Storms & Floods:

Given the severity of the bad weather and floods in some areas of the country recently, the past weeks have been an extremely anxious time for some tenants and landlords.

Unfortunately it appears that these worries are not going to go away anytime soon. Year on year we’ve seen certain locations at risk of flooding and it could get worse. According to the Environment Agency there are over 5 million properties in England alone that are at risk of flooding.

Not only does it turn lives up-side-down, if not handled sensitively it puts a tremendous strain on the landlord tenant relationship. Good landlords will take the view that the situation is devastating for their tenants and do all they can to help.

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This may involve personally getting involved in the clearing operation and establishing weather the home is still fit for habitation while the necessary repairs are carried out.

Sooner or later thoughts will turn to who is responsible for doing the repairs, the cost of any temporary accommodation if the place is uninhabitable, and whom pays for all the repairs and replacements?

In an areas that have suffered extensive flooding tradespeople are likely to be very busy, so getting someone to come quickly, even when the insurance company has assessed the damage and given the go-ahead, could be problematic and will probably take some time.

First off, the tenants’ personal possessions are not the landlord’s responsibility, so unless the tenants have paid for their own tenant’s contents insurance they will find themselves forking out for this. If the tenants don’t have contents insurance the local council might be able to help them with items of necessity through local charities and their welfare assistance schemes.

Secondly, assuming the flood was in no way caused by the tenants, the landlord is pretty much responsible for everything else: any structural damage to the property, the supply of water, electricity and gas, and re-instating any damaged appliances, carpets, furniture etc., supplied with the property. Effectively the landlord must reinstate the property to as it was before the flood.

Tenants have the responsibility of minimising flood damage to the property and its consents as it occurs, within the limits of personal safety, and informing the landlord and the authorities about the situation without delay.

If the property is habitable and the tenant is willing to “work around” or should we say “live around” the repair work as it progresses, then negotiations may be entered into regarding some form of proportionate rent reduction to compensate for the inconvenience.

If agreement can be met in these circumstances, the onus is then on the landlord to progress the work as quickly as possible, or at leat within a reasonable time, given what was mentioned above, that in severely flooded areas trades skills may be at a premium and trades people hard to secure.

If the property is uninhabitable then the situation is much more complicated. The landlord’s insurance may cover for temporary accommodation for the tenants, and if the repairs can be carried out within that period, then all well and good. As the flood was not the fault of the landlord and everything else being equal, such as the convenience of the new accommodation, then no further compensation for the tenants would necessarily be involved.

Where the landlord’s insurance does not cover for the temporary accommodation, and whether the remedial work is going to be long-term, than the tenants would need to contact the local authority for re-housing. There is no immediate obligation on the landlord to re-house the tenants.

However, if a flood in the property was caused by the landlord’s neglect, a breach of Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, which states the property must be kept in a good state of repair, then responsibility for rehousing the tenants, and paying the costs of rehousing, would be on the landlord.

The tenants should be treated as a priority case by the local authority in this sort of emergency, bearing in mind there could be many others in the same situation, but it is an emergency. The local council has a legal responsibility to find the tenants and family suitable temporary accommodation, and the tenants might have to register as homeless to get this process moving.

The landlord and tenant may want to agree a surrender of the tenancy if the repairs are likely to take a long time, but otherwise where the tenants wish to return, they should be continuing to pay the rent, albeit at a mutually agreed reduced rate, given the inconvenience to them.

Alternatively, where the tenants are prepared to find and pay for temporary accommodation themselves, then negotiations could be entered into where the landlord may suspend the rent payments or pay reasonable costs towards the alternative accommodation.

For those tenants on housing benefits, they should seek advice as to what payments are available toward their existing home’s rent, the temporary accommodation home’s rent, or a contribution towards both.

Landlords should check their landlord’s Insurance policy to make sure it provides adequate cover in the event of flooding.

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