Property damaged. Advice please

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    Property damaged. Advice please

    Apologies if something similar has already been covered elsewhere. I did try to search but couldn't find anything that matched my situation particularly closely. A huge thanks in advance to any of you who do take the time to read and advise.

    TLDR version: Police have forced entry into my property. I'm told they done so due to concern for my tenants welfare. My insurance company are currently processing my claim but have hinted that as this isn't strictly speaking either 'accidental' or 'malicious' damage the policy may not cover the cost of repair. Even if they do settle the claim the maximum pay out wont cover the full cost of the repair. My tenant is not in arrears but rarely pays his rent on time so clearly isn't awash with cash to cover any repair costs himself. Where do I stand?

    Longer version:

    I received a phone call from a letting agent to advise that the front door to a property I own was damaged by police to gain entry after reports of concern for my tenant's welfare. I am told that the tenant's father had been unable to contact the tenant and had raised concerns with the police. For reasons that no one has explained in detail, the police attended my property late one evening and forced entry as the tenant was not answering the door. The letting agent do have a spare key but whether the father, tenant's girlfriend or any neighbours would know who the agents are in order to contact them for a key even if the visit was made during working hours is unclear. The tenant, I'm told, was found inside the property alive and well. I've received no explanation for why he hadn't answered the door or responded to the prior attempts at contact from his father.

    I have a police incident number but, although it doesn't particularly help me, understandably the police are quoting privacy policies in refusing to disclose their version of events or reason for needing to attend the property. The letting agent have said they believe the tenant may be suffering from mental health issues and neighbours, who I keep in contact with, have said that although he hasn't caused any real disruption, some of his behaviour suggests as such too. Although some of the story is unexplained (why didn't he just open the door? why did the police visit late in the evening rather than during the day? didn't anyone have a spare key or know who the letter agent were to contact them?) which does make me wonder if I'm being given the full truth by the tenant, it seems possible the police had legitimate concern for him.

    This has left me with a property with a damaged front door. The letting agent initially suggested that the tenant accepted liability and was willing to pay for repair, even suggesting he had a contact who could do so cheaply as a favour. This offer has since been withdrawn, no doubt in part because the tenant could not afford the cost of the repair as his rent payments rarely come in on time (it's always paid in full eventually, and he's not in arrears, but it's always between 1-10 days late with no notice or explanation). The letting agent have provided three quotes for the repair, including the tenant's contact who is actually the most expensive of the three. I have contacted my insurance company and although they agreed to open the claim on an 'accidental damage' basis I'm advised the claim may be unsuccessful as the damage wasn't actually an accident. This leaves me with two possible outcomes:

    1) The insurance company pay out, As the claim is on an 'accidental' damage basis the pay out isn't enough to cover the full repair so I'd still be out of pocket and inevitably my premium will be increased come renewal time
    2) The insurance company refuse to pay out as this wasn't an accident and I'm stuck with the full repair costs

    Any advice on where I stand with regards to recovering costs or suggestions on how any of you with more experience with this sort of situation than I have would deal with this is greatly appreciated.

    My initial thought is screw the tenant, no one needs that sort of liability and what are my options for eviction but if this can be sorted by an insurance claim and some sort of longer term repayment plan to cover the difference, maybe that's being too harsh.

    #2
    Your last few thoughts would be mine, it sounds all to familiar, the Police will not pay out, it appears they had a valid reason for forcing entry and you will never get to know on what basis they did it, if it were me i would guess that the tenant has made either previous or recent comments in regards harming himself and without being able to contact him they have forced entry (this is very common), the tenant should pay of course but as you say it appears he has limited funds, how about suggesting that you pay but that his rent is increased by £20 per month for as long as it takes to pay it off ? I cannot see his mental health improving here and things like this may happen again, i would be looking to evict (we are not a charity remember). I concur that the insurance company is unlikely to payout. A tenant such as you appear to have are very time consuming and stressful, I would not want them to continue to rent from me.Whilst we still have it i would issue a S21. Good Luck.

    Comment


      #3
      Harsh as it sounds I agree with Hudson01 about serving notice. I suspect that in this case the tenant will try for social housing and be advised to drag the eviction out until the bitter end.

      Comment


        #4
        Cheers both, it's much appreciated that you've taken the time to read my small essay above and even thought to respond!

        I agree that the police aren't going to pay for the damages and I don't believe they should have to either as they seem to have done nothing wrong. No one has suggested that the police had no business being at the property so I believe they were acting lawfully. I may not believe that I'm being told the full story but I don't doubt that the police had reason to force entry. My doubt lies only in what that reason might have been and how much of this is the tenant's direct fault. As much as I agree none of us are operating as a charity, personally I'm inclined to be a little more forgiving if there was genuine concern for his welfare than, for example, had the police searched the property for evidence related to something else or made an arrest.

        Increasing the rent had been a consideration but I'm not sure how productive this would be given he already struggles with payments. At £20 per month, even if the insurance does pay out, we're still looking at 12 months before my costs (insurance excess and the repair costs above what the insurance will pay out for 'accidental' damage) would be covered, it's far longer than that if the insurance refuse to foot the bill. Increasing the rent much more than that puts his rent above the local market rate and probably increases the chance that the rent stops coming in at all if he either moves out voluntarily after finding somewhere cheaper or is evicted for lack of payments. I'm then left having paid the full bill and with an empty property advertised for a similar rate to what I'm already receiving (albeit often belatedly) now.

