Question about the obligation of the Check-out clerk to secure the rental property

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    Question about the obligation of the Check-out clerk to secure the rental property

    Our latest tenants vacated our property on February 27. The check-out was done on February 27. The tenants requested to leave before the end of the tenancy because the property had been broken into in November and they were no longer happy in the house. WIthin 48 hours of them leaving, the property was broken into a second time. The mode of entry was very similar - the first break-in occurred by breaking a pane of glass on the kitchen door and also kicking the door in. We replaced the door with one which had no glass. Earlier this week, the thief gained entry through the French doors, also at the back of the property. Pictures show that he broke only a small piece of glass in order to reach in to open the door from the inside. When we received the check-out report, it was stated that the check-out clerk left the French door keys "in situ", i.e. in the door.

    I queried this with our letting agent, as my understanding was that the check-out clerk was responsible for securing the safety of the property, accounting for all keys, as well as checking its condition. I am cutting and pasting my question, and the agent's response:

    My question: When we first spoke, I imagined that the burglar either broke the whole glass panel of the French door and gained access to the house that way, or broke the lock. The photos show that the burglar broke only a small area of glass in order to reach in to open the door from the inside. The check out report states that the French door keys were " in situ". Does this mean that the keys were left in the lock? If so, it is easy to see how and why the burglar attempted to break in again.

    Agent's response: Tenants left the keys in back door and this is what the clerk means by situ, I understand your point but who would of thought that someone would of smashed their way through double glazed doors to get to the key.

    She elaborated in another email that it is common practice to leave keys in the locks and only to return the front door keys and room keys to the letting agent.

    I am at a complete loss to process this. I would welcome other landlord's experiences. Is this common practice? Even with a property that has been recently broken into? To me, the check-out clerk has failed in a key duty of care to the landlord and to the property.

    #2
    I don't think the clerk has any obligation to make the property more safe than they found it.
    I don't see how any duty of care arises, they're paid to make a report on the condition of the property which they did.
    When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
    Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

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      #3
      I don't see any blame attaching to the clerk, they left the door locked and so the property was secure.
      The fact that the housebreaker had to cause damage to get in shows that it was secure.
      (If they had left it unlocked, or a window open, that would be different).

      Obviously a local housebreaker.
      He saw that the tenants had moved out and though that there would be a new tenant with lots of new posessions for him to steal.

      He would have broken in whether the key was in the door or not, as it is he's probably caused less damage by unlocking the doors rather than smashing the door/lock as he did before.

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