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Tenant maintenance help!

(34 Posts)
firstposts Wed 14-Jan-15 14:12:40

I have a tenanted property, with a nice couple renting it. As per our contract we deal with maintenance, what that really means is we engage the contractor rather than the agent. We live 2 hours away. This has always worked well, until now.

We received an email from the agents, the tenants had a burst pipe over Christmas and they want to be reimbursed for £££ they spent on emergency plumber.

We were not at any point contacted, we have a plumber who has attended before and we trust. But we were not given the opportunity, the bill from this unknown plumber is huge.sad

We are accidental landlords, husband in forces two young kids. Of course cannot and will not leave tenants out of pocket. Contract says clearly we are to be contacted, and have always acted immediately for any previous issues. Just wonder where we stand legally, not because I intend to stick them with the bill (we will need to get a loan to pay) but because I need to think ahead about how we protect ourselves from this happening again.

Thanks in advance

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Wed 14-Jan-15 14:16:03

Do you have LL's insurance / building insurance that will cover this?

Did they keep the property adequately heated over Christmas to avoid a burst pipe?

Depending on how long the tenants have been there and how long you want to keep them - I would be following this up with a conversation with them.

HindsightisaMarvellousThing Wed 14-Jan-15 14:16:49

As a landlord, I would want to see an itemised bill from this plumber. I would also want to know details about the timing of his call(s) to the property. I might ask my usual plumber for his view and an estimate of his costs of fixing the problem.

I think I'd feel inclined to pay the amount it would have cost me to fix the problem, and not the amount charged by this other plumber. At least, that would be my opening position to the discussions with the tenants.

What do your agents think?

NotDavidTennant Wed 14-Jan-15 14:31:29

Did the tenants have problems getting in touch with you over Christmas? Or did they go straight to the emergency plumber without trying to get hold of you?

wowfudge Wed 14-Jan-15 14:40:21

I wonder if your tenants realised they had done something stupid (like turning the heating off when they went away over Christmas, or damaging a pipe) which led to the burst and tried to get it fixed without letting you know they had caused the problem. They've now been hit with a big bill because they called out an emergency plumber and don't want to pay it all themselves.

Otherwise, why did they not call you? And why get the agents to call you about getting the bill paid. I take it they did call him themselves, it wasn't the agents who arranged the repair? It doesn't stack up. Why not ring the tenants and have a conversation - you can always say you've had a garbled message from the agents and want to understand what happened directly from them. Give them your plumber's number for any future issues - on the understanding with your plumber that he rings you should the tenants get in touch. If you can, perhaps arrange to visit at the weekend - you would like to understand what happened and see if anything else needs fixing as a consequence of the burst.

As for paying the bill - depends what they tell you. Come back and let us know.

I would also do as Hindsight suggests re: the other plumber's bill. I used to work in property management and we always insisted on complete breakdowns on bills - tradespeople are used to this. Just say it's your standard practice and you are always looking to ensure you have reliable people just a phone call away - he doesn't need to know you have suspicions he may be charging over the odds.

Good tenants are sometimes worried that a mistake which damages something will get them thrown out by the landlord. Most landlords just prefer people to be honest.

firstposts Wed 14-Jan-15 15:32:14

Thanks so much for your responses, really helps. I go into panic mode and can't tell if I'm being unreasonable!

We have insurance, hasn't even occurred to me but can now check that out.

Tenants had not tried to contact us at all, we would have sent our usual guy round. They contacted the lettings agent with a bill expecting them to pay?! Despite the fact they know its us as we replaced the shower last year, he met the plumber we use etc.

Lettings agent are saying 'nothing to do with us' which is correct. They have a history of being useless so I do wonder if they are involved somehow. Incorrectly assuming they have the contract or something?

Right. Need to a) get itemised bill. B) have conversation with our plumber about cost c) have conversation with tenant regarding why they didn't call us. D) call landlord insurance. E) think about whether we renew them in march.

You are all brilliant, will re read responses to check haven't missed anything. We are going to be in deep trouble financially sad being a landlord with no savings is a recipe for disaster. Perhaps selling the house might be the only way forward.

firstposts Wed 14-Jan-15 15:43:16

If, hypothetically, they had left the house unheated would I be liable or them?

Do you know, it's only just occurred to me there could be damage to the house.. Carpets, floorboards. Hoping I am just catastrophising. sad

wowfudge Wed 14-Jan-15 15:51:30

In your shoes I would call the tenants first. Get the story from the horse's mouth as the starting point. Ask them what happened, why they didn't contact you and what has been damaged by the burst.

Perhaps before you do, read the tenancy agreement and any other correspondence with them - e.g. did you email them your contact details telling them to get in touch with you if anything needs sorting? - this is your back up for how they should have dealt with the problem.

Just think, if they happen to know the emergency plumber (maybe he's a personal friend and has inflated the bill thinking LL will be paying) he will let them know you are querying things.

specialsubject Wed 14-Jan-15 16:02:18

you don't just pay any random bill they come up with, any more than anyone else does.

for the future; get landlord's home emergency cover and tell the tenants you have it. (but don't give them the number, they must call you). Write to the tenants with a reminder of what to do if something goes wrong. Tell them what they need to do to look after property, including keeping it ventilated and heated. AND TELLING YOU WHEN THERE IS A PROBLEM.

Change agents to a less useless one.

if you cannot insure yourselves against what might happen in a rented property (accidental damage,malicious damage, non-payment of rent, eviction due to lease breach etc) then yes, the place needs to be sold.

firstposts Wed 14-Jan-15 16:05:47

Yes, you are right. Tenants first. I haven't changed contact details at all, and we have had plenty of calls and emails previously.

