Liability for window damage?

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  • Liability for window damage?

    I have a property where a bedroom window was replaced by a previous owner with one of those tilt'n turn replacement uPVC models. Unfortunately the window design is inherently wrong - it's a large window manufactured as a single opening pane, which is too heavy for its hinges. This means that if it's opened sideways (ie like an ordinary front door) the weight of the window strains the hinges (the opener drops visible) and ultimately leading to them and or the frame breaking and the window won't be able to be closed. However, this is no problem in practice as the window also opens in 'tilt' mode along its bottom edge, which is more than adequate for ventilation. I explain all this to tenants moving in, and it's written in the house 'instruction manual'. and ask them specifically never to try and open the window unless in an emergency (ie to escape from a fire!) It's not possible to physically prevent the window opening in 'door' mode in order to preserve the fire exit. The only 'solution' would be a completely new window with two panes, to keep the weight down.

    This has worked fine for the 4-5 years I've been letting the property to different tenants, but I've noticed on a couple of occasions recently when driving past that the window has been open in 'door' mode, the latest tenant clearly ignoring my request. It's actually open on a safety chain, so the air gap is no bigger than provided by the 'tilt' mode, so the hot weather isn't relevant.

    I need to have words, but I'd like to know where I stand if the window does get damaged beyond repair, as is likely if he continues. I don't see why I should be expected to cough up for the inevitably expensive bill under these circumstances - it's not as if the window isn't perfectly serviceable when used as directed. And I'm sure there must be parallels with other aspects of tenant abuse of landlord property. Comments ?

  • #2
    T's use of let property must be in a proper tenant-like manner. Even though T is not liable for the building's structure/windows, deliberate or negligent mis-use renders T liable for compensating L in respect of repairs needed.
    JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
    1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
    2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
    3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
    4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Ericthelobster View Post
      I have a property where a bedroom window was replaced by a previous owner with one of those tilt'n turn replacement uPVC models. Unfortunately the window design is inherently wrong - it's a large window manufactured as a single opening pane, which is too heavy for its hinges. This means that if it's opened sideways (ie like an ordinary front door) the weight of the window strains the hinges (the opener drops visible) and ultimately leading to them and or the frame breaking and the window won't be able to be closed. However, this is no problem in practice as the window also opens in 'tilt' mode along its bottom edge, which is more than adequate for ventilation. I explain all this to tenants moving in, and it's written in the house 'instruction manual'. and ask them specifically never to try and open the window unless in an emergency (ie to escape from a fire!) It's not possible to physically prevent the window opening in 'door' mode in order to preserve the fire exit. The only 'solution' would be a completely new window with two panes, to keep the weight down.

      This has worked fine for the 4-5 years I've been letting the property to different tenants, but I've noticed on a couple of occasions recently when driving past that the window has been open in 'door' mode, the latest tenant clearly ignoring my request. It's actually open on a safety chain, so the air gap is no bigger than provided by the 'tilt' mode, so the hot weather isn't relevant.

      I need to have words, but I'd like to know where I stand if the window does get damaged beyond repair, as is likely if he continues. I don't see why I should be expected to cough up for the inevitably expensive bill under these circumstances - it's not as if the window isn't perfectly serviceable when used as directed. And I'm sure there must be parallels with other aspects of tenant abuse of landlord property. Comments ?
      Despite explanations, demonstrations, instructions in manuals, tenants are apt to forget something of this order or may simply regard this as your problem that you have to fix and pretend to have forgotten.

      In addition, the tenant may regard opening a window in the way they want as his/her right since the property is theirs for a period of time and if anything happened as a result of them carrying out a perfectly normal action like opening the window, I don't think it would be down to them to fix any damage, door mode or not.

      I once had quirky things with a property of mine and had to repeatedly explain things to tenants.
      It doesn't work to keep quirkiness in your home in the long run (unless you beat your tenants into submission or threaten them ala Home Simpson clenched fist waving style) and in my opinion, its best to remove all quirkiness from your property(ies), as indeed I have done.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by TenantsLuvMe View Post
        Despite explanations, demonstrations, instructions in manuals, tenants are apt to forget something of this order or may simply regard this as your problem that you have to fix and pretend to have forgotten.

        In addition, the tenant may regard opening a window in the way they want as his/her right since the property is theirs for a period of time and if anything happened as a result of them carrying out a perfectly normal action like opening the window, I don't think it would be down to them to fix any damage, door mode or not.
        I have emboldened wording. If T uses window perfectly normally, all is OK- and so, if it is damaged, that's L's responsibility.
        BUT if T uses window aberrantly and damages it, i.e. not in a proper tenant-like manner, that's T's responsibility.
        JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
        1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
        2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
        3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
        4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm always amazed at the reluctance of tenants to read "Useful Information" notes and I'm called out for things clearly covered in the notes - that said, I have to admit I tend to neglect instruction books myself.
          Is it essential to keep this window as an emergency exit? If not, I'd secure the relevant corner so that the window will only work in tilt mode.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by jeffrey View Post
            I have emboldened wording. If T uses window perfectly normally, all is OK- and so, if it is damaged, that's L's responsibility.
            BUT if T uses window aberrantly and damages it, i.e. not in a proper tenant-like manner, that's T's responsibility.
            There's no indication that the tenant is using the window in a non-tenant like manner. In any case, I doubt that anyone could prove how a window could be used in a non-tenant like manner. It is either open or closed.
            I doubt that there are referenced and otherwise good tenants around who spend their valulable free time using windows "abberantly".

