Is the landlord responsible for cleaning our chimney?

ED Jones Posted By ED Jones, Dec 4, 2012 at 10:26 PM

  1. ED Jones

    ED Jones
    New Member

    Dec 4, 2012
    We live in Oregon and for over 20 years have rented a place that has a fireplace chimney. Occasionally, in the early winter evenings we will build a fire. We clean the fireplace on a regular basis. But we get tired of the Landlord asking us to clean the chimney at our expense every year. I would think that a Fireplace would be an tangible amenity, just like a dishwasher, refrigerator, stove, hot water heater and toilet. The landlord is responsible for keeping those amenities in safe working order; if they stop working the landlord by law has to repair them. So if a fireplace is part of an amenity, wouldn't the landlord be responsible for keep the chimney clean and fire safe so we can use it?
  2. pen

    There are some who call me...mod.
    Staff Member

    Aug 2, 2007
    N.E. Penna
    In my neck of the woods, it's a rarity that a renter is even permitted by the landlord to operate a fireplace or other wood burning appliance in a rental.

    That said, you push it with the guy, he's apt to plug the chimney with fiberglass insulation and say it is no longer serviceable.

    Guess it depends on your lease agreement at the end of the day. But, in my mind, the easiest thing for him to do is to just shut it down.

    jeff_t and nate379 like this.
  3. fossil

    Accidental Moderator
    Staff Member

    Sep 30, 2007
    Bend, OR
    We're not Attorneys here, Ed, we're wood burners. Questions about using your fireplace? Folks here may be able to help. Questions about your relationship with your landlord? Sorry, wrong forum. Good luck. Rick
    Ashful likes this.
  4. GrampaDennis

    New Member

    Nov 19, 2012
    Central Maine
    If you have rented and lived in this same house for 20 years, you must be reasonably satisfied with the rental cost. If your landlord has put up with you that long, he must be satisfied that you pay the rent and don't wreck the place. It sounds like you have developed a good relationship overall. Why risk the relationship over the cost of an annual chimney cleaning?

    You and your family are the ones who benefit most from keeping a safe chimney.

    If the cost is a big issue, why not buy a chimney brush and a ladder and learn to do it yourself? After a couple of cleanings, you would recoup the cost of the equipment.

    Ed - I had another thought when I read your post. It's not friendly, or politically correct, but I'll say it anyway: Do you want some cheese with that whine?
  5. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart LLC Mid-Atlantic Division
    Staff Member

    Nov 18, 2005
    Northern Virginia
    He doesn't clean the toilet.
    firebroad, Ashful and Cross Cut Saw like this.
  6. corey21

    Minister of Fire

    Oct 28, 2010
    Soutwest VA
    +1 sorry i do not think it is his responsibility.
  7. David Tackett

    David Tackett

    Oct 17, 2012
    Waynesburg, Kentucky
    I figure you dirty it, you clean it. As long as the landlord keeps it in proper functioning order with no malfunctioning parts, cleaning is on the tenant.
  8. sebring


    Oct 3, 2011
    I was thinking about buying a property to rent out, but thanks for steering me away from that idea.
  9. MnDave


    My brother has been a landlord for over 30 years. I could tell you some stories that would make you run not walk away from having tenants.

  10. Corey

    Minister of Fire

    Nov 19, 2005
    Seems like a legitimate question?

    Back in the day when I rented for a few years, I ask the landlord about cleaning the flue of the 'fireplace' (more of a steel box / wood stove, but with fireplace doors - but it did put out useable heat and that is what I used to save money over natural gas) He said 'not my responsibility'. Being poor, I wasn't going to clean it either. So one night, I hear the dreaded 'crackling' going up the flue and eventually a glowing light coming from where the pipe inserted into the wall thimble. So I go outside and luckily the sparks coming out the flue are blowing away from the roof, not onto it. Well, the flue got cleaned! Luckily no real harm to building or contents, but a close call!

    I guess it is somewhat debatable as the landlord doesn't clean toilets, sinks, showers, windows, vacuum floors, fold laundry, etc (somewhat as already pointed out). Though if something were to break...sink, shower faucet, toilet, fireplace door? it might be his responsibility to fix it.
  11. simple.serf

    Feeling the Heat

    Dec 7, 2011
    Sherman, NY
    Farmer I work for sometimes has a house that he rents out. Tenant moved out a few weeks ago, and took their crappy old stove with them. John went to check the flue, and found it 90% packed with creosote.

    The way I see it, you pay either way. Either pay the gas/electric/oil bill or pay the sweep less than a month's fuel bill.

    That said, The chimney is yours to deal with.
  12. GrampaDennis

    New Member

    Nov 19, 2012
    Central Maine
    Here's another way to look at it. Where does the Landlord recoup any increased expenses? If the property taxes and insurance go up, eventually the rent has to be increased. If the Landlord has to assume the cost and responsibility for an annual chimney cleaning, that cost has to be passed on as well.

    If I were Mr. Landlord, and Mr. Tenant asked for me to assume the chimney cleaning, I would respond something like this:

    "Ok, but with a condition. You see, my taxes and insurance on that place have been going up. I need to put some aside for future maintenance, and I need to make a bit of profit on the transaction. Therefore, I will be increasing the rent. I've analyzed the market and my costs. The rent increase will be $300 per month. If you are not willing or able to pay this increase, you have 60 days to move."
    northwinds likes this.
  13. Ashful

    Minister of Fire

    Mar 7, 2012
    Legit question, and we've had tenants close to 20 years, no problem with that. Stuff like this should be spelled out in the lease agreement. I'm surprised the owner's insurance company even allows use of a fireplace in a rental unit.

