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View Full Version : Flat fire-damaged; can T make L claim on insurance?



juliet
27-01-2009, 08:32 AM
Sorry this is complicated but I would very much appreciate advice as I am not sure what to do. My son rented a flat shorthold assured contract. The flat was shabby and dirty when he moved in although when I emailed the landlord said professional cleaners had been in. One window was falling to pieces with rotten wood in shreds which made it hard to shut properly. I emailed the landlord about this and to say the flat was in a terrible state and to ask if there was an inventory - I am the guarantor - he wrote back saying don't worry about the window, your son won't be liable for it, and sent an inventory which was unsigned and undated and I do not believe reflected the true state of the flat. I told him this and I also have a photographic record of the window and some other things at the start of the tenancy. The landlord lives abroad and has been hard to contact and has no one in this country to manage things. I told my son he should leave a s a p because it wasn't a good situation. My son gave in notice so that his tenancy will finish mid feb, but then just before Xmas a fire broke out which was accidental, but which was most probably due to something electrical of my son's.

I emailed the landlord next day to let him know and to ask him to contact to discuss what to do and to ask if he had insurance to cover any of the damage. Next day his sister rang me to say he was away on holiday for the next two weeks and couldn't be contacted although he obviously managed to receive the email I sent. On his return he emailed me to say there was no insurance whatsoever, and reitierated this but didn't answer my questions or enter into any constructive communication. He told me I could ring the block management to ask them about the insurance which I did and they said there was buildings insurance but the landlord continued to say there wasn't. He also said that the rotten window had to be boarded up due to the fire but this was not damaged by the fire. The damage was mostly due to smoke.

We went to see a solictior who told ud our best remedy would be to restore the flat ourselves.

A couple of weeks later he visited the country without telling us, entered the flat without telling us, arranged for things to be done on that basis, and then arranged for the letting agency to let various people into the flat without telling us. I knew people had been in because I rigged the door. I knew the landlord had been over because the block management told me. I contacted the letting agents who admitted they had been in and then sent us a letter saying that they would be handing out keys to various people so they could let themselves in.

I told them that under no circumstances should they do this without the landlord informing us. I emailed the landlord twice a week ago to ask if he gave authority but he did not reply. So I wrote the letting agency a letter saying they would be breaking the law and they backed out.

Then I got an email from the landlord saying he had gone away on business and would be unavailable to contact until after the tenancy ends next month.He says vaguely that various people will be visiting the flat and he will be refitting it and is honourable and when it is done we will mutually agree a contribution. But he then complains about me contacting the block management although he told me I could, and has ignored a request from Env. Health dept to fix window (I got Env Health to come and look at the window as I didn't want it classed as fire damage) and tells me I am wasting public money by contacting them.

This is such a nightmare. I don't want to sued for a huge amount. The flat was shabby to start with. We have already made quite a lot of progress in restoring it and it will be a lot nicer than it was. The solicitor said this would be our best remedy, but it does say something in the tenancy agreement about repairs and improvements being at the landlords option. It is also costing a significant amount just in materials, but obviously less than if we are sued for the whole shebang including labour.

Please can anyone advise. I know this is complicated and longwinded but I would really appreciate comment as this is causing me massive stress.

MrJohnnyB
27-01-2009, 08:36 AM
I was of the impression that it was down to the Landlord to carry out buildings insurance on a property and that as such any insured risk was liable by the landlord ie any event of fire is down to the landlord. Whilst I'm sure you understand your sons contents is your liability, and as far as an AST goes I was fairly confident this would be the end of your liability.

jta
27-01-2009, 09:19 AM
This LL is driving a horse and cart through the regulations, everything he has done is illegal, get some proper legal advice and sue the pants off him, I bet your deposit is not protected either, you can sue him for 3x that amount if its not.

juliet
27-01-2009, 10:12 AM
The deposit is protected, but as you said it does seem to me that the landlord and letting agency have not been acting legally. The solicitor I saw said we should restore the damage ourselves to avoid being sued.

MrJohnnyB
27-01-2009, 10:23 AM
Well a landlord has a legal obligation to insure a property (I believe) its not a case of him wanting to or not. Additionally I would have thought that fire would be an insured risk and as such should not be payable by you.

juliet
27-01-2009, 10:58 AM
That's what I thought, but the landlord will not clearly communicate about the situation, seeming to think that it is none of our business. Actually, landlords are not obliged to have insurance. I did think that at first but it is not a legal requirement although one would be stupid not to, one would think...

