Hearth

Tenants Handbook:


Contents

Introduction:
About the Association
Our Office
Consultation with Tenants

The Tenancy Agreement:
Your rights and responsibilities

Rent, Insurance and Safety:
Rent
Insurance
Safety

Repairs and Decoration:
Repairs
Emergencies
Maintenance
Gardens
Improvements

Sharing and Succession:
Lodgers and Subtenants
Right of succession
Buying your house

Living with Neighbours:
Nuisance
Dealing with Nuisance
Refuse

Moving out:
Transfers and Exchange
Eviction

Problems:
Condensation
Smoking chimneys
Insufficient heat
Cleaning windows
Polishing brass
Grievances

Appendices:
Repair responsibilities
Your own House: its history and how to look after it

 

Introduction

Welcome to your new home. You are about to take up residence in a historic building which has been carefully restored and improved to modern standards, and we hope that you will enjoy it during your tenancy, and look after it so that your successors can enjoy it equally.


About the Association
Hearth is a registered housing association funded by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland and it aims to provide good accommodation to let at fair rents to those in need of it, through the restoration of historic buildings in any part of Northern Ireland. 

Hearth is controlled by a Committee of Management composed of twelve volunteers nominated by the National Trust and the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society. These individuals change from time to time, but will generally include architects, solicitors and housing managers as well as people who are interested in historic buildings or housing but not necessarily professionally involved in the subject. They receive no payment for the time and expertise they devote to the Association's work. The Committee decides the policies of the Association and oversees the work of the staff. 

The Association's day-to-day business is managed by our staff who will deal with any enquiries you may have about rents or repairs. Hearth has also been responsible for the restoration of many of our properties, so that the Association is closely involved in every aspect of the buildings it maintains and owns. 

Hearth provides general housing for families, couples or single people. Applicants must register with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, who will visit and "point" them. Priority will, however, not go to those who have waited longest, but to those considered in greatest need. 

Hearth currently manages some 90 properties across Northern Ireland. They range from single cottages to large houses subdivided into flats, and include a converted schoolhouse, a former factory, and one-time almshouses.

Our Office
The Association's office is at 66 Donegall Pass, Belfast BT7 1BU (tel 028-9053 0121) and is generally open from 9.15 am till 5.15 pm Monday to Friday.

Consultation with Tenants
Our staff know all the tenants individually to some extent, but as the Association has grown it has inevitably not been possible to keep in such close touch as we would wish. The Association will always notify tenants of any changes which will affect them, and members of staff will visit them from time to time as a matter of course, but tenants are also encouraged to contact the Association with any queries or complaints they may have. It is in our interest to have satisfied and happy tenants, so please do not keep your grouses to yourself! 

The Association will give support and encouragement to tenants wishing to form tenants' associations, which can be useful not only in focusing and helping to deal with common problems, but also in creating a sense of community amongst tenants. Many tenants co-operate already in looking after one another's interests, but formal associations, even meeting quite infrequently, can help to bring about longer term improvements and to look after elderly tenants. Members of staff will be happy to attend tenants' associations meetings when invited.

 

The Tenancy Agreement

Your Rights and Responsibilities

The legal contract between you as tenant and Hearth as landlord is given in detail in the tenancy agreement which you signed on taking up the tenancy. This section provides a quick overview of that contract. 

Unless otherwise stated in your tenancy agreement, you are a 'secure tenant' and can regard the house as your home for as long as you comply with the conditions of the tenancy. There are however 'grounds for possession' under which secure tenants can be evicted; these are outlined later, but we hope they will not concern you! 

The Association is responsible for maintaining the structure, exterior and any common parts of the building in good repair, including the decoration of the exterior. It is also responsible for the maintenance of the plumbing and sewerage systems, fireplaces, and main electric wiring. If you make unauthorised alterations to meet your own requirements, you will be held responsible for the consequences. 

