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

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.


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Richard York

12:24 PM, 17th November 2015
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Luke P" at "16/11/2015 - 23:11":

From the first post

"The landlord is not in breach of his covenant to repair until he has notice of the disrepair and a reasonable time has elapsed in which the repair could have been carried out (see O’Brien v Robinson [1973] A.C. 912). Therefore, if the fault was for example due to the electrics in the property but the landlord was not aware of any problem nor had the landlord received any notice of a defect, then, the landlord is unlikely to be liable for any damages to the tenant and therefore the landlord will not be liable to contribute towards the alternative accommodation."

So in this case it took the landlord two weeks to look at a faulty fan.

As H B said, I think it would be a judge's decision in this case. I would be worried that the judge would take the other side and award more than just the costs of extra accommodation. Which way it lands it up to a judge and probably any details we don't know.

At its most extreme - what happens if on of the them fails her degree and successfully argues it was because of the fire and being homeless afterwards. Feel like paying three years tuition fees (£9k)?

I think the landlord in this case did the right thing, morally and covering his own back.

Richard York

12:28 PM, 17th November 2015
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Richard York" at "17/11/2015 - 12:24":

Might also be worth saying that the landlord here said he was going to fit his own fan as a replacement. I wonder if he also fitted the fan that caught fire.

If he's not a qualified electrician, and was being too cheap to pay for one - if the fire was due to installation fault (or conceivably could be) then he would absolutely lose.

Donald Tramp

14:18 PM, 17th November 2015
About 5 years ago

The fan was fitted a few years ago by a proper electrician. But it was a cheap b and q fan that obviously didn't stand the test of time. Lesson learned! Buy a decent brand, something like Vent Axia!
I've had very issues with a "cata" cooker from B and Q which also blew after 18 months. The internal wiring was shocking it was really cheaply made. This also could've been a bad ending.
I feel that I've done the right thing by my tenants. As painful as it has been.

Donald Tramp

10:23 AM, 28th November 2015
About 5 years ago

Well folks that's my tenants back in with just a bit of residual work required. That a painful few weeks!
Now negotiating with the insurance company. We have a little disagreement about what they will pay... but on the whole I think I'll be ok at the end of this.
Glad I did the right thing in re-housing my tenants despite the expense. I couldn't have just put them on the street and let them fend for themselves.
All the ceilings have been reinstalled and the top half of the house is all redecorated with new carpets.
So glad I'm all above board with all electrical certs and have landlord house insurance. I can only imagine if this had happened and I wasn't all above board.
Buy good quality brands!!!
There is now a Vent Axia extractor fitted instead of the no -name brand that was in there before. I've also had an encounter with a CATA brand cooker (cheap Chinese manufacture from B and Q you should've seen the internal wiring) that went pop a couple of years ago as well. That also could've ended differently.....
I'm also installing a RCD fuse board. This might've stopped the fire and also protects the tenants.

P.S. an electrician fitted the fan that went on fire.

Donald Tramp

10:41 AM, 3rd December 2015
About 5 years ago

Well the tenants are back in and the house is now habitable. I put them up in a serviced apartment (at huge expense) for a couple of weeks.
The tenants moved back in and there were a couple of days overlap with painters being in but I think I did my bit getting them housed after the fire and getting them back into their accomodation as soon as possible.
During the time the builders were in I got texts from the tenants and their mothers (mothers pay the rent as my tenants are students) that they required my insurance details to claim back the cost of drycleaning and that I was generally being useless at getting them back into the place. I think 2 weeks to rebuild 2 rooms (walls and ceilings), new carpets, new decoration and cleaned top to bottom is pretty good.
It is very clear in the lease that they need to provide their own contents cover and I mentioned it to them at the start of the lease.
One of tenants say that a bedside table of hers was damaged and I was warned by one of the mothers that if there was any damage to her daughters bedsheet she would take it out of my rent.

Now comes the interesting bit, Its rent payment time. They have to pay up shortly in advance for next month. I reveived a text from one of the mothers last night that she "has issues to be resolved before she pays me anymore rent" and asked for my email address. To which I replied with my email address and a statement that there is a contract between me and the girls and she can't simply withhold rent. One out of the 3 tenants has paid so far and the one who sent me the text hasn't yet. The remaining tenants date that her direct debit usually lands in my account has passed. So it looks like I'm going to have an interesting time getting the rent out of 2 of my tenants this month.

If they don't pay the rent as per the lease whats my next move?

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