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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
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Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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Our boiler in a rental property has 'broken down' about 5

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Our boiler in a rental property has 'broken down' about 5 times in the last 6 months. Baxi, the company have come out and repaired. Repairs have been substantial and more than cost of new boiler. But its failed again. Our tenants are without heating and hot water and we would have to take more time off to attend property. We have rejected a repair this time and demanded a replacement (boiler is 4.5 years old). This was over 2 weeks ago and the company has not responded. We can't afford this to continue due to our legal commitments to tenants. Can we replace the boiler at our own cost and pursue Baxi through legal channels to recover our costs? Thank you
Customer: replied 16 days ago.
The boiler had a 5 year warranty. So we are also worried that when this ends, further problems will fall on us. It has had about 3 minor repairs prior to these major failures and we have had annual services.
Customer: replied 16 days ago.
To be clear, we paid another company to do the annual services, so we can show we have maintained it properly.
Customer: replied 16 days ago.
Another reason we have 'rejected' repair, it that they call you in the morning and give you a 2-3 hour window that day when they will be at property. As we both work, that makes it difficult for us. Is it fair that they can do that? Once or twice maybe but 5 times in 6 months??
Customer: replied 16 days ago.
Thank you for reviewing. I will step out now and look forward to your response and guidance.

Hello for clarification - and what was the reason that this boiler needed so many repairs?

Customer: replied 16 days ago.
It is a different problem each time, different parts keep failing and have been replaced. For example, the plate heat exchanger failed (part cost £76 +vat), the diverter/hydraulic block failed (part cost £330 + vat), the control panel (no cost given but total repair c.£240 inc VAT) and I believe the current failure is a printed circuit board/control circuit board.Amazingly, I have heard back from them this afternoon. They are saying there were no reported faults in first 3 years (there were 3 minor ones but our agent had them fixed by 3rd party as not aware of warranty) and that current problem may be due to 'debris' in the system which they highlighted about 3 visits ago. I know their notes do not record debris anywhere because last engineer showed them to me (I have requested copy) and a repair in mid 2017 (by 3rd party) drained the entire system and no mention was made of debris by them. I also wonder why, if they thought that was a problem, why not fix it previously?They want us to accept yet another visit to do a full system review, which would likely mean another visit after that to actually do any repair.Their response also seems to ignore the affect this has on our lives (as in having to organise this, take time off, wait there for hours for engineer etc.) our the effect it has on our tenants (no hot water in kitchen or heating anywhere).Is it fair to ask for compensation for us having to come out again and again?Thanks

You obviously have to be careful because you risk a claim from the tenants for being in breach of section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

Remember that you have no rights against the manufacturer of the boiler, the only rights that you have are against the retailer who sold the boiler and if you don’t know who that is, then you have a problem. In cases like this, most manufacturers will take on responsibility but there is no legal requirement for them to do so unless they sell anything such as an extended warranty which is then honoured by the manufacturer and nothing to do with the retailer.

Even if you had not had the boiler serviced, they would have to prove that the failure to service had caused the problems which you have experienced. Fortunately, you have done so that doesn’t apply.

They cannot honour their five-year warranty by repairing the boiler ad infinitum. To be honest, I don’t know why they would want to. The 2-3 hour time window is not unreasonable provided they do turn up within that window. However within go back to the number of times it’s broken down and it appears to be more broken down than it has been working!

Although they simply lose the cost of the parts, it’s obviously cost them more in labour than the cost of a new boiler.

If the first few repairs were done by the retailer who supplied the boiler, they will obviously have no record of them. Nonetheless, they know about them now.

I think that I would have already given them an ultimatum and as you haven’t done I think you need to give them one last opportunity but what you need to know is what are they going to do about it if it fails again after this final time. And tell you now, from experience, they will guarantee it won’t break again within a reasonable period of time (a few years) but they will back up their guarantee with anything. These kind of guarantees are worthless. When anybody says to me that they guarantee it won’t happen again, I ask them how they are going to back up their guarantee by saying that if it fails again (using your example) will they give me their house or pay my mortgage off or give me £1 million. They obviously refuse to do that and my reply is then that they clearly have no confidence in their guarantee! It’s a practical issue however not a legal one.

Goods have to remain free from manufacturing defects for six years although the onus after six months is on the owner to prove that the defect existed at the time of manufacture. That remedy is against the retailer.

The five-year warranty is something else altogether and you can sue the manufacturer under that warranty in the Small Claims Court for the cost of fixing this once and for all and if that means getting of the boiler from another manufacturer and the installation costs thereof, so be it.

I suggest that you tell them that you will give them one more opportunity and asked them to confirm that if the boiler breaks again within 2 year period, that they will provide a new boiler and the installation.

I would also put them on notice that as this is a tenanted property, if there is any claim brought against you under section 11 of the Act, you will be seeking those costs from them on the basis that they have notice of that and this claim is now within the contemplation of them.

What you might also want to do is put this on Twitter and Facebook. I assume they have such pages. Do not put anything that could be seen to be the least bit defamatory. At the moment, your claim is Private but companies like this do not like their dirty washing being aired in public and you may find they are more receptive if your problem with their product is public.

Ultimately, you cannot beat them with a stick and your ultimate remedy was to take them to court.

Incidentally, a personal friend of mine had a boiler fitted from a large manufacturer but not a name that would normally spring to mind. It is not your manufacturer. The person that installed it told her that they were really good.

Everyone that she (and I) have spoken to ever since as had a sharp intake of breath and the shaking of the head along with the comments about the quality being poor and it breaking down all the time. The problems that you have had echo what she had. Her boiler was two years old. She couldn’t be bothered with the litigation and she ripped it out and put another one in. 10 years later, still problem free.

Your manufacturer has an excellent reputation so it may just be a rogue item.

Can I clarify anything else for you?

I’m happy to answer any specific points arising from this.

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If you still need any point clarifying, I will still reply because the thread does not close.

Best wishes.

FES.

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