Tenants requesting compensation – ADVICE REQUEST

by Readers Question

12:35 PM, 1st November 2012
About 6 years ago

Tenants requesting compensation – ADVICE REQUEST

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Tenants requesting compensation – ADVICE REQUEST

What advice would you offer to Pauline in terms of tenants requesting compensation based on the following scenario?

Pauline’s email to Property118 reads as follows:-

Dear Property118

I have had a problem with rats in the loft above a single storey kitchen/bathroom extension in one of my properties.

The property is remote from where I live, so managed by a local agent (for more than 5 years) with reasonable attention.

Previously I / we have had professional pest control people out as well as local environmental health who assured us the problem had been dealt with, all holes stopped etc. etc. It was suggested to me that the problems were due to / exacerbated by tenants leaving rubbish about.

All has been quiet through the last tenancy but the problem recently recurred, our agents advised local fast food shops are the likely cause, pest contol was called out and the problem dealt with.

However, the issue recurred and the outcome of further investigation was that the rats were coming from collapsed sewer pipe beneath the building. I was advised that best solution was to fit new piping and bypass the old by a builder apparently familiar with these types of properties, used before by letting agent and worked with pest control firm.

I considered getting details in writing (re. possible insurance, additional quotes etc) but decided to let work proceed asap.

My tenant is now asking for compensation for inconvenience and distress (seems there was a smell from the loft due to contaminated insulation). In the meantime, the loft will need to be rewired in the kitchen and bathroom because of damage by the rats.

Is the request for compensation reasonable?

Should I pay up even if unreasonable?

What amount would be appropriate and should the agent also contribute e.g by waiving agency fees if I waive/refund 1 or 2 months rent.

Any advice appreciated.

Kind regards,

Pauline



Comments

Mark Alexander

9:14 AM, 1st November 2012
About 6 years ago

Hi Pauline

I'm sorry to hear about your problems. From what you have said it appears that you have done everything humanly possible to deal with the problem and by the sounds of it you will have already paid out an aweful lot of money.

I don't know your finances but for most landlords paying compensation of one or two months rent would probably wipe out a whole years profit on a rental property. On top of what you have already paid and given that you've done everything you can that sounds an awful lot to me.

I suspect that legally your tenants have no right to claim compensation (I'm sure others more qualified than me will comment on that), however, I can understand why you might want to provide a gesture of good will to your tenants. If they are good tenants you will doubtless want to keep them sweet and if you do take a hard nosed approach to this it could very well poison the relationship.

I know you have said that the property is remote from you but might it be worth a trip if you can save the cost of one or two months rent? That's what I would probably do. At the very least I would ask the manager at the lettings agency to arrange to visit your tenants personally in order to schmooze them with wine, chocolates and flowers. When you make a face to face appointment and turn up with gifts it is much harder for others to be unreasonable (but sadly not impossible). If I was unable to attend such a meeting I would write a nice letter to the tenant explaining the problems you have had, apologising for the inconvenience and distress and also mentioning the gifts. I would ask the lettings manager to read this to them and then give them a copy. I would also have no hesitation to explain in the letter what profits I make on the property after the costs of mortgage, maintainable insurance, ground rents, service charges and lettings fees. They should then see that your apology and the gifts you have offered are entirely reasonable. I would instruct the letting agent to serve notice immediately if they are unreasonable following this action.

I would not expect the letting agent to contribute anything other than time to the above. Their profit margins are often skinnier than a landlords and by the sounds of it you've got a good letting agent who has done everything possible in this case, that's worth hanging onto.

I hope that helps and I wish you the best of luck.

I'll be very interested to hear the outcome so please post an update hear in due course.

In the meantime it will be interesting to read other landlords and letting agents perspectives on this.

Regards

Mark

17:15 PM, 1st November 2012
About 6 years ago

right, lets look at it from the tenants argument;
distressed ...yes, at risk ..yes a little, but has it cost the tenant anything ? no.
therefore if the tenant wishes to sue he.she will have to fund his own legal costs.
this would not come under a "no win no fee" claim. only physical injuries have this.

so the tenant is unlikely to take you to court. and as you have obviously done all with your power to resolve the issue, you are unlikely to be held responsible.

this leaves the insurance company; where do they stand ?
well, you could very well make an insurance claim even now after you have instigated all repairs.
after all, considering the circumstances you had to act swiftly to avoid unnecessary costs and possible injuries and infections.

you saved the insurance company alot of money with your swift response.

I suggest you collate all the invoices involved with the repairs and ask you broker/insurance company

the worst thing they can say to you is....."bugger off"
the best thing they may say to you is .."we'll send our assessor" ( means you're in with a c£ance )

17:26 PM, 1st November 2012
About 6 years ago

as for your tenants claim for compensation, you have 3 options
1; give a chunk of cash ( one months rent )
2; ignore the request as payments of any kind could open a few gates
3; apologise profusely and give a token of your appreciation to your tenants patience giving you the time to sort out such a dreadful and unique problem, ie, a very nice bottle of wine/bubbly [ but not if we are dealing with a Muslim ]

and that is the end of the matter. ( that's what you tell him.)

Simon Dowse

18:38 PM, 1st November 2012
About 6 years ago

Hi Pauline

There was an article on here about this recently... here is a link to it..

http://www.property118.com/index.php/pest-control-landlords-or-tenants-responsibility/32120/

Hope that helps

Simon

mike wilson

19:44 PM, 1st November 2012
About 6 years ago

I think the best answer is what would you do if you were the tenant? If I were seriously put out by the incident I would give notice and leave. Now would you want to entice me to stay?

15:11 PM, 2nd November 2012
About 6 years ago

At the end of the day, houses have problems - fact. Sometimes these problems cause disruptions to the people living in those house regardless of whether they own it or are tenants. If the tenants were the owners, could they have dealt with the issues any quicker, simpler or generally in a way which would have caused less disruption to their lives? I suspect not. Was this issue caused by the actions or lack of action from the landlord? No. Therefore I can't see how they can reasonably request compensation, placing blame for the issue on you, when it was nobody's fault. It's just one of those things.

Mark Alexander

16:14 PM, 2nd November 2012
About 6 years ago

Excellent comment 🙂

19:27 PM, 2nd November 2012
About 6 years ago

This is a common problem but a simple one.The Landlord has done all that which can be reasonably texpected and the problem is not caused by a defect - rather the influence of others beyond the landlords control. The key is foreseeablity and action or inaction. It appears the landlord acted properly and could not have reasonably foreseen any recurrence. There is no claim. If it persists, I would perhaps offer an early release from the contract without penalty but it seems that is simply compensation culture. Next it will be - its been raining too much and the garden is too wet to sit in.

Reader

22:46 PM, 2nd November 2012
About 6 years ago

Been there when the lights blew and the electrician informed the tenants of rats. The tenants disappeared quicker than the rats so I was out of pocket rather quickly. Expect your rats to create new tunnels to your foundations and up your cavities to your loft and their cosy nest ! Remove their nesting beding from the loft and double plaster board the ceiling with insulated plaster board then bait the loft void. This is going to cost you but be glad your tenants are not quiting just yet, but they will when the rats want to return to their nest!

7:57 AM, 22nd April 2013
About 6 years ago

UPDATE I offered one month rent rebate but ultimately the tenants left and I agreed to waive the 12m contract. Property now successfully relet and all seems well; far fewer 'requests' in the first weeks than from the departing tenants.

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