Abandoning the communal heating system

Communal heating systems are very common within older blocks and it is inevitable that at some point the Residents Association will consider abandoning the system in favour of installing independent boilers and heating systems to each ¯at. Whilst the idea of each resident having their own heating system is desirable for all sorts of reasons, making it happen is not as straight forward as you would imagine, so in order to save you time and money on consultants and surveys let us ¯rst look at the practical issues. For the purposes of this article, let us assume we are dealing with a typical medium sized block of say 20 apartments:

Each apartment will need to ¯nd space for a boiler, in addition to this it is very rare that the existing communal pipework can be re-used, therefore new pipework will need to be run throughout the apartment, damage to ¯nishes etc is inevitable, particularly where pipework has to be passed through walls etc.

If there is no existing gas supply then a new supply and meter will be required to every apartment , this will require gas pipes to be run throughout the building and new meters installed to every ¯at, as above this will create signi¯cant disruption.


Each apartment will require its own ¯ue (a sort of small chimney) for its boiler, in this instance a total of 20 ¯ues will need to be mounted on the outside wall. A change of this nature will require consultation with the local planning department and is likely to be a non starter for any listed building or any building within a conservation area.

All of the practical issues detailed above can of course be solved, so assuming you are still keen to do away with the communal system, let us move on to the most complicated part of the project. Where there is a communal system there exists an obligation under the lease for the Landlord to provide and maintain it. If just one apartment remains on the communal system the Landlord will still be responsible for its maintenance and the residents will still have to contribute towards its running costs.

In order to move away from the communal system the owners of all 20 apartments will have to agree to an amendment to their lease to strike out the landlord's responsibility for providing communal heating and hot water, however this is easier said than done.

Every resident will have their own agenda, the young couple who have recently refurbished their apartment to a high standard will not want their apartment torn apart to install a new heating system, and anyone in the process of selling their apartment will want nothing to do with such a major project.

As you can see the chances of gaining the agreement of every resident in this small block to abandon the communal system are slim and become almost impossible in larger blocks of 50+ apartments, worth remembering before paying out for expensive feasibility studies and surveys. 

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