    As a landlord, I make all items affecting the safety of the building and tenants my responsibility. Figure it into the cost of rent(s). That said, if no agreement was made, and he's too stubborn or stupid to do it, you're left with a few simple choices: do it yourself, stop using the fireplace, or move. I would not push the issue with the landlord, unless you just want the chimney plugged.
  14. coaly

    Fisher Moderator
    Staff Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    NE PA
    I am the landlord of multiple homes in PA as well. Renting is the same as owning. My leases state; You are responsible for mowing and taking care of the outside and inside as it is your own. My leases also state cleaning of furnace and appliances is the renters responsibility. REPAIRS are the responsibility of the owner. (Unless damage is done by renter or renter's guest) This is all spelled out in the rental lease agreement.

    PA goes by the "Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951" so you need to check with your state for the legal responsibility. These are state statutes; "The possessor has the duty of reasonable care for safety and use". That makes you legally responsible in PA if it's in my lease or not. Other states vary.

    I don't have any stoves or fireplaces in any rental homes. I wouldn't allow thier use for the simple reason that there is no way of knowing how they are being operated or maintained. Also a fireplace adds property tax to a home because it "adds value". A chimney with stove connection does not.

    My homes in town have natutral gas furnaces, and out of town oil heat. I clean up the wood on all the properties and it heats my home. ;) If your landlord is going to allow it's use, he could accept a copy of your bill from a chimney cleaning service twice yearly to assure it is properly cleaned. I would personally need to be present when being done, just like I am when a phone company, cable or satellite system is installed in one of my homes.
    Curly likes this.
  15. Curly

    New Member

    Nov 20, 2012
    Wilmington, DE
    You've been renting for 20 years? Sounds like you're content with your living situation. Clean the chimney yourself. I wouldn't push it. Things could be worse. If I were the landlord, I'd tell you you couldn't use it or I'd raise your rent a few dollars to cover the cost of cleaning it.
  16. Slow1

    Minister of Fire

    Nov 26, 2008
    Eastern MA
    I'm with the other folks - if it wasn't spelled out in advance then either accept the status quo (you have been cleaning it all along, why change?) or if you initiate a change then expect a corresponding change from the landlord. I'm sure the cost of having it cleaned once a year spread out over 12 months rent would only add $10-20/mo to your rent, but while raising the rent may as well boost it up enough to make it worthwhile eh?

    My question is why, after 20 years, are you considering pushing this point now? Did something else happen that is leaving you feeling out of sorts or otherwise wanting to take a stand on this with the landlord?
  17. Lumber-Jack

    Minister of Fire

    Dec 29, 2008
    Beautiful British Columbia
    I'd rather clean the chimney than the toilet, <> but that's just me.
  18. firebroad

    Minister of Fire

    Nov 18, 2011
    Carroll County, MD
    In my opinion, if you burn in the fireplace, you should be responsible for keeping the chimney safe from the fire you burn.
  19. mellow

    Resident Stove Connoisseur

    Jan 19, 2008
    Salisbury, MD
    As others have said, smart landlords put in the contract that if you use the stove/fireplace you are responsible to maintain it and the landlord is not liable for any damage caused by using it.
  20. flyingpig


    Jan 23, 2010
    Cary, NC
    +100. But he'll need to fix the toilet if it breaks.
  21. cygnus

    Feeling the Heat

    Oct 23, 2010
    Central, NJ
    It should be in the lease. That is the deciding factor. If not, well, there are some compelling arguments here. Adding to mix, if the landlord doesn't pay for the heat then the chimney is an extra expense that really isn't req'd. As a landlord, if you really gave me a hassle about it I'd just shut it down.
  22. rudysmallfry

    Feeling the Heat

    Nov 29, 2005
    Milford, CT
    My logic is, it's a luxury, not a necessity. You choose to use it and therefore should be responsible for cleaning it. I'm with others. You're lucky he lets you use the fireplace at all as a renter. He could very easily just tell you not to use it. I had a roommate once I couldn't even trust with the lint trap on the dryer.
  23. Corey

    Minister of Fire

    Nov 19, 2005
    Ah, then you've never been poor with high nat. gas prices, but access to nearly free wood! :)

    It's interesting to see the thoughts on 'fireplace use in rentals'. I grabbed a few quick stats from the NFPA:
    • Cooking is the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries.
    • Kitchens are the leading area of origin for home structure fires (42%) and civilian home fire injuries (37%).
    • Only 4% of home fires started in the living room, family room, or den; these fires caused 24% of home fire deaths. [presumably a portion of these would be the stove/fireplace fires]
    • Seven percent of reported home fires started in the bedroom. These fires caused 25% of home fire deaths, 20% of home fire injuries, and 14% of the direct property damage.
    • Smoking is a leading cause of civilian home fire deaths.
    • Home structure fires peak around dinner hours between 5:00 and 8:00 pm
    Given these statistics, it seems far more rentals would be saved by ripping out the kitchen and saying 'eating in is a luxury...go to a restaurant!' or 'you can't use the cook stove' or having a 'no smoking' rental.
  24. EatenByLimestone

    Minister of Fire

    Jul 12, 2006
    Schenectady, NY
    I can see both sides of the argument. I can see the tenant's view that it is part of the house that needs maintenance, much the same as the dishwasher or the roof. I can see the landlord's side in that he doesn't clean the toilets.

    I can also see where both sides would be out more than the cost of cleaning it should the chimney catch fire due to a pissing match and the house burns down. The worst part of the deal might be the tenant who has his, and the life of his family in danger.

    As a landlord, I protected myself as well as I could with insurance, and also pulled the wood stove when I started renting out the place. My tenants tell me they want to buy it as the house was for sale when they started renting. That's fine by me. They can put a stove back in when they own it.

    raybonz likes this.

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