In return, your responsibilities are as follows: You must pay the rent, rates and any service charge regularly and promptly when due, and must give four weeks' notice if you wish to quit the tenancy. 

You are responsible for the general upkeep of the house and garden and for the internal decoration (apart from any historic features specifically included in the appendix concerning your house). Routine repairs to windows, doors and plumbing (sinks, wash basins, baths, glass, locks and door-handles), are your responsibility, and you must sweep the chimneys annually.

If the property is damaged through your neglect or carelessness, you should get it repaired; alternatively, we will arrange for the repair and charge you for it. If you notice any leaks or damp or suspect an outbreak of rot in the building, you must notify us as soon as possible so that it can be dealt with. 

You must behave with due consideration for your fellow tenants, not making excessive noise or having an unsuitable pet. 

You must occupy the house as your only or principal residence. You may not under any circumstances give, or sell, your tenancy to someone else. If you leave the property, the secure tenancy ceases, and any remaining resident will be treated as an unlawful occupier unless they have a right to the tenancy under the 'right of succession'.

 

Rent, Insurance and Safety

Rent

The rents charged by the Association are usually set in April of each year, and are in broadly line with other public housing rents. We also collect the rates due on the property along with your rent, and in many cases also make a service charge to cover the cost of communal lighting, gardening or cleaning of common areas.
Rent is due on a Monday and payable fortnightly in advance. If it suits you better to pay either weekly or monthly please let us know and we will make arrangements for this. 

Tenancies which commenced before 16 September 1992 are fixed by a points system determined by the Department for Social Development (DSD) in line with Housing Executive rents. Later tenancies are "decontrolled" and are set by the Association to cover development loans, management and future maintenance costs. These are costs which we have to meet, but rents will be set within housing benefit levels to ensure they are affordable to people on low incomes. 

It is essential to keep rent payments up to date, because arrears can quickly build up, and non-payment could lead to your eviction. If you cannot pay your rent for any reason let us know at once. You may be eligible for Housing Benefit or other financial assistance and we will be able to advise you on this in confidence. You can pay off arrears of rent in small instalments, but do not think a rent debt will go away - it just keeps on growing if you do not pay regularly. If you do not make the effort to keep up with rents we will take legal action to evict you. There is always someone else desperate for housing who is prepared to pay their rent.
Most tenants pay their rent through the bank, by cheque or standing order, or by cash. If paying directly to Hearth by cheque, please ensure that your name and address are on the back of the cheque. 

Some tenants prefer to pay by Giro, using the Giro rent book to make payments at any Post Office. Post Offices cannot accept cheques unfortunately, and such payments must be made in cash, so do make sure that the counterfoil in your rent book is stamped to prove that you have paid the rent. 

We will give you as much advance notice of any changes in rent as we can, and at six-monthly intervals a statement of your rent payment or arrears will be sent out to you.

Insurance
Hearth carries insurance for the building you live in, but not for its contents, and you are strongly advised to take out your own insurance against fire and theft, to cover your own property and possibly accidental damage to fittings such as basins for which you may be liable.

Safety
In the interests of safety in the home, you should carry out some precautions as a matter of routine:

Electrical
1. Never plug electrical appliances into the bathroom.
2. Never wire more than one appliance to one plug, or plug appliances into light fittings.
3. Check plugs and flexes regularly for wear, and always use the correct fuse.
4. Switch off all appliances after use at the wall - particularly television sets.

Fire
1. Keep matches away from children, and use a fireguard at all times.
2. Do not dry clothing near fires, heaters or cookers.
3. Close all doors at night, and never keep fire doors propped open.
4. When emptying the ashes, let them cool before they are emptied into the dustbin.
5. Never leave a chip pan unattended. Use a deep fat fryer if available.
6. Do not place portable heaters close to curtains or where they could be knocked over, and do not move gas heaters when they are lit.
7. Store bottled gas cylinders outside. NEVER use bottled gas in flats.
8. If your house does not have them, install smoke detectors. One should be placed near the kitchen, and another in the corridor near bedrooms.
9. If you are in a flat, make sure you know how the fire detection panel operates, and make sure it is re-set after any alarms.

