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Uninhabitable rental property- where do we stand?

(9 Posts)
MrsLouisTomlinson Tue 28-Mar-17 10:30:49

I had another thread about this in property and just wondered if there was anyone who could assist me in being sure of my obligations as I can't seem to get any straight answers.

Long story short, we rent out a 2 bedroomed property to a single male with a dog (not agreed as a permanent fixture at the outset, was advised he would just be visiting for short periods of time).

2 weeks past Sunday the living room ceiling partially collapsed from an as yet unidentified water leak. The insurance company are dragging their heels and up until now have not accepted liability as they can not locate the leak, we have an appointment on Saturday for the rest of the ceiling to come down so the leak can be located (following several visits by specialised leak locators who can not find the source).

We have suspended the tenants rent however the insurance company has said the property is not uninhabitable and therefore won't pay for alternative accommodation (although haven't agreed claim in any event). Builder and leak locators say there is a risk of mould spores developing and being dangerous to inhale for the tenant. Insurance company do not accept this makes the property uninhabitable.

Obviously we are doing everything we can to get this sorted for the tenant but he says he has nowhere else to go whilst the place is still in disarray. Are we legally obligated to provide him with alternative accommodation despite not charging him rent. I feel morally as though I should be doing something but until we know the extent of the damage and whether insurance will cover I have no idea what our budget will be and although I have money set aside for instances such as this it isn't an inexhaustible pot. He says he could go to his parents but they won't allow the dog to stay, the fact he has a dog and that is potentially causing an issue is annoying as it was never an agreed fixture of the tenancy.

Any ideas?

tissuesosoft Tue 28-Mar-17 13:13:21

I think that as the dog wasn't agreed in the original tenancy and the tenant has stated it would only be 'visiting for short periods of time' (I.e. Lives somewhere else at other times) then you can tell him to have the dog looked after at the other place the dog must live. He then can stay at his parents.

Incidentally, we are due to have flooring dug up where we are renting to find out the sources of a leak (flood) that springs up from under the flooring. The property management company's insurers said they may fund alternative accommodation. However we expect our landlord will still want us to pay the full rent even if we aren't living here at the time of repairs. You sound like a great landlord!

kirinm Tue 28-Mar-17 13:16:51

I wouldn't want to go my parents and would expect you to fund alternative accommodation since you are the person I have an agreement with but that is just the opinion of an ex tenant as opposed any legal knowledge!

cockadoodledude Tue 28-Mar-17 13:26:29

If the landlord is responsible for providing alternative accommodation then imo the rent should still be charged. Otherwise, landlord is doubly out of pocket and tenant is effectively living rent free for a time. Seems highly unfair.

RandomMess Tue 28-Mar-17 13:27:17

You are not obliged to house the dog as he was not on the tenancy agreement...

Find HIM alternate accommodation and tell him the dog isn't your problem as it should have been there anyway and he is in breach of his tenancy.

TBH I'd be tempted to serve him notice as he is in breach!

Roomba Tue 28-Mar-17 13:49:10

Surely if you provide alternative accommodation he would be expected to pay rent as usual? He has a contract with you to pay, and in return you would be providing housing as per the contract (albeit at a different address).

If he went to his parents then no, I wouldn't expect him to pay the rent, as you wouldn't be providing housing as per the agreement with him.

If the insurance company agreed alternative housing is needed, then they would be covering any costs incurred due to that, whilst the tenant continued to pay rent.

Slightly different situation but I still had to pay my mortgage while my house was uninhabitable - insurers paid my rent elsewhere (and they chose the house from one of their approved landlords, not me). I couldn't just stop paying it, nor do I see why your tenant would legally stop paying rent if you provide him with suitable housing elsewhere?

The options as far as I see it:
1) He moves in with family temporarily and pays no rent during this time, then moves back in when it's fixed.
2) He continues to pay rent as normal, and you organise and pay for temp accommodation for him.
2) He severs his rental contract now and finds somewhere else to rent with a different landlord. You find a new tenant once the house is fixed.
3) You can convince the insurers that the house is uninhabitable, and the insurers will find and pay for temp accommodation for him (not you! They would be responsible, that's what you pay premiums for).
4) You pay out for temp accommodation for him from your own pocket, whilst he pays no rent (this seems to be what he's suggesting but why would you do this when you won't be reimbursed and you can't afford it?)

I'm not a lawyer but at present you have a legally binding contract whereby he pays rent and you provide accommodation. If he isn't fulfilling his side of the agreement, I can't see that you are liable to fulfil your side of it either. Can you access legal advice via your insurers? Many have legal cover and can advise you on where you stand contractually.

MrsLouisTomlinson Tue 28-Mar-17 18:36:03

Thank you, the legal cover is interesting, I will check and see if they have an advice line. The letting agent has spoken to the council and it boils down to the fact that yes we are responsible for housing him (although he would pay rent in that case) however we are only obliged to move him out of the house is uninhabitable and at present t doesn't meet that description. According to council guidelines he has use of every room bar the living room and therefore the property is fit for temporary purpose. We have offered to put his dog in kennels at our cost so he can go to his parents in the short term however he does not wish for this to happen. Not sure what else we can do other than put a rocket up the insurance company!

specialsubject Tue 28-Mar-17 18:51:30

Your responsibility is to the tenant, not the dog. Even if the dog was agreed it is not a tenant and is one hundred per cent his problem.

He is refusing your help with it anyway. The dog is irrelevant.

Not entirely sure about the council, what does your tenancy agreement say about circumstances such as this? I also doubt that mould spores are that bad this quickly.

The thing to do is what you are doing, pulling out all the stops to find and fix the problem and keep him posted. He can go elsewhere and you have suspended the rent, what else can you do right now?

Heartburn247 Tue 28-Mar-17 19:10:12

Hi I am a former letting agent and landlord.

The dog is not your problem. If your tenancy agreement states no pets then the tenant is in breach. You don't have to fall out with the guy but just explain that as no pets were allowed your insurers have no provision for this kind of cover.

From your post it sounds like only one room is affected, the living room.
If it is deemed habitable by the insurers then this is what you go with. The builder will have his own agenda, he will want the work and to start quickly.
You pay your insurers for them to make decisions and pay for it, let them. If your tenant has concerns over spores and his health etc then you ask the insurers to confirm in writing that this is not a risk. It's on them.

With regards to letting the tenant off the rent, you should've apportioned the rebate to the amount per room and reduced it by one room that is affected.

However the insurers saying it is habitable means you didn't have to offer anything but it is good practice to make a gesture and to keep the tenant happy with the disruption.

By agreeing the tenant won't pay any rent at all you have left yourself nothing else to offer if the tenant made any complaint.

You sound like a kind person but honestly you didn't need to have done all that and a reasonable tenant wouldn't expect it.

be firm but fair, act in a timely manner.
If the tenant was a home owner it would be no different for him, this incident is not your fault.

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