I know it sounds awful but it had occurred to me it could be an inflated bill. He is a carpenter / labourer so would have contacts in the field.

Good idea to check tenancy agreement, all 5000 pages! Argh.

I guess even if their actions led to the burst pipe we would be liable, and could never prove it anyway.

Scared to let property sit empty while we look for new tenants but have lost faith in them now. Then because I am a hugely optimistic person who watched 'cant pay take it away' on channel 5 I imagine, squatting, eviction, destroyed house and bankruptcy for us.

I have been known to get things out of proportion though wink

firstposts Wed 14-Jan-15 16:11:53

The sad truth is that we cannot afford to be landlords. We don't have savings. We need to sell I think.

Bought in the boom of 2007 and it's now both our hope (in ten years DH leaves forces and we sell and buy dream house) and a curse because its value has not really increased and times like this you feel so vulnerable.

We will have to take a loan to cover the bill, the house cannot be remortgaged as bank won't lend.

Thanks again, mumsnet has helped me calm down and formulate a plan.

CountingThePennies Wed 14-Jan-15 16:59:17

How much was the bill?

What time was the engineer called out?

specialsubject Wed 14-Jan-15 17:00:03

5000 page tenancy agreement? I hope there's a few extra zeroes there!

you can get insurance for all the things I listed, and you really must have them - get on the case of it. Most tenants are decent - as are most landlords. But the damage that can be done by the rogues is enormous.

good luck.

Hoppinggreen Wed 14-Jan-15 17:07:30

It's a long time since I rented but if we wanted a maintenance bill paid for plumbing etc we had to have approval first.
We got someone in to fix the toilet once and had to pay the bill ourselves

QuintlessShadows Wed 14-Jan-15 17:15:23

Can you also contact your old neighbours? Maybe they know something, at least you may be able to find out if the house were empty and the neighbours contacted the tenants to tell them water was gushing out through somewhere.

You need to ask the tenant how come the pipe burst in the first place, and if they were away for the holidays leaving the property without any heating on.

In your favour: The contract stipulates to call you, they didnt. They are responsible for keeping the property in good order, and if they left it with the heating off, that is surely a breach of contract?
They have also already PAID the bill, so you can breathe and find out where you stand. I would also get some legal advice on where you stand, based on your contract and what happened.

wowfudge Wed 14-Jan-15 17:15:28

Exactly Hopping, but the OP needs to be sure she has all the relevant info she needs before challenging anyone over this. I smell a rat - probably an attempt at backside covering, but you never know.

JonathanRolande1 Wed 14-Jan-15 17:42:24

This is a worry. In fairness it sounds like emergency work but surely they could have called you. Get a detailed account of events and an itemised bill and find out why the agent went beyond their remit. Remember insurance may help out with this too.

firstposts Wed 14-Jan-15 17:43:15

Well, I feel smileangryshockgrin

Just called tenant. Called Anthony (my tenant is called Antony) long confused conversation. He tells me ceiling is down, plastic pipe was not sufficient, copper pipe needed all happened on Boxing Day. I say, why didn't you call us? We sorted out your shower last year. He says, you didn't fix my shower. I say, uh we did! He says no, and I don't have your details. I say, 'you do' etc.

Penny drops. I say this is no 7 nowhere terraces, you are Anthony smith? He says no, this is number 8 nowhere terraces, I'm Anthony jones!!!!!

So, thank you. I'm furious the estate agents have had me worrying all day for no reason. I'm beyond grateful that this bill is not mine to pay. I'm feeling guilty that I've been hating my poor innocent tenants all day.

Final thought. Thanks again! Mumsnet saved my sanity today. You're all my heros.

specialsubject Wed 14-Jan-15 18:37:36


and thank goodness. (although not for the other tenant and landlord, but that is not your problem)

when you have calmed down, I seriously suggest changing agents. This kind of cockup is totally unacceptable.

firstposts Wed 14-Jan-15 18:42:19

I know! They are so useless. Double checked all the emails sent today and the agent used our address and just called tenant 'Anthony' so I had absolutely no way of knowing it was a mistake.

I will be asking for a refund of this months fees.

Feel so elated though grin But long term this is a wake up call, we need to think about our financial commitments.

Guyropes Wed 14-Jan-15 18:52:09

So glad this is not your problem. You seem like a lovely landlord.

You must must must change your agent though. There are so many awful agents out there who are trying to get money for nothing... Please don't tolerate a crap agent, it allows them to mess you, other landlords and tenants around.

firstposts Wed 14-Jan-15 19:09:40

Thank you guy ropes smile do try to be good landlords. If they don't refund the fees for month I will move agent.

My 3 year old had zero attention this afternoon as I was making pointless panicky phonecalls and starting my thread on here!

wowfudge Wed 14-Jan-15 20:20:51

Good thing you are managing it yourself. Do look into the insurance cover special mentioned. What a nightmare.

pluCaChange Wed 14-Jan-15 21:40:41


Sorry for shouting with the caps, but that is well beyond incompetence! If they are members of ARLA, get them in trouble for this: that is sheer negligence (if not corruption). Also find out "Anthony Jones's" LL details and get them to sack the agents as well: seriously, such characters do NOT deserve any business.

Amethyst24 Wed 14-Jan-15 21:53:33

I had a similar-ish thing with the letting agent I used to use for my rental. They called me about new tenants coming in, gave me a few details etc, I said, great, they said they'd send me the reference check.

When I got it, I called them and said, "Hold on, you've sent me details of Peter Jones, who's a chef - I thought you were letting my property to John Smith, a police officer."

They'd only sent me the reference check for another tenant of a totally different property. Don't even want to think about the DPA implications!

So glad it's all okay, OP.

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