Holidays
1. If you are going to be away for a few days, please remember to cancel newspapers and milk.
2. If you are to be away for more than a week, or in cold weather, turn off the water at the stop-cock and run the taps to empty the system. Alternatively, if you have oil or gas central heating, leave it on at a low temperature to keep the house above freezing.
3. Leave a key with a neighbour and ask them to keep an eye on the house for you.

General
1. Check that you know where the water stop-cock, electricity fuse box and gas meter (if any) are in the house.

 

Repairs and Decoration

Repairs

The rent you pay includes a contribution towards the cost of repairs and maintenance, and your Tenancy Agreement sets out exactly what items of repair the Association is responsible for. 

Hearth will carry out 'cyclical maintenance' of the property, normally on a five-year basis, which will include external redecoration and decoration of common areas, but other repairs will usually be necessary during this period. Routine maintenance will be carried out in any case, but if you become aware of loose slates, leaks, patches of dampness or dry rot, or suspect that the gas or electricity systems are defective, you should inform us as soon as possible. If you are not sure whether the repair is your responsibility or ours, check the Appendix at the end of this document. 

To get a repair carried out, ring the office at any time during office hours. Normally Carol or Elaine will deal with it and arrange for a contractor to call with you. We will arrange for repairs to be carried out promptly, but they will be prioritised into Emergeny, Urgent or Routine repairs, and the contractor instructed accordingly. In some cases we may need to carry out an inspection before instructing the work. Don't forget to let us know when access can be arranged. If you do not keep to the arrangement made, Hearth may pass on the cost of the abortive call to you. 

You may need to contact directly the Fire Brigade, gas, water or electricity boards at night or during the weekend in an emergency. If you have to call in a plumber or electrician in an emergency, the Association will pay for the work only if you tell us as soon as possible. If repairs are necessary because of damage or misuse of the property by you or your family, the Association may carry out the repair but charge you for it.
The Association operates a Right to Repair scheme covering small urgent repairs costing less than 250 which, if not carried out within a reasonable period, are likely to jeopardise the health and safety of a tenant. If such repairs are not carried out within the prescribed period (forty-eight hours for emergency repairs, eight days for urgent repairs), the tenant can request compensation for the delay. (Compensation will not be payable if there is genuine difficulty in completing the work due to factors outside the control of the Association.)

You are responsible for most of the internal maintenance of the house, such as curtain rails, light bulbs and fuses, and also for the internal decoration. In general you may paint or paper the inside of your house in any way you please although you will find some exceptions mentioned in the appendix dealing with your particular house which advises specifically on the treatment of certain historic features of your house such as ornamental plasterwork, panel doors or fireplaces - each house is different in this respect. We hope that you will come to take a pride in the historic building you are living in; it has had a long history, and will be around for many years to come. You may like to decorate it in character with the period in which it was built, and we will be happy to advise you on colour schemes if you so wish.

Emergencies
Please keep the following points in mind in case of emergency - when you may not have time to refer to this! 

1. Never investigate electric fittings without first turning off the supply at the mains. If fuses blow regularly (or circuit breakers continue to switch off), notify the Association if you cannot trace a faulty appliance.
2. If you smell gas turn the supply off at the mains at once and call the Gas Board immediately. Make sure all appliances are turned off, open windows and avoid naked flames.
3. If you have a burst pipe, turn the water off at the stopcock (which is usually under the sink), turn on all the taps to drain the system. Try to make a temporary repair, then call the Association. If it is on, turn the immersion heater off. At weekends, call a plumber and notify the Association as soon as possible after the weekend.
4. In the event of a fire, close the door of the room where the fire started and call the fire brigade. In flats, tackle the blaze with the equipment provided, and sound the fire alarm.
5. If a chip pan catches fire, turn off the heat (keeping clear of the flames) and cover the pan with a fire blanket or wet cloth to smother the flames. Do NOT try to put the flames out with water, and do NOT try to move the pan. If you cannot control the fire, shut the door, warn others, call the Fire Brigade, and GET OUT.