            If the window is damaged because there is a fault with the window mechanism, that is hardly the tenant's fault.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by TenantsLuvMe View Post
              There's no indication that the tenant is using the window in a non-tenant like manner. In any case, I doubt that anyone could prove how a window could be used in a non-tenant like manner. It is either open or closed.
              I doubt that there are referenced and otherwise good tenants around who spend their valulable free time using windows "abberantly".

              If the window is damaged because there is a fault with the window mechanism, that is hardly the tenant's fault.
              All true, of course, but see first paragraph of OP's post #1.
              JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
              1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
              2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
              3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
              4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by jeffrey View Post
                All true, of course, but see first paragraph of OP's post #1.
                What specifically are you referring to?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Ericthelobster View Post
                  I explain all this to tenants moving in, and it's written in the house 'instruction manual'. and ask them specifically never to try and open the window unless in an emergency (ie to escape from a fire!) It's not possible to physically prevent the window opening in 'door' mode in order to preserve the fire exit...

                  This has worked fine for the 4-5 years I've been letting the property to different tenants, but I've noticed on a couple of occasions recently when driving past that the window has been open in 'door' mode, the latest tenant clearly ignoring my request. It's actually open on a safety chain, so the air gap is no bigger than provided by the 'tilt' mode, so the hot weather isn't relevant.
                  These bits.
                  JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
                  1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
                  2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
                  3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
                  4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jeffrey View Post
                    These bits.
                    ..and to which I have already responded in my first reply.

                    In case of dispute, I doubt these things would hold much water in court, but I'm not a lawyer and there could be some lawyer around who comes up with some wierd and hair-splitting chicanary to prove the tenant liable for the landlord's window.

                    Immoral in my view.

                    Would you prosecute the tenant & defend the landord?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The quote from the original post is not a quote from the instructions given to the tenant unless the instructions say “never to try and open the window unless in an emergency”, I got the impression that the instructions might suggest that a particular method of opening might be a problem. I would say that useful comments on this issue really depend on the specific text and clarity of the instructions given to the tenant rather than a paraphrase, and the fact that it has been working fine for the last 4-5 years is irrelevant to the tenant who has just moved in.
                      I also post as Moderator2 when moderating

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        TenantsLuvMe:
                        "Prosecute" means criminal liability. No, T is not liable for criminal damage unless "without lawful excuse, he [damaged] any property belonging to another intending to..damage [it]...or being reckless as to whether [it] would be...damaged": s.1(1) of Criminal Damage Act 1971.
                        JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
                        1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
                        2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
                        3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
                        4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by jeffrey View Post
                          TenantsLuvMe:
                          "Prosecute" means criminal liability. No, T is not liable for criminal damage unless "without lawful excuse, he [damaged] any property belonging to another intending to..damage [it]...or being reckless as to whether [it] would be...damaged": s.1(1) of Criminal Damage Act 1971.
                          I think you know what I meant.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Ooh - interesting discussion!

                            Originally posted by Mars Mug View Post
                            The quote from the original post is not a quote from the instructions given to the tenant unless the instructions say “never to try and open the window unless in an emergency”, I got the impression that the instructions might suggest that a particular method of opening might be a problem. I would say that useful comments on this issue really depend on the specific text and clarity of the instructions given to the tenant rather than a paraphrase, and the fact that it has been working fine for the last 4-5 years is irrelevant to the tenant who has just moved in.
                            OK, FWIW I've been moved to dig out my own electronic copy of the house "instruction manual" (which is only 1.5 sides of A4 in total and includes everything down to what day the binmen come, phone numbers for utility companies etc) and here's exactly what I wrote 5 years ago!:

                            Bedroom Window:
                            This is a designated ‘Means of Escape’ window in the event of a fire. It is fitted with a safety chain which should normally be left in the ‘locked’ position to prevent people falling out of the window.
                            The window is a ‘tilt-and-turn’ type which means it will open with the hinge along the bottom (ie ‘tilt’) or along the left side. Please always use the ‘tilt’ method except in the event of emergency, as the window is really too heavy for its frame and the hinges have already been strained making it difficult to close in “turn” mode.
                            I notice that I didn't include anything about the tenant being specifically liable in the event of damage - I suspect that might have been deliberate and down to not wanting to scare a brand new tenant, and probably a bad idea in retrospect!?

                            (By the way the reference to the safety chain is not relevant here; it's a Building Regulations issue - because the window sill is quite low, ie lower than 3 feet or whatever - the chain needs to be in place for safety. It would only ever need undoing to open the window fully - when in place it permits opening by about 6" in either 'opening mode')

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Ericthelobster View Post
                              However, this is no problem in practice as the window also opens in 'tilt' mode along its bottom edge, which is more than adequate for ventilation.
                              (my boldening) This is another aspect that is a problem in my view.

                              How can you determine for a tenant what is adequate ventilation for them?
                              What if he/she wants the wind to come billowing into the room, on a hot day for example, or to take pictures of the view from this window, or to enjoy the room/property as they want and as they define it (without wilful damage etc., of course).....etc.,...etc?

                              In my view, you are best served by correcting this problem asap and not to be looking to find convoluted workarounds & placing responsibilities onto the tenant.

                              If I was a tenant, I might consider asking for a reduction in rent for the restriciton that this window problem is posing.

                              Comment

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