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This question is based on renting a property via a letting agent in the United Kingdom.

I am renting a small flat as I've sold one house and am considering my options before purchasing another. I didn't want to rush this so took a 6 month lease on a rental property.

The property has electricity only (no gas). It uses an Economy 7 meter which has dual readings for day/night rates. There is a large water cylinder which uses a Redring Electronic Controller to provide hot water.

On the date I collected the keys I asked the letting agent for instructions on how to operate this and was told by the letting agent to "Google it" as they didn't have any. I went to the Redring website and couldn't find the instructions so set it as best I could. My aim was to set it to a timer mode where it was heated for about 3 hours in the early hours of each morning. The options on the master switch are "Off" - meaning the electricity supply to the water heater is disconnected - or "Timed" to use it in timer mode. The unit is poorly designed from usability perspective.

I received my first electricity bill which was very high: approx £140 for 1 month, based on an estimated quote from my energy supplier of £47 (this is based on some details of the property and similar places in the area, I believe).

I managed to find a cached copy of the manual by some extensive searching.

I believe the control unit is faulty as it has an "off peak" light which is permanently on. Due to the way in which Economy 7 heating systems work, it's supposed to take off peak electricity and heat the water during these periods. It says in the manual - with regards to this light being permanently on - that if this is the case:

there could be a possible problem with the Electronic 7 or immersion elements, please contact a qualified electrician or heating engineer.

I've reported this to the letting agent who sent an electrician today who says it's working as normal. I queried this and he suggested getting a plumber. I'm unclear why since it seems an electrical issue and the water supply to the unit is fine.

I don't believe it's working properly. My opinion is that the system is permanently heating water using an electronic immersion heater which is why the bill is so high.

Last week - to test my theory - I switched the master switch to "Off" and about 2 days later the water was still incredibility hot and the "off peak" light remained on, indicating the unit was still being fed electricity. It says in the instructions that the cylinder may keep the water warm for up to 1 day and it certainly isn't insulated sufficiently to keep it as hot as it was after being "off" for this period of time.

I haven't rented for some time but at previous rentals the landlord/letting agent has supplied me with a copy of instructions for any integrated systems such as boilers. Is there any legal requirement for my letting agent to do this, and what course of action can I take to get this sorted? Their suggestion of me Googling instructions seemed a bit unprofessional but I don't know whether they have a legal requirement to supply such documents?

A friend suggested getting an independent electrician and then invoicing the letting agent. I don't think they would pay and am unsure what course of action to take.

I've explained to the letting agent that if the electricity bill is equivalent to the last bill every month it might impact my ability to pay the rent as it wasn't an expected cost before I signed the contract.

  • Ugh, this sounds a nightmare! I suspect the question may be off topic for the board, however – it is a legal rather than a financial question. If I could help in any way I'd post an answer. – marktristan Jan 20 at 16:45
  • Isn't there some sort of tenants' rights board in every Council? – RonJohn Jan 20 at 16:49
  • I love how you guys don't have 1031 exchange transactions, and so, don't have to buy another house in a hurry to rollover capital gains in the last one. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 20 at 21:56
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Don't try to fix anything, which isn't yours, in the property.

Who should do the repairs? First off, if anything goes wrong with the boiler, you should never try and sort it yourself. This can be dangerous and if you make anything worse, this might void the boiler’s warranty. Unless it’s an obvious problem – like your electricity’s gone off and you need to switch it back on – stay back and let the professionals handle it.

If you’re a tenant, you do have a right to ask for repairs for certain things in your property. This includes your boiler so if it’s not working, it’s your landlord or letting agent’s responsibility.

Speak to your landlord or letting agent as soon as anything goes wrong with your boiler. They might want to come round to check the problem or they might be happy just to send over an engineer to get it fixed. But they should never come into your property without asking, not even if they need to fix something.

If it’s not fixed

Under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, you have the right to expect your landlord to carry out repairs in a ‘reasonable time’. If it’s an emergency repair as you’ve got no heating or hot water, your landlord should fix this in 24 hours.

If they don’t get back to you, make sure to send them a letter about the problem and ask for them to fix it. And if you still don’t hear anything back, follow this up with a second letter.

You can also speak to the environmental health team at your local council – they can force your landlord to fix your boiler. You can only do this once you’ve tried to go through your landlord though. And if your landlord says the boiler’s broken because you’ve not looked after it properly, you might find it difficult to get anywhere with this.

SOURCE CITIZENS ADVICE

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    Welcome to StackExchange. While references are great, your answer should be your own work, and tailored for the asker, and not a block of copypasta from the reference. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 21 at 9:53
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DIY forum guy here.

First, it isn't for you to tinker with the landlord's heating system. Paying rent on it doesn't mean you own it. So you must not alter anything on it; or you instantly become liable for any and all failures in that system, since the landlord can now assert that any failure is the result of your illegal tinkering.

Second, it isn't for the landlord to tell you which rate plan to negotiate with the electric company, since you pay the bill. If you can get a favorable rate plan by using certain technology, then you should have the conversation with the power company about that.

Likely you have equipment installed in that facility to exploit a particular rate plan, and yet, the rate plan on YOUR account is not configured to properly use it. Again, this is a conversation that needs to happen with the power company. Further, the power company should be helpful in testing whether this special equipment is functional, which I suspect it is.

It also does happen that installed equipment proves to be obsolete, and served a rate plan that no longer exists for market reasons. Ask anyone in Florida who used to have net-metering Solar.

The power company can likely tell you which rates are normal and abnormal for that property, as they have all the billing history. Generally speaking, though, resistive electric heating is the expensive way to heat an apartment or house.

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  • The rate plan and the equipment are separate, and the power company aren't going to be interested in the consumer equipment. Also, since the property has no gas that doesn't leave a huge number of alternatives for heating... – AakashM Jan 21 at 8:20

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