13:57 PM, 30th July 2012, About 10 years ago 12
I recently wrote an article about one of my tenants who recently reported that whilst she was away there was spillage in the bathroom which caused over £500 worth of decorative damage to downstairs ceilings and walls. The article was read by literally thousands of landlords and received a whopping 51 comments.
If you missed the article or would like to read the comments left by your peers it is LINKED HERE.
To cut a long story short (the original article and the comments) my tenants went away for a weekend, relatives were left to ‘house sit’ and when my tenants returned the bath had over-flowed and caused damage to downstairs ceilings and walls. My insurance excess was £500 and I felt that as there was no failure in the plumbing it was not my responsibility to fix the problem and not worth claiming on my insurance. My tenants got the place re-decorated but then claimed they could not afford the rent the following month. For a variety of reasons it was not commercially viable to serve notice (all explained in the original article). I needed to do something so I wrote an email to my brother (Adam) who manages the properties for my entire family. The purpose of this was for him to have something in writing from me when he went to have a chat with my tenant. He’s a very good mediator in these situations.
Adam didn’t actually visit my tenant, instead he decided to write to her and enclose a copy of my email with his letter.
The comments and advice I had received in response to the original article ranged from serving notice, writing off the months rent, adding my tenants to a blacklist, spreading the repayment of the unpaid rent and others which said that I should have claimed on the insurance and that I had no right to make the tenants pay for accidental damage. All valid points of view in different circumstances I’m sure but I wasn’t comfortable with any of them.
The good news is that the letters were sent and the response was payment of the rent.
I’ve not asked why or how but as if by magic the money has turned up. My faith in human nature has been restored. I suspect that my tenant has shown my letter to her relatives and they’ve paid for the damages. After all, it wasn’t my fault the damage was caused and it wasn’t my tenants either was it?
I will probably never know what’s really happened but this experience just goes to show that we must follow our gut feelings and reason with people politely. As I mentioned in my original article, this tenants family have “a bit of a reputation” and I know for sure that a threatening approach would probably have ended badly for them and for me. Instead, logic and reason won the day 🙂
This is the letter I sent to my brother to forward on to my tenants:-
Thank you for your call this weekend to update me on the flooding problem at XXXXX Close.
As you know, I always believe in treating my tenants fairly.
I purchased this property as a long term investment and unlike some landlords I have no intention of selling to make a quick profit. I also believe in maintaining my properties and keeping rents at a fair level. I don’t make much profit on the rents as it’s all swallowed up in mortgage payments, landlords insurance and the fees for managing the property. For me, it’s a little nest egg for when I retire in 20 years time, hopefully it will have gone up in value a fair bit by then.
I’d like to think my tenants at XXXXX Close realise that I’m a decent chap based on how I dealt with the issues of the leaky roof a few years ago. The problem with the roof was my responsibility, I got it repaired as quickly as possible and I even compensated the tenants by waiving a months’ rent at Christmas for them which I didn’t need to do by law.
It’s clear to me though that the issue of the flooding is not my responsibility as there was no water escape from the plumbing. I don’t know exactly what happened but I can hazard a guess. That’s not the point though, I’m not responsible for getting that fixed and my landlords insurance has a policy excess of £500 so it’s not worth making a claim. Also, I can’t force the tenants to buy or claim on their own insurance.
I understand that you received a telephone call from my tenants sister this weekend to say that no rent will be paid this month due to my tenant having used her rent money to pay for the damage caused to the ceilings. I accept that she doesn’t know how it happened either as she was not there and her relatives were house sitting. Nevertheless, we all agree that it wasn’t due to and plumbing or pipework problems so it must have been an accident. A bath left to over-flow perhaps?
I could of course insist on the rent being paid but I also accept that you can’t get blood out of a stone. If my tenant has used the rent money to pay to fix the damages caused I only have two options really.
Option one – I could ask you to serve a Section 21 notice to gain possession of the house and re-let it. I’d prefer not to go down that route though as my tenants do seem like nice people, they were very patient when we had the leaky roof problems.
Option two – The only other option I can think of is to use the one month damage deposit to cover the rent for this month. For this to happen we will need the tenants to agree to this in writing. The deposit can then be unprotected and used to pay this months’ rent.
I appreciate this is a bit risky as it leaves me with no damage deposit but I need to do something because I need the rent to pay the mortgage, the insurance and your fees for managing the property. I’m not made of money either. If I don’t pay my mortgage the lender could reposes the property and that’s bad news for both me and my tenants. We must avoid that at all costs!
You have my permission to forward this email to my tenants and I look forward to hearing from you.
OK, so I gave the impression that I’m also as poor as a Church Mouse and if that’s wrong may God forgive me.
As they say, the rest is history. I’ve got my rent which means somebody has done the right thing and we all live happily ever after 🙂