which have thermostatic valves fitted throughout have at least one exception radiator where there is no thermostatic valve, the aim being to provide a return path that will not normally be closed. That radiator is normally chosen to be in a hallway or bathroom since it will always be providing heat. The one in my house does not have valve caps that would enable the valves to be closed by hand, they just have plastic valve covers.

                            I don’t think it’s obvious to everyone what will happen when all radiators are closed, so I’m not sure that describing the tenant as ‘plain thick’ is justified?
                            Even if there is one 'exception' radiator, this could still happen with a conventional heating system. (The exception rad will not dissipate enough heat to stop the water in the heating circuit boiling, if the boiler and wall thermostats are set high enough.)

                            I begin to wonder if rather than tenant thickness it is tenant devilment. There would have been a noise of boiling water, and discharges of steaming water from the overflow before the pipe finally melted. Also I don't think this would happen overnight.

                            BTW, Andrew, you might find your wiring is okay once it has dried out.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by AndrewDod View Post
                              They are just normal square bolts at each end of all radiators that tenant would have had to get a spanner to shut off (that have probably not been turned for 40 years).
                              The 'normal square bolts' could simply be the normal control valve with the plastic cap missing.

                              The thermostat in the hallway of traditional central heating systems simply controls when the boiler switches on and off. you would expect to control the temperatures of individual rooms by adjusting the radiator valves (but not the 'balancing' valves which are a different thing all together.

                              Comment

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