Maintenance
If you are unsure how to tackle a repair, do ask for us to arrange it. If you are a competent handyman you may want to take on some routine repairs yourself, but do bear the following points in mind:

Electrical
To replace a fuse: Locate the fuse box, which is usually beside the electricity meter. Turn off the main switch. Pull out the fuses one by one until the blown one is identified (normally they will be labelled as power or lighting circuits and carry descriptions). Replace the blown fuse with the correct ampage. Do not use too heavy a fuse; if you are uncertain of the size to use, do not replace it yourself. If the fuse keeps blowing, you probably have a faulty appliance which needs to be repaired. 

To re-set a circuit breaker: Most houses now have circuit breakers, whose switches "trip" instead of blowing. They can be very sensitive (for instance a bulb blowing may be sufficient to set them off), but can usually be simply reset. If the switch continues to trip and you cannot identify the cause, ask us to arrange an electrician to call. However should the cause be a faulty appliance the cost of the call will be passed on to you.

Heating
Roomheaters: It is essential to keep the throat plate on roomheaters clean to prevent a build up of ash.
All solid fuel fires: Have the chimney swept at least once, and preferably twice, a year.

Gardens
Normally Hearth maintains the front gardens of any communal houses, often planting with flowers and shrubs that were available when the houses were first built. However, if you want to take on the care of an area of garden please let us know, and if it can be arranged without annoying other tenants or upsetting the balance of the gardens, we will be happy for you to do this. The cost of gardening carried out by us is normally included with the rent as a service charge.

Improvements and Alterations
You must get written permission from Hearth before carrying out any improvement work, such as putting in central heating or a new kitchen sink. If the Association considers that the work would make your home less safe, reduce its value, or conflict with its historic character, it will not give consent. You would be responsible for obtaining any necessary building regulations and planning approvals for the work you propose. Since almost all of our buildings are 'listed', planning permission is required for many quite minor alterations. Any work must be carried out by a reliable contractor. 

We recognise that some adaptations may become necessary as tenants get older or develop disabilities, and will comply with any requests made by the Occupational Therapy departments of the Health and Social Services Boards. If adaptations are not feasible however, Hearth will assist tenants in finding more suitable accommodation.

 

Sharing and Succession

Lodgers and Subtenants

You can take in a lodger without asking permission from the Association, providing this does not result in overcrowding. However, you must let us know the name of the lodger and the rent you are charging. The lodger will be treated as a member of your household in terms of the tenancy. 

Subtenants are people to whom you sub-let part of your house and who will look after themselves entirely although they may share your kitchen and bathroom. If you sub-let you must write to Hearth asking for written permission. This will normally be granted unless it would result in overcrowding. Remember that you can only sub-let part of your house; if you sub-let the whole of it you will lose your right to security of tenure.

Right of Succession
If you are a 'secure tenant' another member of your family may have the right to take over the tenancy if you die or leave the house. 

In the case of joint tenancies, the surviving tenant succeeds to the tenancy and becomes the sole tenant. Whether the tenancy is joint or not, a surviving husband or wife can automatically take over the tenancy providing he or she was living in the house at the time. 

If your husband or wife has already died, or if you were separated or not married, your tenancy can pass to any other member of your family who has been living with you for twelve months beforehand. He or she must however be aged 18 or over, and your house must be their only or main home. If more than one person qualifies, they can decide between them who takes over the tenancy, and must notify the Association within a month of the tenant's death. If they cannot agree, the Association will decide for them. 

The right of succession applies only once, so that once a member of the family has succeeded to the tenancy there is no further right to succeed by another member of the family. The Association will treat such cases sympathetically however, and if you are worried about who will have the tenancy after you leave the house or die, do please discuss the matter with our staff. 

