Woaaah! Flood warnings are coming thick and fast in the UK at the moment, with thousands of home owners up and down the country facing the effects of flood damage to their properties. It can be devastating for those affected. But, what does it mean for landlords and tenants?
The responsibility to take action for flood damage is a murky issue for many landlords – as murky as flood water – and it’s something many landlords won’t have prepared for, especially in areas where flooding isn’t flagged as high-risk. If the recent weeks is anything to go by, even properties outside of the risk areas are vulnerable to the wrath of mother nature.
Who’s responsible for the flood damage, landlord or tenant?
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 requires landlords to keep rented accommodation in a reasonable state of repair, which includes making repairs to the property caused by flooding. However, dirty marks on the outer walls do not count as ‘flood damage’ on their own, even if it does look unsightly and causes house-proud tenants sleepless nights.
Damage that does require immediate attention by the landlord is that which affects the habitability of the property. For example, water soaking into carpets and physical damage to the structure of the building. It is also the landlords responsibility to replace any furnishings provided with the property. Water can also severely damage low-lying gas and electricity supply, so this to must be properly checked and could require extensive repair.
Does the tenant have to move out?
Minor flood damage
If the damage is minor, then there may not be any need for the tenant to vacate the property, although this means the landlord retains responsibility for the safety of the tenant during this time.
Moderate flood damage
If the repairs are going to take a few weeks and the property is inhabitable, the landlord is not obligated to find alternative accommodation for the tenant. However, the landlord’s insurance policy may include temporary rehousing for the tenants. In this instance, the tenants would carry on paying their normal rent to the landlord and any additional expense would be covered by the insurers. Once the work is complete and the property is habitable once again, the tenants would then be able to move back into the property.
Serious flood damage
In the unfortunate event that severe flood damage has been caused, and several months is required to complete the repairs, it might be worth calling upon the terms of the tenancy agreement to see what it says about this sort of situation. Some tenancy agreements state that if a property becomes uninhabitable due to fire or flood, then the tenancy is terminated. In any case, the tenant is responsible for finding alternative accommodation, and whether or not the tenancy will continue/remain after the repairs is dependent on what the tenancy agreement states. Although, in this situation, it might be best to mutually terminate the tenancy.
It’s also worth noting, people who have been made homeless by reason of fire or a natural disaster will be classed as “priority need”, which means they can contact the Local Authority to provide them with emergency accommodation.
An increasing amount of landlords are starting to stretch their policies to cover flood damage, but at an added expense, but it’s nothing compared to the costs that can escalate to repair flood damage. A landlord who is not covered against flooding has left themselves open to serious financial debt after a natural disaster.
I’m not familiar with too many insurance companies that do cover flood damage for landlords (i’m not entirely sure how sought after the policy is), but I’m sure there are plenty out there.!
If you are already covered for flood damage, it is important to remember that you need to satisfy the requirements of your insurance company if you are to make a claim on your policy when flood damage occurs. Some tenants may be applying pressure to have damaged units and carpets replaced quickly, but it is important that the insurance company gets to assess the damage before changes are made, should they so wish. Once the flooding has subsided and a tenant can access the property, they should then get in contact with the insurance provider. It’s also important to remember that tenant’s are responsible for their own personal belongings that they bring into the property, and not the landlord. Tenants should have a separate insurance policy to cover their own contents, as most landlords only get policies that cover the building and their own contents.
Unfortunately those affected by floods may face an increase in their premiums once the water finally drains away, so these costs may need to be factored in across a property portfolio.
Out of curiosity, have any of you landlords/tenants been in a situation where flood damage has occurred? I would be interested to know how the situation got resolved and who was responsible for what. Seems like a complicated and stressful scenario; something I’d never like to experience! I’d also like to mention, i’d question the sanity of any landlord that actually deems it appropriate to buy a property in a high-risk flooding area!