Cautionary tale to include fire cover clause in AST!

Cautionary tale to include fire cover clause in AST!

9:23 AM, 20th September 2021, About a month ago 51

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We own a small bungalow that we rent out via an agent. We picked a local agent as the property is too far away from our home and neither of us has the specialist knowledge to self manage.

Over the Bank Holiday, we received a call from the agent to say overnight the property had been on fire and was uninhabitable. My husband spent 4 hours fighting through Bank Holiday traffic to find the fire officer racking through the burnt out garage, the tenants in tears and the agent holding the keys and latest electricity certificate.

The agent then told the tenants that our insurance policy covered temporary accommodation, storage of their goods and transport of their goods to their new accommodation. (The garage was destroyed plus one bedroom, the kichen/bathroom /lounge/master bedroom have scorched ceilings but the furniture etc is fine).

I contacted my insurance company who arranged temporary accommodation and a loss adjuster was instructed. The loss adjuster arrived two days later and we gave her a copy of our AST. She read it and informed us that the tenants were not covered in any way shape or form by our insurance as there are no clauses in the AST stating that such cover was to be provided by the landlord – despite those clauses being in our insurance policy.

Our tenants have now had to go into emergency local authority accommodation and they have abandoned their furniture in the bungalow.

Had the clauses been in the AST the tenants would have had 2 years rental cover in another property, they would have had to carry on paying the rent for my property and the agent would still be getting her management fee.

So the moral of the story is to have a good read of your agent’s AST and find an agent who is aware of the legal liabilities that the AST covers.

Carole



Comments

by Rob Crawford

9:35 AM, 20th September 2021, About a month ago

I think you should have challenged this. It cannot be correct. Why would an insurance company expect a landlord to highlight this cover provided in an AST? If they did expect this, it should be clearly stated! What about all other aspects of the cover? Do these need to be itemised in the AST as well. Absolute nonsense in my mind! You need to get some legal advice and challenge it.

by Carole Wicklow

9:43 AM, 20th September 2021, About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Rob Crawford at 20/09/2021 - 09:35The loss adjuster says the insurance company's legal liability is to cover what is in ths AST. There are no clauses in the AST covering the tenants. I really don't have the legal/specialist knowledge to challenge her assertion. That's why we employed an agent.

by Judith Wordsworth

10:02 AM, 20th September 2021, About a month ago

I would get legal advice and challenge this. Did you take out legal cover with the buildings insurance policy? Waste of time asking citizens advice as they have told me they don't advise landlords only tenants, but maybe worth a try. As citizens advice is government funded this is a disgrace as "our" taxes paying their wages. But that's another matter

by Rob Crawford

10:05 AM, 20th September 2021, About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Carole Wicklow at 20/09/2021 - 09:43
So this is stated in the insurance policy? The insurance company must cover what is I'm there policy. If certain mentions need to be put into the AST, it must be specifically mentioned. Is it in the policy? Citizens Advice Bureau can help you here.

by Rob Crawford

10:06 AM, 20th September 2021, About a month ago

So this is stated in the insurance policy? The insurance company must cover what is I'm there policy. If certain mentions need to be put into the AST, it must be specifically mentioned. Is it in the policy? Citizens Advice Bureau can help you here.

by Clint

10:25 AM, 20th September 2021, About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Carole Wicklow at 20/09/2021 - 09:43I believe the loss adjuster is totally incorrect. Firstly, ask the loss adjuster where in the wording of the insurance policy schedule, does it state that the clauses must be in the tenancy agreement for the cover to be in place. If this is not stated in the policy then, I am almost certain that it is covered.
If you do not get any joy from the loss adjuster, raise a complaint directly with the insurance company. It should normally give details in the policy schedule on how to raise a complaint with time scales of how long the insurance company has to respond to your complaint. Following this, I would anticipate that the insurance company would accept your claim. If they still do not accept your claim, you can take it to the ombudsman who will deal with it for you.
You can very easily read the insurance policy schedule yourself and see if there are any exclusions if the clauses are not in the tenancy agreement. If there are exclusions which, I would be surprised if there are any relating to the TA, then you would be very unlucky.
Note, that the cover is entirely based on the wording of the insurance policy and not on what the insurance company or the loss adjuster says is covered or interprets it as. To be honest, it is all very simple but takes a bit of time and if it goes to the ombudsman, they normally compensate you for the time you have spent.
You can even ask the insurance company directly for compensation for the stress and time if they find in your favour as they don’t like being referred to the ombudsman.
You don’t need expensive solicitors for this as, the ombudsman is quite good at looking at such cases although, it could take months for them to go through it but, it is just a matter of patience.

by reader

11:07 AM, 20th September 2021, About a month ago

Dear Carole,
I suggest you ascertain the loss adjustors reasoning for thier conclusion. Why does she think the lack of a clause in your AST prohibits cover and also to what extent is the cover being denied?
I insure with the NFU, expensive cover but well worth it when a crisis, being told at 3.15am that there are flames engulfing the front of your property is almightily frightening and the last thing you want is a fight with the insurance when you are in such a situation.
Look, does your policy provide for loss of income if the property is uninhabitable? If it does you are covered far better than having tenants paying you rent etc, mine tried to sue me for their losses, to no avail !

by Jason McClean

12:24 PM, 20th September 2021, About a month ago

Hi Carole

Fire and loss of rent is normally an insured peril.

Landlord Insurance normally requires an AST to be in place.

If your AST actively contracts to reduce your insurance cover, then an insurer may try to use that to repudiate a claim. Certainly first time I've heard of this in the UK if that is so.

I'd feel disappointed by the agent and insurance company in your situation and suggest you speak to their complaints departments and then the Ombudsman if not satisfied.

I hope this helps and if I can assist any further, let me know.

by NEIL T

13:15 PM, 20th September 2021, About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Jason McClean at 20/09/2021 - 12:24
'I'd feel disappointed by the agent'
That's why I never use an agent. Where does the buck stop? With you!

by Ian Narbeth

14:41 PM, 20th September 2021, About a month ago

"The agent then told the tenants that our insurance policy covered temporary accommodation, storage of their goods and transport of their goods to their new accommodation."
Assuming the fire was not the landlord's fault the question the insurers will ask is: "Does our insured (the landlord) have legal liability for these expenses?" If not then they will not pay out.
I would need to see the policy wording but I would not expect the landlord's policy to pay out for the tenant's costs in these circumstances. The AST will probably excuse the tenant from rent if the property is rendered uninhabitable. That is small comfort to a tenant as the costs of temporary accommodation, storage and transport will be higher. Tenants would not be happy if the AST did not provide for rent suspension following damage rendering the property unusable.
I would not advise landlords to take on additional liability.
We always tell our tenants that their belongings are not insured under our policy. It is open to tenants to take out their own insurance and perhaps the industry should market such policies more actively.

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