Compensation due to tenant or not?

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    Compensation due to tenant or not?

    There was a leak in the attic of one of my houses, and this caused the ceiling of the bedroom below to fall in.
    My agent attended the scene straight away and offered the tenant (a student) alternative accommodation, a similar empty house 1/2 mile away. The tenant declined this.
    My agent got a quote for the work the next day and the room was totally back to normal - new ceiling, carpet, etc, within 7 days of the incident.
    During the work my agent advised the tenant to remove all his belongings from the room in case they got damaged. However the plasterer who fixed the ceiling told him there was no need to take his clothes from the wardrobe since this would be covered up. In fact the plasterer did not cover the wardrobe properly and the tenant's clothes were damaged.
    The tenant is now asking me for compensation. My instinct is that I do not have to pay him anything since my agent acted quickly to fix the problem, and offered alternative accommodation in the mean time. Also the main problem seems to have been with the plasterer, who badly advised him to leave his clothes, against my agent's advice to move them.
    In the interest of peaceful relations I am not opposed to refunding him 7 days rent for the time the room was uninhabitable, but I am keen that this isn't seen as an admission of liability which opens me up to further action.
    Does anyone have any ideas?
    P.S. The tenant is saying his main reason for not accepting the alternative accommodation was that it had no active phone line for an internet connection, so he could not do his Uni work effectively.

    1. Remember your tenant was the victim here! Under the circumstances he had a right to decline alternative accommodation (He could have charged you for any removal costs, and reasonable expenses too so you have probably got off lightly).
    2. You should make an ex-gratia payment "without liability" but you have to decide how much. Perhaps 4 days seems fair as he still could live there but was inconvenienced.
    3. If your plasterer damaged his clothes then unfortunately you must compensate the tenant, BUT...........
    4. You should deduct an equivalent amount from the plasterers bill as it his no business of his to interfere with instructions/advice from your agent to the tenant.
    5. Think logically about who's responsible to whom. The tenant has a contract with you as landlord and nobody else. You have a contract with your agent, and by vicarious liability, any tradesmen they appoint, so you can see how you should go about this.
    6. If the agent instructed the plasterer it will have been on your behalf so it's as though the instruction came from you.

    Easy when you think about it!
    The advice I give should not be construed as a definitive answer, and is without prejudice or liability. You are advised to consult a specialist solicitor or other person of equal legal standing.


      Thanks for the advice, Paul.


        Does the following look OK?

        I am happy that my agent acted above and beyond the call of duty in this matter. The time in which he got the room habitable again was first class.

        I am also happy that his offer to you of alternative accommodation was a creative and satisfactory solution to the temporary problem of your accommodation.

        All in all I am completely satisfied that, through my agent, I took all reasonable steps to limit any inconvenience which arose from this unforeseen event.

        However as a gesture of goodwill I am prepared to offer you a refund equivalent to 7 days rent, as an ex gratia payment without admission of liability, to be accepted in full and final settlement of any claims arising out of your inability to occupy your room for the time referred to in your letter. This will be returned at the end of your tenancy, along with any bond monies due back to you, on the condition that you are up to date with all rent owed on the final day of your tenancy.

        I look forward to hearing from you.


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