Opinion: The kind of 'flue' you might want in the winter
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Every year as Christmas approaches, those whose homes include a real fire and a chimney start to be increasingly pleased: their house has a traditional point of access for Santa on Christmas Eve, and their stockings will be bulging with gifts in the morning.
Of course, letting a bearded man with a red coat into your house isn’t the main reason chimneys exist. Even in these days of efficient boilers and heat pumps, the appeal of a real flame is enduring. And it’s not just among homeowners that this is true – an open fire or a log burner remains an attractive feature when it comes to rented homes, too.
Of course, any naked flame inside a home requires a proper regard for safety, so perhaps as the weather turns cold and we all look forward to enjoying a spot of hygge over the festive period, now is a good time to explain the various responsibilities when a rented home has an open fire or a wood burner.
First, the chimney. A chimney fire, when build-ups of tar on the inside of the chimney ignite, is a messy and destructive business, and is the biggest risk with a real fire. The key is to ensure that the chimney is regularly swept.
The responsibility for this lies with the landlord before the tenancy starts (ideally immediately before), but after that it is down to the tenant.
So a certificate that the work has been carried out by someone registered with a regulated body such as HETAS or the National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS) needs to be given to tenants at the start of the tenancy, and the landlord can expect the same in return at regular intervals.
Failure to get the chimney swept regularly can invalidate the landlord’s building insurance in the case of a fire – so it’s vital that landlords check this important job is being carried out.
Landlords can write restrictions on how any open fire or wood burner is used into the tenancy agreement. This might include the type of fuel that can be used, for example.
The responsibility for making sure any such appliance is safe in the first place lies with the landlord. So a wood burner must be serviced regularly. It’s a good idea to ensure there is an operating thermometer on a wood burner to ensure the tenant uses it at the correct temperature, a carbon monoxide detector is a must, and the landlord needs to provide things such as a fire guard, good-sized hearth and so on.
Providing all this is done, an open fire or wood burner is an attractive feature to prospective tenants. An efficient wood burner can provide a lot of heat, and there is also the visual and psychological comfort of watching real flames.
Just don’t forget to extinguish the fire on Christmas Eve, and leave out a glass of sherry and some mince pies for Santa – and, of course, a carrot for Rudolph. Merry Christmas!
Catherine Hunt is lettings property manager at Arnolds Keys, www.arnoldskeys.com