If you are divorced and the court allows you to live in the house instead of your husband or wife, this does not count as succession, and a member of your family could still succeed to the tenancy.

BuyingYour House
Tenants of the Housing Executive have a right to buy their homes. Tenants of charitable associations like Hearth do not have this right, but it is Hearth's policy to look at each case on its own merits and in accordance with its policy on house sales. For a number of reasons, many of our houses will not be available for sale. 

If you want to buy your house, you should apply to us in writing and the Management Committee will decide whether your house will be available for purchase. If it is, its market value will be assessed by the District Valuer, and that would normally be the purchase price. However, recently restored property will sometimes have cost more than the market value to restore, and this 'historic cost' would then be the price of the property, to ensure that the Association does not sell at a loss. If the market value is greater than the historic cost, tenants will be able to claim a discount, related to their length of time in public housing. 

Since most of our properties are listed buildings, you will be restricted by law in the alterations you can carry out even if you become the owner of your house, and the Association may impose additional covenants in making a sale, to ensure that external paint schemes and similar details are maintained in keeping with neighbouring tenanted property.

 

Living with Neighbours

Nuisance

Persistent nuisance to neighbours could lead to your being evicted. Remember that your neighbours have as much right to enjoy their houses as you have. 

If you have young children or teenagers in your family they will often make a lot more noise than they realise, and it is your responsibility to keep their activities within bounds. Keep noise down, particularly in the evenings when some people may wish to go to bed early. Flats are particularly liable to noise nuisance, and radios or televisions in flats must be kept at a moderate level at all times - sound is easily transmitted through the structure of the building, and can be heard by neighbours. Remember that you are also responsible for any noise made by your visitors. 

Another potential source of nuisance is pets. Hearth does not object to tenants keeping fish, small caged animals or birds, but cats and dogs will not normally be permitted in flats, and if your pet does cause a nuisance to neighbours you will be asked to get rid of it.

Dealing with Nuisance
If you are concerned about nuisance, please contact Hearth, and we will try to resolve the problem. If the matter is serious or repeated, we may ask you to put your complaint in writing. In such cases, you should keep a record of incidents as it will be helpful in enforcing the tenancy breach. Serious cases may go to Court and you may be asked to attend as a witness. 

As well as dealing with nuisance through our tenancy agreements, you should consider contacting the statutory authorities. The Environmental Health Officer dealing with noise abatement, who will be based at your council offices, can take independent action at the request of neighbours. The Neighbourhood Office of the local police station can deal with cases of harassment.

Occasionally a tenant's behaviour may amount to more than nuisance. If you are concerned about behaviour that threatens your physical or mental health, or the safety of other residents, you can contact us in confidence. We will take a firm line on any tenants intimidating or threatening others, or involved in drugs or damage to property. Such behaviour will usually lead to eviction, and the police will be consulted to follow up with any criminal proceedings. Other tenants affected may be offered alternative accommodation or given advice on rehousing options.

Refuse
It is your responsibility to keep your bin and the area around it clean. Try also to co-operate with other tenants in maintaining communal areas, as if Hearth has to arrange cleaning it will have the pass the charge on. 

Keeping rubbish in bags will help greatly, but do not leave organic refuse in plastic bags outside except on the collection day, since this can encourage vermin. The council cleansing depots can arrange for removal of any large items you may wish to dispose of.

 

Moving out

Moving out

If you wish to end your tenancy, you must give the Association four weeks' notice in writing, to give us time to find a new tenant. Tenancies always end before noon on a Monday, and the keys to your property must be delivered to the Association not later than mid-day on Monday or you will be charged a further week's rent. 

It is essential to leave your house in good clean condition; you may be charged for the cost of cleaning as well as any repair or redecoration needed before the next tenant can move in. Do not forget to inform the gas and electricity boards that you are leaving so that you are not charged for fuel used by the next tenant. You should also arrange for the phone to be disconnected, and should give us a forwarding address so that we can send on any mail.

