I came across an interesting and rather alarming thread on the Property Tribes forum earlier.
A landlord had her property accidently set on fire by her tenant, to the point where it became uninhabitable. Here’s how the landlord explained it:
Yesterday one of my tenants ran out of electric on her meter and rather than topping up the card, has used tealights [approx 40 the fire brigade inform me] in her studio flat to light the way. She had them on carpets, furniture etc and has fallen asleep and has set fire to the flat – it is destroyed and uninhabitable. The rest of the building is smoke damaged and another tenant [flat above] has had to find alternative accommodation last night. Thankfully, everybody is ok.
The tenant has found somewhere to sleep last night – going forwards what are my obligations to the tenant who caused the fire?
Well, fuck me sideways, what a blubbering idiot tenant! If I were the landlord (and thank all that’s good in the world that I’m not) I would have suffered several heart-attacks before completely keeling over!
Surprisingly, the landlord sounded relatively calm.
Never to leave flames unattended is like the cornerstone of general life skills. It’s definitely on every “5 things you should never do” list, which is drilled into our melons from birth:
- Don’t talk with your mouth full
- Don’t have unprotected sex in Thailand
- Don’t talk to strangers
- Don’t do drugs
- DON’T LEAVE A NAKED FLAME UNATTENDED, YOU IDIOT
I’m right, right? Right.
I’m sure it was an accident, but i’m not sure how forgiving I could be. I usually wobble when my tenants stain the carpets or leave gaping holes in the walls, so I’d almost definitely have a complete meltdown in this situation, and forgiveness would be the last sentiment on my mind.
My sympathy goes out to the Landlord. I can’t imagine how stressful going through the ordeal must be.
Sadly, horrific and completely self-inflicted incidents like unattended fires must go down all the time. But I literally can’t think of a more frustrating scenario from a landlord’s perspective.
What is the landlord’s rights in an event of a fire?
Surely it’s the one question that would be on every landlord’s mind in this situation. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENS NOW?
Well, this is what Tessa Shpperson (of LandlordLaw.com), had to say:
I would not refund her rent too quickly (or indeed at all). I assume that you have some sort of clause in the tenancy relating to responsible use. Some tenancies specifically prohibit things like candles. In any event even if candles are not specifically forbidden, the tenant cannot be other than liable to you for the damage done to the property. Hopefully most of your losses will be covered by the insurance, but she will be liable to you for anything not covered (e.g. any excess).
As she is the sole cause of the fire and the fact that she has lost her home, my view is that you are unlikely to owe her any duties as regards re-housing.
It must have been a terrible shock for you, and all due to her stupidity. I don’t think you should let her off too lightly. The insurers also may want to bring a claim against her, so speak to them about this and follow their advice.
So, it seems like the law does work in the landlord’s favour in this case, which is something you don’t often hear these days. ‘spose that’s a silver-lining.
Although, I’m not entirely sure if any amount of compensation would aid my wounds, I’d just be so frustrated with the entire situation, not to mention stressed. Unbelievably and uncontrollably stressed.
Anyways, what a shit-for-brains tenant (I’m genuinely glad no one was injured, though)!
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