Tenant turned off radiators and pipes are frozen, boiler 0 pressure

I can’t believe this is my first post in the community. I got a call from my tenant saying there is no water pressure in the boiler system. Arriving at the property, I realised that the safety pipe has been leaking water for ages that a whole block of ice (>1m tall) is on the wall of the boiler room at the back of the house. Then I called an emergency engineer and he inspected the boiler saying pipes are frozen. I asked the tenant only to find out he turns off the radiators whenever he’s not using it or leaving the house. This is beyond me (and the engineer)… I have no idea how much damage has that caused and the tenant acted very frustrated about the situation as if I made it happen.

Can I ask my fellow experienced landlords out there, in this case, what do I do? Am I still responsible for fixing the boiler (and the cost) or even provide alternative accommodation? I am so so frustrated now.

This is very frustrating and I empathise with you. I believe that unfortunately you need to fix the boiler and very quickly. Speak to your insurer - they may reject the claim but worth a try. Is damage by tenant a cause of loss under the policy.
Put a clause in your next tenancy agreement saying that boiler must be on above x degrees. If you have this already the tenant may have failed to abide by the obligations in the agreement.
Ask your boiler engineer to explain to the tenant what he has caused.
With regard to rehousing the tenant. If he has caused the issue I think you need to take advice. Your insurance co may be able to assist on this part as well.

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Portable fan heaters until resolved. I wouldn’t even think about rehousing, regardless of who’s at fault.

Councils themselves provide a fan heater in event of boiler failure.


You’re certainly responsible for fixing it. Whether or not you can re-claim the costs from the tenant may depend on whether the tenant is in breach of contract.

  1. Does your tenancy agreement have a clause about keeping the property heated to a certain level?
  2. Is the boiler room heated?
  3. Is it a requirement that the boiler room is regularly inspected by the tenant?
  4. When was the last time that you inspected the property and did you check for a leak in this room?

These are the sorts of questions that would be taken into account by a court or deposit scheme in deciding whether the tenant owes you any money for damage to the property.


Thank you everyone for your generous advice.

With the help of an engineer, we managed to fix the boiler for now, but there are signs of damage or blockage in some radiators… I will arrange another thorough inspection and repair asap. In short, what happened was a high-pressure build up due to blockage (most likely frozen pipe), and the pressure relief safety valve of the boiler was triggered to release all water from the system. I left an electric fan heater near the potentially frozen pipes to slowly thaw them over night, and then I spent 7 hours resetting and retesting the system until I see prolonged stablised water pressure with heating + hot water in the house.

I did specify the importance and need of keeping the heating on (but not to a specific temperature) in the contractual documents. And I have told the tenants about those during handover, but this was in Sept and the tenants are new immigrants from sub-tropical regions with no heating, so they were not aware of the risk and they can’t remember me saying that.

The engineer has explained to the tenant and asked them to keep the radiators on, but tenant was not convinced. :smiling_face_with_tear:

There is no black and white requirements about inspecting the boiler room, as I wrongly assumed it is common sense. Last inspection was Sept, and there was no leak.

I will for sure learn from this experience and make sure to be clearer about the heating requirements in the handover and contracts. I feel very sorry for the tenants but also left stunned (so was the engineer) about the heating practices. Hope things are resolved (at least temporarily) and hope my story will remind other inexperienced landlords like me about such risk.

Thanks everyone.

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I’m not clear what would stop the same thing happening next time there is a cold snap? If the boiler and pipes are in an unheated room is this an issue? Did the engineer discuss the real cause of the problem and any solutions?

Are the pipes adequately lagged?

if it seems they cannot understand or grasp what needs to be done to look after the heating system, then they are sadly not the tenants you need ,. They need a property with no central heating, only electric heating.


The room is unheated but insulated. And all exposed pipes are lagged as well. The engineer said it was likely due to a frozen pipe somewhere but he couldn’t identify the exact one as some are inside the walls and there wasn’t any circulation in some of the loops, if what the tenant said was true.

edit: I should say there is no standalone radiator in that room but normally the heat generated from the boiler does keep the room at a certain temperature well above freezing.

They are all lagged but I can’t say “adequate” or not. None of them felt freezing cold even when I first arrived at the breakdown situation. I’ll probably put thicker insulation to give it extra protection.

I hope they understand now. I feel sorry for them to be facing this situation just before Xmas. I’d be super frustrated too if I were them… Just trying to do as much as I could to prevent similar things from happening in the future.

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I cant see that the tenant can be blamed for something that the Government is currently advising them to do. Namely to turn off radiators in unused rooms. See: House bills: Grant Shapps shares energy saving tips from inside his house - BBC News

the pressure was down to 0 had they been shown how to top up the water pressure ? . All boiler manufacturers say in cold weather the boilers must be set at a small working temp so that it does not freeze up


Turning off rads on condensing boilers is a bad idea. Can cause boiler to work much harder counteracting any potential savings. Turning down TRV preferential.


I was told by a cen htng engineer to have ONE rad with NO thermastat on it so the boiler will always “circulate” usually best in the bathroom


yes I have showed them how to do that. They tried adding water but water just leaks via the pressure relief pipe because the valve was on due to a high pressure incident, according to the engineer. Had to thaw the frozen pipes and the reset everything, then add water.

Mine told me that you should not do that, especially when houses usually have different loops of pipes for radiator systems in/ on different rooms/ floors. If there is frost protection system, at least set it to that one; but generally you’d get poor efficiency due to uneven distribution of heat. As Mark said, cold rooms in the house would cause the boiler to work harder instead of achieving a stabilised temperature. And mold and condensation is another big issue even if you have frost protection (so no heating in the room).

just shows us that different tradesmen will tell you different things about the same subject. I have had building inspectors tell me different thngs about how to build also

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the room i am thinking of will never be cold because the valves are always open never closed as there is no themostat to turn off

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in your case could it be that they put too much water in the system. It started to come out of the overflow release valve and then became frozen thus causing the problems ?