Transfers and Exchanges
When you accepted the tenancy of your current home, it was assumed to be suitable; however people's circumstances change, and the Association will try to assist you in transferring from one of our properties to another more suitable for your needs. You should let us know of your requirements. 

When a vacancy arises in one of our properties you would then be considered for it on the same basis of need as any other applicant. You will not be eligible for a transfer if your dwelling is not in satisfactory condition or you are in rent arrears. You must have been in the house for two years, unless there are urgent medical or social reasons for the move. 

Our own stock of houses is limited, and we may not be able to offer you a house in the right area, but we will assist you in making applications to other public housing bodies. Transfer requests to the Housing Executive or other housing associations can be arranged through us. 

You may be able to arrange a mutual exchange with another tenant, and we would normally approve this so long as the properties do not become overcrowded and both tenants have a good rent payment record. If the exchange is with the tenant of another landlord, Hearth will need to be satisfied that they have given consent to the exchange.

Eviction
You cannot be evicted from your house without a court order being granted to the Association. Hearth will only seek to evict as a last resort, and will first make every effort to encourage a tenant breaking any of the tenancy conditions to make good the breach. Nevertheless the Association considers it has a duty towards those tenants who do abide by the rules to ensure that others do not just ignore them, and we have evicted offending tenants. 

The main grounds for possession, or reasons for which the court may grant a possession order to the Association, are as follows: 

1. Non-payment of rent.
2. Deliberately giving false information when applying for a tenancy.
3. Creating a nuisance to neighbours or using the premises for immoral or illegal purposes.
4. Damaging the house, fittings or common areas.
5. If the dwelling was only granted as temporary accommodation, or if the Association needs to gain possession in order to rehabilitate the property.
6. Where the dwelling was designed for a specific type of tenant (eg disabled or elderly) and there is no longer such a person residing in the house.
7. If the tenant is no longer using the house as their only or principal residence.

 

Problems

Condensation

One of the most common problems in modernised or new houses is condensation, which is dampness caused by warm moist air condensing into water on cooler surfaces. It shows first on windows, then as moisture on walls, and bad cases result in mildew or black mould growth on walls. 

1. If you are washing or drying clothes, or have had a bath, use the extract fan or open a window to let the steam out (but remember that opening the window in cold weather may lower the temperature of the room and cool the walls, creating more condensation). Keep the kitchen or bathroom door closed to stop the moist air reaching other parts of the house. 

2. Keep lids on boiling saucepans to reduce steam; and use a cooker hood or extract fan to remove the steam.
3. Make sure there is some ventilation in each room. Don't try to close every gap around the windows, and don't block up fireplaces or air vents. 

4. Avoid the use of paraffin or calor gas heaters, which give off water as they burn.
5. Use your central heating: a low but continuous level of background heating can greatly reduce condensation.

Smoking Chimneys
Even the best designed open fire may give problems of smoking occasionally, due to turbulence creating down draughts in the flue. This is particularly liable to happen when the fire is just being lit and has not generated sufficient heat to counteract the down-draught. It may happen when the wind is in a certain direction, or be caused by nearby trees. 

If you have a back boiler, encourage the smoke of a freshly-lit fire to go behind the boiler, and alter the air-intake to increase the draught till the fire gets going. A newly-lit fire, or one which has been allowed to burn down low, will not have sufficient heat to counteract downdraughts, and smoking can occur as a result. A fire which is constantly burnt at a low temperature will not burn off tar and it will be deposited as soot in the chimney which can go on fire if it is not frequently swept. 

If you experience a frequent smoke problem, have the chimney swept. If the problem persists, please let us know. It may be possible to overcome the difficulty by the use of a cowl or some other device.