        Thankfully some of the time consumption is swallowed by the letting agency. I'm a self confessed 'accidental landlord' who doesn't have much interest in the day to day dealings with tenants so have palmed that off to them but even the regular questioning of whether the rent has arrived each month was already starting to take time out of my day, and now there's this!

        I don't want to be unnecessarily harsh on the guy if he's genuinely struggling as the late payments have little real impact on my day to day finances. I have, however, repeatedly asked that he at least just warns me in advance if I'm not going to get the money on time, as a courtesy, and he refuses to do so which is getting frustrating. The damage to my property through his own (lack of) actions and the expectation that I should foot the bill, either via insurance or personally, has made me a lot less patient with him now so I'm a little glad to know that the consensus so far is that eviction doesn't seem too unfair to some of you.

        Interesting reading about the potential removal of S21. That in itself gives me something to think about as, with his rent being delayed but never in arears, I seem to have few other grounds to evict if/when that is abolished.

        Does S21 and a court claim for repair costs seem sensible?

        Comment


          #5
          It is difficult to see on what basis the tenant is legally liable. He did not personally damage the door or ask anyone else to do so. There is no obligation on a person to open his front door.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by Lawcruncher View Post
            It is difficult to see on what basis the tenant is legally liable. He did not personally damage the door or ask anyone else to do so. There is no obligation on a person to open his front door.
            True as that might be, is there not an obligation on him to take reasonable care of my property while he resides there? When even the neighbours say they heard the police's attempts to get the tenant to open the door and then force entry, surely it's not unreasonable to expect that the tenant should have at least thought to investigate what was going on at the time?

            Comment


              #7
              Any normal person would open the door to check what is going on. He heard them breaking the door and still did not open. I would evict.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by Lawcruncher View Post
                It is difficult to see on what basis the tenant is legally liable. He did not personally damage the door or ask anyone else to do so. There is no obligation on a person to open his front door.
                If the tenancy ended tomorrow, the damage would be claimed from the tenant.

                They're responsible for what happens in the property while they're living there - just as an owner would be responsible, if the same thing happened to them.

                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).

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by jpkeates View Post
                  If the tenancy ended tomorrow, the damage would be claimed from the tenant.

                  They're responsible for what happens in the property while they're living there - just as an owner would be responsible, if the same thing happened to them.
                  Tenant not responsible if police damage the door in my opinion. The tenant didn’t do it why should he pay?

                  If I left to go on a random holiday and told no one and the police were called thinking I was suicidal within the house and they kicked the door down and the landlord tried it on with damages and touch my deposit id seek a lawyer and take it to court if deemed by a lawyer of a good chance of winning.

                  Also the tenant didn’t commit any offence as far as I’m aware and is not obliged to open the door if it’s just a welfare check.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    As has been said by others, he does not need to open the door and it appears his mental health is impacting his behaviour to such an extent that it will keep costing you money......... knowing this, he would have to go.The best place for those suffering severe mental health propblems is not the PRS, it is within the local authority housing system...... less said about that the better.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by Hudson01 View Post
                      As has been said by others, he does not need to open the door and it appears his mental health is impacting his behaviour to such an extent that it will keep costing you money......... knowing this, he would have to go.The best place for those suffering severe mental health propblems is not the PRS, it is within the local authority housing system...... less said about that the better.
                      I agree fully.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by mokka View Post
                        The tenant didn’t do it why should he pay?
                        It's a loss to the landlord arising while the tenant was responsible for the property.
                        It's not necessary for them to have caused the damage themselves or been negligent in any way.

                        The tenant should try and recover the cost from the police (although they might as well not bother).

                        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).

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by mokka View Post
                          If I left to go on a random holiday and told no one and the police were called thinking I was suicidal within the house and they kicked the door down and the landlord tried it on with damages and touch my deposit id seek a lawyer and take it to court if deemed by a lawyer of a good chance of winning.
                          Personally, If I'd left home (rented or otherwise) without notifying anyone and came back to find someone honestly thought I was suicidal to the point they had asked the police to force entry, which I can't imagine is the sort of thing they do lightly, I'd feel thoroughly embarrassed and, assuming the friend/family who contacted the police had made every effort to contact me first, fully responsible for the damage.

                          "...if deemed by a lawyer..." is doing a lot of lifting in that last sentence.

                          The comparison to being away from home is fairly irrelevant though as there's a big assumption that no one was in the property at the time of the event, that isn't the case here and the tenant had plenty of opportunity to open the door.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            minorbark if you are a self-confessed accidental landlord (a term I loathe) and have zero interest in managing the property at all why don't you just sell it and invest the proceeds from the sale in something else?

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by DoricPixie View Post
                              minorbark if you are a self-confessed accidental landlord (a term I loathe) and have zero interest in managing the property at all why don't you just sell it and invest the proceeds from the sale in something else?
                              Whether you loathe the term or not is of little consequence, there are plenty of people in similar situations to me that have caused the term to come into popular use.

                              I bought the property some years ago and used it as my own primary home. I have since moved house but it made no financial sense to sell the property at the time so I chose not to. Letting the property was never my primary aim when I first purchased it but the market at the time I wished to sell made me consider it. I am employed full time elsewhere and don't need another hobby so I let an agency manage the property on a day to day basis on my behalf and while it's still financially viable to do so, I intend to continue. Not that I need to justify my decision as it doesn't impact what I can/can't or shouldn't/shouldn't do in relation to my current tenant.

                              Comment

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