What are landlords’ flood-related responsibilities?

The only thing certain about British weather is that we’re going to have some. Blizzards, gales and heat-waves all pose problems for property owners but few are as disastrous as floods.

Climate change aside, flooding has become more common because of over-development. Concrete and tarmac hamper natural run-off and we have allowed developers to drain our flood plains. The Environment Agency says five million properties in England are at risk from flooding.

That underestimates the problem because not all floods are caused by weather. Heavy traffic often collapses sewers and garbage blocks drains. Burst pipes can affect any home at any time. Human error just adds to the toll – who of us hasn’t overflowed a sink?

Who picks up the tab?

In leased and rented properties this easily becomes an acrimonious issue.

As with any kind of water damage, it is the responsibility of the landlord unless it can be clearly shown to be due to the tenant’s neglect. What constitutes neglect is hard to define when the landlord is responsible for property maintenance and other precautions. Many apartment tenants don’t have access to a stop-cock or have never been told where it is.

Most landlords simply claim on their building insurance, but if they have already started a dispute with their tenant that can undermine their entitlement to claim. Therefore, disputes should always be avoided if possible.

Most tenancy agreements specify that the tenant is responsible for insuring their own belongings. That exclusion is void if the damage arises from building neglect, and you also become responsible for re-housing them. Therefore, always have accidental damage included in your building insurance.

Agents

There are many bad letting agencies. It can be a costly mistake to assume an agent is responsibly managing building maintenance. The tenant’s contract is with the owner. Disgruntled owners then have to open a contractual complaint with their agent. Agents will also add hefty premiums if you let them arrange the repairs.

A great deal of trouble is avoided by having clear inventories of your own and your tenant’s belongings. Property inventory software is the modern solution. A simple app benefits both landlord and tenant by making it easy to keep records up to date. Using property inventory software prevents misunderstandings.

Dehumidification and replastering are costly but lawyers will make it a lot worse!

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