Insufficient Heat
In many of our houses the central heating is from backboilers and is designed to give background heat, so that you may want to supplement it with electric radiators from time to time. Avoid using calor gas and paraffin heaters, which give off moisture as they burn and can lead to condensation problems.
To get the best out of a back-boiler, you should keep the fire well banked-up and not permit it to burn low. Remember that you can only get out of the system what you put in, and economising on fuel will result in less heat. If the fire has been off for a time you should let it heat the water for a while before putting the pump on to heat radiators. 

If you find that a radiator is cold to the touch, or cold at one end, it may need 'bleeding', and you can obtain a small key at hardware shops to enable the airlock causing the defect to be released.
Some people do not feel content until they have eradicated every source of draughts in their house. It is true that large gaps around doors and windows can lead to unnecessary heat loss, but there is a happy medium. For most rooms a minimum of one or two air changes per hour is recommended - that is to say the whole volume of air in the room should be replaced with fresh air every 30 to 60 minutes - and exterminating all draughts will lead to staleness of air and possibly to condensation. On dry days you should make a habit of opening windows and encouraging a good through-draught for a while. 

Many of our houses are fitted with panelled shutters. These provide excellent insulation against draughts and noise, and should be used at night in cold weather.

Cleaning Windows
Many of our houses have windows fitted with "Simplex" hinges, particularly if the windows are at first floor or higher where cleaning is difficult. These hinges allow the lower sash to be brought in as a casement window, making it easy to clean it and the upper sash. If you are not sure how to operate the hinges, please ask for a demonstration.

Polishing Brass
New brasswork (knockers, letterplates, etc) is protected by a lacquer to keep it shining as long as possible. The downside of this is that as the lacquer breaks down (usually showing as dirty spots) it can be impossible to clean. At that stage the lacquer should be removed (nail polish remover will do this), and after that it is down to traditional elbow grease! It is possible to renew the lacquer, but frequent polishing does look a lot better.

Grievances
If you have a complaint about a decision or action of the Association, please telephone or write to the Director or Secretary. If you are not satisfied with the result of this you should write to the Chairman, who may wish to discuss the matter further with the rest of the Management Committee before replying.

If you are still not satisfied, you may take the complaint to the Commissioner for Complaints for Northern Ireland (The Ombudsman). His office can be contacted for advice on Freephone 0800 343424 or by writing to The Ombudsman, Freepost BEL 1478, Belfast BT1 6BR. It should be noted that the Ombudsman normally expects that a tenant will have used the Association's internal complaints procedure before bringing a complaint to him.

 

Appendices

Repairs

Tenants are responsible for the following repairs:

External:

Care and upkeep of gardens, hedges, and repairing rotating clothes lines.

Cleaning gulley traps.

Maintaining the washing line cord; replacing bins and rotary dryers (other than at commencement of a new tenancy).

Internal:

Minor repairs and maintenance of doors, locks, windows (including replacement of glass).

Internal decoration to be carried out at least every fifth year. Repainting, graining or varnishing surfaces previously so treated, with best quality paint applied in a workmanlike manner over a surface previously prepared in the proper way. (Please note that some surfaces, e.g. timber ceilings, may be treated with intumescent paint, and this must not be covered with ordinary paint. If in doubt, check with the Association before redecoration).

Sweeping of chimneys used by the tenant once a year at least, and keeping all unused chimneys free from obstructions. Replacement of fireplace tiles and minor repairs to roomheaters and open fires (but please inform Hearth of such work in case it affects historic character).

Repairs to wash-hand basins, tap washers, chains and plugs to basins, wc bowls and seats where not caused by fair wear and tear; clearing all blockages which occur to waste pipes leading from baths, sinks and wash-hand basins.

Maintaining the interior of the premises (including minor plaster cracks) in a reasonable state of decoration.

Maintenance and repairs to any electrical applicances not installed by Hearth. Replacement light bulbs, heating elements, fluorescent tubes, and fuses (other than main fuses).

Draughtproofing (note that Hearth's permission is needed for carrying this out as there may be a conflict with historic character).

In addition, tenants are responsible for meeting the cost of repairing any damage which they cause to the property.

