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Landlord installs ‘cage’ around thermostat to stop tenants turning heating up

Brits are in for a chilly week with temperatures continuing to drop, but that has not deterred a landlord in west London from putting a box around a thermostat in a rental property she owns to stop the tenants from adjusting the temperature. 

Alex Milsom, 21, spotted the box on the thermostat control on Saturday morning at the house in Ealing that he rents with roommates, which is designed to stop him and others from adjusting the temperature. 

Milsom, who pays £700 a month in rent and bills for his room, told the press that the heating is controlled externally by his landlord, which means he and roomates cannot access hot water at certain times of the day, meaning they have had to wash the dishes and take showers using cold water. 

Milsom, who claims that he and his housemate had no notice from the landlord, said: “Welcome to renting in London! My landlord has just put our thermostat in a cage. 

“We were quite surprised – that surprise turned to shock when it meant we couldn’t shower on those days in the afternoon nor could we put on our own hot water.

“I was very grumpy at work and on the commute as well. I was not aware it was happening. It was just one of those Saturday morning surprises. 

“She can control it externally It’s a Nest thermostat and we don’t have any control over it which sucks. 

“I spoke to her yesterday and she just says it is for stopping settings being changed.” 

The tenant shared his story on Twitter on Saturday, which went viral and prompted queries over the legality of the landlord’s decision to install the Nest thermostat. 

David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, told the press that there are no rules around boxing off thermostats.

He commented: "It is a matter of good tenancy management and we encourage landlords to speak first with tenants before taking such action.

"In shared homes there can often be disputes between tenants who want the thermostat set at different temperatures."

The tenant is being advised by Citizens’ Advice to seek to negotiate amicably with the landlord if at all possible, “due to the limited security of tenure which private tenants tend to have”. 

The spokesperson added: “The tenants might consider trying to take control of the heating themselves by using electric heaters. 

“There is a risk however that the landlord may respond negatively to a huge electricity bill, and perhaps seek to serve a section 21 notice (no fault eviction notice) to terminate the tenancy at the end of the fixed term, or seek to alter the rent or other tenancy terms as a condition of any renewal.” 

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    What a great idea! But why aren't the tenants responsible for their own utility bills anyway?

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    • N P
    • 06 November 2019 17:47 PM

    In a shared house, especially where the rooms are let individually it's common practice, if not expected, for the landlord to include the utility bills in the rent. As a landlord of a HMO it would be absolute havoc for the tenants to pay the bills as they all have separate contracts and move in and out at different times to others. I have been to the house on a number of occasions and found the thermostat on 30c! I informed them that I have no intention in restricting their usage, they are adults, but they can expect their rents to reflect their energy usage. Just bought another HMO and I am debating whether I control the thermostat remotely via an app which I am entitled to do (it was the council officer who suggested it!). I would of course keep at 18 at night and 21c in the day, more than required, but I'm wondering if it would encourage them to use portable electric heaters that cost the earth to run.

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    During 1990s, I used to let rooms to individuals because families were not available to let out the property.. it was difficult to give the tenants responsibility to share the bills including council tax as the all inclusive tenancies would not run full tenure due to their changing circumstances. I used to end up with huge bills getting hardly any income from it for over 10 years until the it was let out to a family. This LL, probably in similar circumstances, might have thought about this alternative to keep the bills within certain limits! IS IT SO?

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    Yet another bleating media message without considered understanding.
    Renting a room with built in bills, at a reasonable allowance for bills....but what happens when you allow for £100 usage, and because its 'free' a tenant just leaves it on full time and opens the windows to cool the place down, and the bills are 2.5 times the allowance for heating bills?
    What then....landlord losses, or extra rent for tenants for being unreasonable? Self regulation is hard people, companies are poor at it, especially if they can get away with it!!
    Why was she having a shower mid afternoon anyway, no work, in bed till lunchtime, where's the rest of the story?

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    I know all too well why the landlord has done that! My wife is a teacher. Arrive in class in the morning, a bit cold so whack the stat to max. An hour later room is stinking hot so open the windows. Result next class room along the rad piping stays cold all day and the school boiler is forever maxed out.

    I am instrumentation scientist in bio sciences. I can tell you that very, very few people have any clue at all for heat control. One sex is invariably a bit better than the other - stop right there.

    The only way to control heating properly is to have multiple temperature sensors and flow control valves. Most 'lecies' cant understand such systems at all so they never get installed. Needless to say my own house has low heating bills and so on. Wife is happy so I count that as problem solved.

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