Storms & Floods:
Given the severityof the bad weather and floods in some areas of the country recently,the past weeks have been an extremely anxious time for some tenantsand landlords.
Unfortunately itappears that these worries are not going to go away anytime soon.Year on year we've seen certain locations at risk of flooding andit could get worse. According to the Environment Agency there areover 5 million properties in England alone that are at risk offlooding.
Not only does itturn lives up-side-down, if not handled sensitively it puts atremendous strain on the landlord tenant relationship. Good landlordswill take the view that the situation is devastating for theirtenants and do all they can to help.
This may involvepersonally getting involved in the clearing operation andestablishing weather the home is still fit for habitation while thenecessary repairs are carried out.
Sooner or laterthoughts will turn to who is responsible for doing the repairs, thecost of any temporary accommodation if the place is uninhabitable,and whom pays for all the repairs and replacements?
In an areas thathave suffered extensive flooding tradespeople are likely to be verybusy, so getting someone to come quickly, even when the insurancecompany has assessed the damage and given the go-ahead, could beproblematic and will probably take some time.
First off, thetenants' personal possessions are not the landlord'sresponsibility, so unless the tenants have paid for their owntenant's contents insurance they will find themselves forking outfor this. If the tenants don't have contents insurance the localcouncil might be able to help them with items of necessity throughlocal charities and their welfare assistance schemes.
Secondly, assumingthe flood was in no way caused by the tenants, the landlord is prettymuch responsible for everything else: any structural damage to theproperty, the supply of water, electricity and gas, and re-instatingany damaged appliances, carpets, furniture etc., supplied with theproperty. Effectively the landlord must reinstate the property to asit was before the flood.
Tenants have theresponsibility of minimising flood damage to the property and itsconsents as it occurs, within the limits of personal safety, andinforming the landlord and the authorities about the situationwithout delay.
If the property ishabitable and the tenant is willing to 'work around'� or should wesay 'live around'� the repair work as it progresses, thennegotiations may be entered into regarding some form of proportionaterent reduction to compensate for the inconvenience.
If agreement can bemet in these circumstances, the onus is then on the landlord toprogress the work as quickly as possible, or at leat within areasonable time, given what was mentioned above, that in severelyflooded areas trades skills may be at a premium and trades peoplehard to secure.
If the property isuninhabitable then the situation is much more complicated. Thelandlord's insurance may cover for temporary accommodation for thetenants, and if the repairs can be carried out within that period,then all well and good. As the flood was not the fault of thelandlord and everything else being equal, such as the convenience ofthe new accommodation, then no further compensation for the tenantswould necessarily be involved.
Where the landlord'sinsurance does not cover for the temporary accommodation, and whetherthe remedial work is going to be long-term, than the tenants wouldneed to contact the local authority for re-housing. There is noimmediate obligation on the landlord to re-house the tenants.
However, if a floodin the property was caused by the landlord's neglect, a breach ofSection 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, which states theproperty must be kept in a good state of repair, then responsibilityfor rehousing the tenants, and paying the costs of rehousing, wouldbe on the landlord.
The tenants shouldbe treated as a priority case by the local authority in this sort ofemergency, bearing in mind there could be many others in the samesituation, but it is an emergency. The local council has a legalresponsibility to find the tenants and family suitable temporaryaccommodation, and the tenants might have to register as homeless toget this process moving.
The landlord andtenant may want to agree a surrender of the tenancy if the repairsare likely to take a long time, but otherwise where the tenants wishto return, they should be continuing to pay the rent, albeit at amutually agreed reduced rate, given the inconvenience to them.
Alternatively, wherethe tenants are prepared to find and pay for temporary accommodationthemselves, then negotiations could be entered into where thelandlord may suspend the rent payments or pay reasonable coststowards the alternative accommodation.
For those tenants onhousing benefits, they should seek advice as to what payments areavailable toward their existing home's rent, the temporaryaccommodation home's rent, or a contribution towards both.
Landlords shouldcheck their landlord's Insurance policy to make sure it providesadequate cover in the event of flooding.