 

The Landlord is responsible for the following repairs:

External:

All outside repair work - including structural repairs to walls, outside doors, windows (but not replacement of glass), roofs, roof insulation, chimneys, plasterwork, valleys, gutters and downpipes, and house drains provided that any damage is not caused by the wilful neglect or wilful damage of the tenant.

External painting to woodwork, ironwork and wall surfaces where these have been previously treated.

Common parts (where applicable) such as common entrances, halls, stairways, passageways, lifts, etc including painting, carpeting and reasonable lighting.

Paths, steps, garden walls, fences and gates (if originally provided by the landlord).

Maintenance of communal landscaped areas.

Washing line frames and pulley systems (but not cords). Bins and rotary dryers will only be replaced by Hearth if required at the commencement of a new tenancy.

Internal:

Maintenance of walls (other than minor internal plaster cracks), staircases, skirtings, doors, floors and ceilings.

Repairs to windows, doors, saddles, architraves, sills and other internal woodwork, including timber rot.

Major repairs to sinks, cisterns, wc bowls and baths.

Fireplaces, room heaters, radiators, hot water cylinders, boilers, water storage tanks, pipes and fittings.

Servicing central heating pumps, room heaters and oil or gas-fired boilers.

Electrical wiring and television aerials fitted by Hearth.

Door entry systems and doorbells.

Such other facilities as are provided for the convenience of tenants.

Normally, where damage is caused by the tenant to any of these items, the landlord will have the damage made good and the cost of repair will be charged to the tenant. However, the landlord will replace any of the above if they do not or cannot be made to work efficiently because of faulty design or construction, provided that they were installed by the landlord.

 

Your own home
Each of Hearth's properties is different, in age, in location, in architectural character; and we want them to stay that way. You can read about the history of your house in our brochure or on our website.
If you want advice about suitable colour schemes or how to furnish your home in keeping with its historic character we would be happy to help you; but that is a matter for personal preference. What we are concerned about is that you should not damage, destroy or remove any fittings which are part of the historic or architectural character of the house. Typically, these would include fireplaces, staircases, panelled or sheeted doors and moulded architraves, timber ceilings or partitions and ornamental plasterwork. Not every house has all these things, and some have more unusual features - please respect their character.

Do not paint over a surface which has not previously been painted - such as a marble or cast iron fireplace, or varnished or grained timber (graining is a painted finish imitating woodwork or marble). 

Do not replace any original door furniture (letter boxes, door knobs etc). 

If you have large areas of timber in your house (for example, a sheeted ceiling or timber partition) they will have been painted with intumescent paint to prevent spread of flame in the event of fire, and they must NOT be painted over with ordinary paint.

If you have a cast iron fireplace, it should not be painted, but polished with blacklead. This is a graphite paste, generally sold as Zebrite, which is applied like shoe polish and brings up a lustrous sheen which is heatproof.

Finally, some tips about redecoration and general maintenance: 

Ceilings should generally be painted white or a light colour. When windows were small and there was no artificial light, walls were always painted white. Better-class houses with larger windows would have wallpaper from the early 19th century on. 

Ornamental plasterwork such as cornices and ceiling roses will lose crispness if painted too often. We would suggest they are painted white or light cream which will go with most colour schemes, and would discourage frequent painting. 

Woodwork should be painted with gloss paint rather than emulsion, and we would generally suggest an off-white colour be used (bright white looks very modern). In fact, many 18th and 19th century interiors used dark paint on woodwork, and this can look very well if you are prepared to match it with traditional wall colours and furniture. 

You can use an open fire in a smokeless zone if you burn appropriate fuel such as Coalite. However most smokeless fuels burn at a higher temperature than traditional coal, and to avoid burning out the grate and bars it is important to keep the ash-pan reasonably empty.


Most of our houses have some features that are not found in other schemes. If you are considering making alterations or redecorating, please ask us if there are areas you should treat with particular care - or indeed not touch at all!




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