Fire damage and re-housing tenants – Help!

by Readers Question

11:47 AM, 3rd November 2015
About 5 years ago

Fire damage and re-housing tenants – Help!

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Fire damage and re-housing tenants – Help!

One of my 3 bed houses that I lease out as an HMO (Scotland) to 3 student girls caught on fire on Friday past. The bathroom fan stopped working and overheated and burnt out.help

The girls had told me about it a couple of weeks previous and I had purchased a replacement to fit on Saturday past. Well, I didn’t manage it as the fan caught on fire on Friday with a 4 fire engine call out.

The house now has no power and is smoke damaged.

My insurance won’t cover temporary accommodation for the girls only loss of rent.

What are my responsibilities here?

They are good tenants and have been with me for 3 years so I want to look after them but the cost is astronomical to get a replacement 3 bed serviced apartment. This seems to be my only option but it comes in about £800-1000 a week. With the rent only coming to me being £1300 a month you can see my problem.

The damage is quite severe but I can’t get a loss adjuster to come to mine before Wednesday this week and then she will have to agree to the quote I have managed to get. Only 1 of the 3 companies I’ve had round so far seems to grasp what needs to be done and be able to support me. This guy reckons he can get the girls back in relatively quickly cleaning painting and sorting the electrics.

The plan is to get the house electrics back on and safe, clean and decorate and get the girls back in until they can come round and sort the roof shortly after. (it’s safe at present and watertight)

I put the girls up in serviced accommodation, but I’ve managed to find another apartment for a week with a 2 double rooms. They are now complaining (understandably) because they have 3 weeks till their final exams.

What are my responsibilities here?

I have to house them as per the contract right?

I know I can’t claim this back from my insurance but does this count as a loss for my tax return?

Thoughts, opinions and sage advice desperately required.

Scott


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Comments

Donald Tramp

13:15 PM, 7th November 2015
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jim S" at "07/11/2015 - 12:55":

Thanks Jim.
I've spoken with many people who have all said that these fans never go on fire. I can't be held responsible for a manufacturing fault. I think I am doing more than I have to for these guys because I'm trying to be a good guy. There is a limit though and I am fast approaching it. They are trying to say I am responsible for their personal items even although they should have had contents cover in place.

Badger

17:09 PM, 7th November 2015
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jim S" at "07/11/2015 - 12:55":

Hi Jim

i would have to disagree with your point about a fan not being able to cause a fire I'm afraid.

Much depends upon the fusing of course, and if this is not appropriately matched (and it often isn't for a load such as a fan) then a fire is certainly a very real if rather rare possibility. If there is no leak to earth (which there is very unlikely to be for a two wire and *effectively* unearthed device such as a plastic fan) in order to cause an RCD to trip then substantial power can be dissipated in the fan depending upon the exact nature of the electrical breakdown. If the fan is on a 6A breaker (not untypical sadly) then we are looking at up to 1.5KW of electrical energy being dumped into a small fan motor before the breaker even starts to think about disconnected the circuit..

This is guaranteed not to end well.

I do however fully take your point about the consequences of stuffing a fan with tissue paper!

It is also a very rare scenario of course - requiring, in particular, a certain type of failure in the fan motor and / or its control circuit which is not at all common.

So we can all sleep easy after all. 🙂

i.e. it *could* happen, it is just not very likely to happen.

Unfortunately, Donald has just been very unlucky and has been the one to suffer the one in a million chance.

Badger

17:22 PM, 7th November 2015
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Donald Tramp" at "06/11/2015 - 18:31":

It may be a bit too late to be giving this advice now as you may have already made your bed and be committed to lying on it.

Anyway here goes all the same - I have had two similar experiences - in my case they were both water leaks from above making two different flats at two different times uninhabitable.

In both cases I wanted to "do the right thing" by the tenants - both sets of whom had been perfectly good tenants up until their respective disasters.

I went to the trouble and expense of finding alternative accommodation - ending up, like you, with putting them up in serviced accommodation.

I don't want to bore you with the details. Suffice to say that both sets of tenants in their separate ways ended up being very unhappy with the alternative accommodation which of course was all my fault (even though the water came from above!).

It all ended very unsatisfactory and ended up costing me a fortune.

