How to Help Your Tenant and Protect Yourself
As I write this, the UK is threatened with several days of gales and torrential rain. Whaley Bridge residents are struggling to receive compensation after the potential flooding that forced them to evacuate their homes and businesses never materialised. And buy-to-let investors are worried about their landlord responsibilities if flooding makes their rental properties uninhabitable.
These worries aren’t going to disappear. As the year rolls on and we head into autumn and winter, the risk of flooding will get worse. A lot worse. According to the Environment Agency, there are more than 5 million properties in England that are at risk of flooding.
So, what are you responsible for if your rental property is flooded?
The Landlord Must Pay for Repairs
If your rental property is flooded, it is your responsibility to pay for repairs and put right any damage to the property – unless the flooding is caused by something the tenant has done.
After a flood, your obligation is to return the property to the tenant in the state it was in before the flood occurred. This means that a flood caused by either your neglect or natural causes could cost you a lot of money:
- You’ll need to repair or replace carpets, furniture, electrical equipment and white goods that have been affected by the flood.
- Walls, floors, doors and structural aspects of the property will need to be assessed and made good.
- All redecorating, repainting and cleaning must be conducted.
The Tenant Is Responsible for Their Belongings
As the landlord, you are not responsible for damage or loss of your tenant’s property. Any furniture, electrical goods and personal belongings of the tenant that need to be repaired or replaced are the tenant’s responsibility. You should always make this plain to the tenant when they move in, pointing out the provisions in the tenancy agreement and recommending that they arrange contents insurance to cover their belongings.
You May Have to Rehouse the Tenant
If the flood has been caused by your neglect – for example, a breach of Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act, which requires you to keep the property in a good state of repair – then you will be responsible for rehousing the tenant, and paying the costs of rehousing.
In most cases of flooding that make a property uninhabitable, the local authority has a duty to find suitable alternative accommodation for the tenant.
What about the Rent?
If your property is flooded and the tenant must leave, you could be faced with a big bill to clean up and repair your property. You may also find that you have no rent coming in while the tenant is not living there. This depends upon the terms of your tenancy agreement.
The tenancy agreement may include a clause that states any rent paid while the property is uninhabitable because of a flood will be repaid. If this clause isn’t included, then the tenant should pay the rent owed – but trying to enforce this could be difficult. The courts don’t generally force consumers to pay for services or goods they haven’t received.
What Should You Do If Your Buy-to-Let Property Floods?
If your property is flooding, we recommend you take the following action:
- Keep in touch with your tenants. Advise them to move valuables to higher floors if it is possible. Tell them to turn off gas and electric supplies. Advise them to stay away from electrical equipment, even if the electricity supply is turned off. If the flood has been caused by a burst pipe, ensure that the water supply is turned off at the mains.
- Ask your tenant to take other precautions, too. These may include using buckets to catch water from dripping ceilings to avoid damage to floors, and using towels or sandbags at the base of doors to help prevent water from entering adjacent rooms.
- Take photographs of the damage caused.
- Never attempt property repairs yourself. Always use professionals. There may be unseen structural damage, and undertaking repairs yourself could put you in danger.
If the flood makes the property uninhabitable, your tenant will need to move out. In this case, speak to your tenant and come to an agreement about rent and what you will do next. Remember that this will be a difficult time for the tenant, so empathy is needed.
Check Your Landlord Insurance
When a rental property is made uninhabitable by flooding, it can be very expensive to put it right, make repairs, replace damaged items, and return your tenant’s home to the standard and condition it was before the flood occurred.
Before you do anything else today, check your landlord insurance. Does it provide alternative accommodation cover? What items are covered under damage clauses? Will rental payments be covered if the tenant stops paying their rent?
Still Not Sure?
A flood can severely damage your buy-to-let property. It can irreparably damage your pocket. That’s why we ensure that tenancy agreements are comprehensive and up to date – and why we always recommend that buy-to-let investors take landlord insurance.
To learn more and discover the comprehensive benefits of our recommended landlord insurance, contact Ezytrac today at +44 0 1522 503 717 to learn why so many buy-to-let landlords trust us to keep great relationships with their tenants.
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