- June 26, 2011
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Hot water is a privilege but you may fancy a sauna
I have been approached by two clients regarding defects to their block heating and hot water systems.
The first client has no heating. She is charged around £16.00 per week, a whopping £832 per year for a one bedroom flat. The heating is switched on October to May. There have been problems every winter with the block heating. If any individual flat has a heating problem then the entire system has to be switched off leaving residents with no central heating and hot water for days at a time and also left not knowing when it will come back on again.
The defective system also caused a serious flood of scalding water from a burst heating pipe. The flat was filled with steam turning it into a sauna. Scalding hot water was pouring down the walls causing damage to most of the rooms, everything was soaking wet and there were no electrics. The ceilings were cracked, the lintels around the doors were swollen and the decorations, flooring and belongings were all damaged. Water was still dripping through the ceiling for days afterwards.
The council decided to replace the entire system. The entire pipe-work to the block has to be stripped of its asbestos coating. Residents in the block have had no heating now since October yet continue to be charged £16.00 per week for the service.
The second client effectively has had no hot water for years because the system is on a communal tank. This means that water flows from the hot tap for a minute or so and then this fizzles out into a trickle and then runs dry to nothing. This makes daily life extremely difficult as she has a young baby to care for and having to boil kettles increases electricity costs beyond affordability. She is often left with piles of washing up for days until she can get a tiny amount of hot water out of the tap. Having complained repeatedly to the council about this she has been told that nothing can be done because it is a communal system. She was also told by her housing officer that hot water was a privilege and not something that she was necessarily entitled to.
Both clients are pursuing claims against their landlords.
I recently discussed a heating/hot water case with a housing barrister who informed me that she had been impressed by a tenant’s detailed witness statement which had suggested that an intermittent lack of heating and hot water could been even more stressful and inconvenient than a total loss of the services. The example was given of him standing in the shower expecting to have the “privilege” of hot water and then either only cold water comes out or the water temperature starts off hot and then cuts out mid shower. When comparing this experience to someone who knows that the services are not available and can at least plan ahead and boil kettles I agree that he has a point.