It would have been much simpler and easier to have simply declared the tenancy to be at an end (by official means of course) and been done with it.

A clean break for all concerned.

With the benefit of hindsight I honestly believe that this would have been the best course of action for all concerned under the circumstances.

This all occurred some years ago now and I have been fortunate not to have suffered anything similar since but if and when the day comes again I know what I will do and that is to terminate the tenancy immediately.

Donald Tramp

17:23 PM, 7th November 2015
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Badger " at "07/11/2015 - 17:09":

There were no RCDs in the fuse board.There will be after the upstairs has been re-wired to fix this.
I agree this was a very rare occurrence that I could not have foreseen.
Anyone any thoughts on the insurance company's stance?

Jim S

17:38 PM, 7th November 2015
About 5 years ago

Hello Badger,
Have you personally ever come across a fan that has caused a fire or ever heard of this happening before? The fan could be melting and dripping down the wall but still not go into combustion. Even a cable inside the fan that is arcing would not cause a combustion to occur. If the fan got to this stage of melting plastic then the molten plastic would short the circuit protection due to live and neutral now effectively shorting out.
I could be wrong and I would like someone to let me know if they definitely know differently.

Luke P

21:23 PM, 7th November 2015
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Badger " at "07/11/2015 - 17:22":

As Badger is testament to my earlier advice...the tenant(s), with their 'dry cleaning' receipt comments, are already planning on taking a mile now that you've given them that inch by providing alternative accommodation.

This is a psychological thing...they are obviously of the opinion that, as you're being receptive and accepting some 'responsibility' to rehouse them, they have a 'right' to expect this (and more).

On completion of the works, are you going to issue a brand new agreement or just 'pick up where you left off' with the old one?

Badger

11:39 AM, 14th November 2015
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jim S" at "07/11/2015 - 17:38":

Hi Jim

Not for absolutely certain, no.

I have seen several instances of fires which leave me wondering.

You are correct - many an overheated fan will simply slide down the wall as a molten mess and that will be the end of it.

I do not agree however that even an arcing cable will not cause combustion as, in my judgement (as an electrical engineer) this is not necessarily true.

Unlikely maybe.

Highly unusual even, but not impossible.

I also disagree with your assessment that melting plastic will cause the circuit protection to blow. In fact, IMO this is a highly unlikely scenario until such time as sufficient heat has been put into the system to cause very extensive carbonisation of the fault site. TBH, in this situation (although very rare as noted several times now) the most likely outcome is now going to be a fire as long as the current continues to flow.

Most fan failures will start and end with the fan simply ceasing to function.

It is only the one in a million that will go on to cause a serious problem.

H B

12:21 PM, 14th November 2015
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Donald Tramp" at "07/11/2015 - 13:15":

A Google search suggests that bathroom fans are a known source of fires. I imagine that this is a result of over-heating electrics and dust build-up. While it is possible that tissue has been stuffed in them, the girls did alert you, so the fault seems to have been genuine. Had it been a result of one of them smoking or knocking over a candle, I would have no sympathy.

I think that you are doing the right thing in re-housing these girls. It may not be ideal financially, but as landlords we have to take the downs as well as the ups and prepare for them.

Perhaps the girls were lucky to escape with their lives and have presumably lost clothes, laptops and books, essays etc, which could seriously affect their chance of a degree.

Given that they did notify you a reasonable period before, whether or not you responded quickly enough would probably be a judge's decision. So who would win - the three pretty 22 year-olds or their landlord who refused to re-house them after a fire which he could have prevented? That, obviously, is a rhetorical question.

Luke P

23:11 PM, 16th November 2015
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "H B" at "14/11/2015 - 12:21":

Regardless of the morality, there's no case to answer here. No statutory duty to rehouse, reported fault or otherwise.

Donald Tramp

11:48 AM, 17th November 2015
About 5 years ago

Good news is tenants are moving back in. Power is back on and the the walls are repaired. Still to get painted. Learned a lot here. especially buying decent branded electrical equipment is worth the money! Have now installed a vent axia fan instead of the cheap one that was in before. I'll be glad when this is all over! I've got my visit from the council hmo bod to look forward to now. They were informed of the fire.

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