The solicitor we saw said that the insurance company might come after us for the money anyway as they might try to prove negligence although I don't think they would be able to prove anything. I don't know what sort of detail a fire report taken at the time goes into, but I don't think they gave a definitive cause, just a 'might have been this or might have been that'.

My son lost quite a bit in the fire aswell contents-wise as he had no insurance for that, but he has had to accept that.

jeffrey
27-01-2009, 11:01 AM
Well a landlord has a legal obligation to insure a property (I believe) its not a case of him wanting to or not. Additionally I would have thought that fire would be an insured risk and as such should not be payable by you.
To clarify:
1. This is a flat.
2. So L is himself presumably only a leaseholder.
3. Assume that L's own landlord is the freehold reversioner (F).
4. Between L and T, L is responsible for insuring or procuring insurance.
5. Between F and L, F is- almost certainly- responsible for block insurance.
6. Despite point 5, T should press L for evidence that there is insurance.
7. If L has no such evidence, it's for him (not T) to press F.

juliet
27-01-2009, 13:07 PM
Yes LL is leaseholder, but after denying that he had insurance he said that I could ring the block management. They said there was buildings insurance, but when I emailed LL he continued to say no insurance. On the strength of that and advice from a solicitor we have started to restore flat ourselves and have spent a considerable amount doing so.

If the landlord will not engage or tell me he has insurance I can't make him tell me and I was so stressed out about everything that we are restoring ourselves as the solicitor said that was the best thing to do to avoid being sued.

The LL has been so difficult and messed us about so much and I can't see what remedy we have against him. The solicitor seemed to think that if the landlord wouldn't tell us we couldn't make him.

In fact in the last email he said that he was putting in a complaint about the person at block management who told us there was insurance although LL was the one who told me to contact them.

Poppy
27-01-2009, 13:25 PM
Well a landlord has a legal obligation to insure a property (I believe)
That's what I thought
There is nothing particularly to force a landlord to buy insurance.

In this case as this property is a flat, I would expect (but this is a pure guess because we don't know the contents of the lease) that the freeholder is obligated to insure the building.

Juliet, you should insist that the landlord (lessee) finds out if it is possible to make a claim on the freeholder's block insurance. If the landlord is being a twerp, then you may have to try talking directly to the freeholder or block management. Do it quickly, because the insurer may want to appoint a loss adjuster before you start restoring the flat.

juliet
27-01-2009, 13:37 PM
Furthermore, what do I do about LL's admission after thefact that he entered the flat without notifying us and arranged with the letting agency (who do not manage and LL has told us do not manage) for them to let people pick up keys from them and let themselves in to assess flat including John Lewis personnel. He did this despite having been given a clear line of communication.
Have I been stupid to undertake restoration? I was just so worried about it and wanted to protect self and son from being sued. Maybe I'm too defensive, but solicitor said this best thing to do. The other thing is that there is a clause in the tenancy agreement saying repairs and decorating should be done 'at the option of the landlord' so technically, are we breaking tenancy agreement by doing work?

LL and letting agency seem to think they can do what they like although letting agency backed off when I said they were breaking law.

juliet
27-01-2009, 13:52 PM
Also block management won't talk to me anymore since landlord has been at them - data protection I suppose.

jeffrey
27-01-2009, 13:54 PM
Also block management won't talk to me anymore since landlord has been at them - data protection I suppose.
Well, F has a leasehold relationship with L- so may not want to deal direct with L's subtenant (you).

Poppy
27-01-2009, 14:11 PM
Out of interest, did you pay a fee to the solicitor who told you the best remedy was to restore the flat yourselves? The solicitor should at the very least have explored the possibility of the freeholder having buildings insurance.

With regard to the landlord entering the flat without permission. He really must obtain the tenant's prior permission at all times. To try to prevent it happening again, write to the landlord and the agent, provide the contact details for you and your son, remind them that you insist on notice being given and that you and your son will do your best to be accommodating. Equally, you want the restoration to happen relatively quickly for your sanity.