I came across an interesting 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 accomodation 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 the tenant must be. The landlord sounds relatively calm, which is quite surprising. Or maybe I’m just an irrational psycho? If I were the Landlord, I wouldn’t rest until I had my tenant’s corpse hanging next to my favourite Burtons suit.
Never to leave flames unattended is like the cornerstone of general life skills. It’s definitely somewhere in the “5 things you should never do” list, which is drilled into us from the day we’re born…
- Don’t talk with your mouth full
- Don’t have unprotected sex in Thailand
- Don’t drink and drive
- Don’t do drugs
- DON’T LEAVE A NAKED FLAME UNATTANEDED, YOU IDIOT
I’m right, right?
I’m sure it was an accident, but i’m not sure how forgiving i’d be. I go wobbly when my tenants merely stain the carpets, so i’d probably go in complete meltdown in this situation. My sympathy goes out to the Landlord. I can’t imagine how stressful going through that must be. It almost makes me appreciate the spawn of satan, my ex-tenant, that I had to evict because she was a total scumbag.
I assume shit like this goes down all the time. The question which most interested me is, what rights do a landlord have in this situation? Well, this is what Tessa Shpperson (an English solicitor, and specialist in residential landlord and tenant law), 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 good news. But i’m not entirely sure if any of that would be enough. I feel i’d need to lash the tenant at least 10 times with a snake skin whip before I start to feel any better. Even then, i’d still feel lousy. Maybe i’d need sexual favours or something… That’s only fair, right? I mean, she did just burn my livelihood down to the ground because SHE’S AN INCOMPETNANT IDIOT. Right.
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