The Boiler

A photograph of my boiler.

A photograph by Ronnie McInnes The Boiler © 2017.

This week's blog is not focussed on art, photography or good causes. Instead I'm writing about a couple of difficulties that have arisen from our landlord's gas servicing company (and previous company) of choice. I don't want to use this blog to simply name and shame the companies concerned but I am not happy.

We have been tenants in our property for nearly 7 years. Around this time every year our boiler is booked in for a service, during office hours, by our landlord and every year the attending gas / heating engineer or plumber asks where our gas shut of valve is. Every year we reply with the same answer "We don't know but we believe it is in the office building downstairs". Each time the man (not being sexist - it has only been men so far) would then disappear outside a few times before popping back in to service the boiler with no further mention of the shut off valve.

This year a new service company has been contracted by our landlord and, again, a man came out to service the boiler and, again, we were asked for the location of the shut off valve for our home. The difference this time is that the man came out at 6.30pm. The office downstairs usually closes at 4pm. "I can't do this service" he said after conducting a hunt around our home. That was Thursday the 9th of November. The next service guy came out on Friday the 17th and he asked us where the valve was too. It was during the morning this time so he got access and found it in the office downstairs. He conducted a partial service on our boiler.

When he was finished the man explained that we need a new boiler part, a shut off valve installed in the property and for new pipes to be fitted because the 15mm ones that had been used were not wide enough to keep sufficient levels of gas pressure. He turned off the boiler and said it was unsafe. We have had no central heating or hot tap water in our home since. That was Friday morning.

This service company was meant to send some folk to us today (the 20th) in order to do the work this afternoon, but called me at 11.25am today to say it is being cancelled. "The job is too big so we need more people to come out" was the reason for the company cancelling. This company "specialising in Central Heating Service, Repair, Maintenance, Central Heating Installations and Electrical Services, including rewires, PAT testing, heating and lighting for Homeowners, Local Authorities and Housing Associations." (quoted from their website) took until 11.25am on the day they were due to come out to decide they don't have enough staff available to do the job. Their site also advertises an "efficient 24/7 hour service". Bearing in mind the first guy came out on November 9th.

The boiler is situated in a cupbord space that we also use as storage. We were asked to clear a big space in the cupboard and now most of it's contents are in our bedroom. My wife Donna and I slept on a couch each in the living room last night and the cancellation means we'll be sleeping on the couches again and again until the guys finish the work and we can put our cupboard contents back. Aditionally, it's affecting my work (I'm self emplyed). For every doorbell ring, every phone call, every repair booking (or cancellation) and every time an item needs moved I have to stop working and my paints dry out. It's my busiest time of year and I'm working 14+ hours a day Mon to Sat and 10+ hours on Sundays. Ultimately, the number of orders I can accept from my customers will be fewer (plus the paint waste will be higher) resulting in a loss of income.

On the plus side, we have been given electric heating and we have a kettle. So our kids aren't too uncomfortable. Plus, our landlord gave us a key to access the office unit downstairs so we can use their shower. The landlord has offered to pay us for the extra electricity we use too. I can't fault the landlord, they have really helped. But we need our own shower, our own heating, our cupboard and our bedroom back.

My main gripes with the current gas heating service company at the moment are because they're not being as efficient as their website advertises and I will lose earnings as a direct result of their actions or inactions. But really the problem isn't exclusively theirs. They shouldn't accept the full blame. If UK gas safety regulations were being ignored by the previous gas service company then my family's safety has been put at risk every year since we moved in. Admittedly, I don't know much about gas safety and have simply expected the professionals to do their jobs, but 7 years is a long time to have been using what has been classed as an unsafe boiler (or specifically, the gas pipes to the boiler) and if my wife and kids have been put in danger during that time that is a huge worry.

Things are clearly unresolved at the moment, but I will add updates to this blog when I can. In any case, I am now down one space for Christmas acrylic painting commissions. My apologies folks, I hate turning anyone away. Wish us luck.

***Update 21/11/17 - The men came this morning and began work, finding the gas pipes they need to connect to in the office downstairs. However they also found in the office what they believe could be asbestos, so work had to stop and it will need testing to see. As a result we can no longer access the office bathroom for safety reasons. Our landlord, again we can't fault them, offered to move us out until this is all resolved. A kind offer but I declined due to too much upheaval for getting the kids to school and for my work, which I'm very keen on not delaying any longer. Donna and I are still sleeping on the couches in the livingroom but, luckily, the weather has got a bit milder so it's not as cold in our home.***

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