The accidental landlord: is grateful to find a good gas engineer

Victoria Whitlock longs for the easy maintenance of electricity, but is still grateful to find a good gas engineer
Do you remember that jingle from an ad in the Seventies, or perhaps it was the Eighties, which ran: "Cook, cook, cook, cookability, that's the beauty of gas"? It extolled the virtue of cooking with… well, gas obviously. But it neglected to mention that gas hobs are a real nuisance to maintain.

If you're renovating a property with a view to letting it, I would suggest you consider installing an electric hob instead. I mean, have you ever had a gas hob with an automatic ignition that's lasted much more than a year? If so, consider yourself one of life's lucky ones. In my experience, most hob ignitions fail just after the 12-month guarantee expires.

I gather, from speaking to gas engineers, that this is because water sloshes under the control knobs, seeps into the electrics and permanently destroys the ignition switch. Now, it's probably not too much of a big deal for you, is it? I bet you just light the gas with a match, don't you? But tenants sometimes get a bit shirty if the ignition doesn't work (even when they're to blame for getting water under the knobs in the first place). One group of tenants once asked me to refund them for the cost of a year's supply of matches.

Also, the holes in the burners (where the flames come out) often get bunged up with blobs of food and grease, which can cause them to seize up.

You can't trust tenants to clean them properly, so you need to inspect them carefully yourself, about once a year. Somebody once suggested to me that you poke the holes with those plastic sticks that McDonald's supplies instead of spoons.

I've been regretting installing gas hobs in rental flats ever since one exploded when a gas engineer lit the flame while carrying out the annual safety check. Needless to say, the hob was condemned.

Another reason to avoid installing any gas appliance is that you have to get them checked every year by a registered Gas Safe (previously Corgi) engineer, which adds to your annual running costs. You can get this done at the same time as they check your boiler, but they usually charge an extra £5 or £10 per appliance.

I've just had to replace a third hob in three years. On the plus side, I found an excellent gas engineer, via, which is a website I always use to find tradesmen when my regular guys aren't available.

Aivaras of Apolo Heating (; 07977 306 306) came out immediately to fit the new hob, which was a relief as tenants tend to be an impatient bunch. He quoted me £60 when I told him it would be a straightforward job of replacing an old hob for a new one.

But then, of course, nothing in life is straightforward. When he pulled out the old appliance he discovered it had been fitted with a flexible hose, which no longer complies with safety regulations. Gas hobs have to be fitted with fixed pipes, he said.

Fortunately Aivaras is such a star that he returned the next day to fit the new pipe and finish the job, without charging me any extra. I've since used him to carry out the annual gas safety check at another property.

Unusually for tradesmen in London, he turned up on time, quickly got down to work (no expensive cups of tea required) and charged just £45 to check the boiler and the hob, which is pretty cheap for London.

However, I still wish I'd never installed the gas hob in the first place.

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