Fridge Repair - Unhappy Tenant

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    Fridge Repair - Unhappy Tenant

    Hello,

    First posting on this forum, and I was looking for a bit of help on something;

    I’m one of these reluctant landlords, was moving house at just the wrong time and ended up with an empty flat at the same time as a friend’s relative was looking for somewhere to stay. She’s now been there a year and a half, always paid rent on time, etc. We started out with a one page email agreement and when it became medium term I got a standard short assured tenancy agreement (Scotland) off the web.

    Last month she reported problems with the fridge, which is still under manufacturer warranty. Sequence of events (I’ve still got the texts) was;

    18th May – Reported alarm sounding, indicates temperature dropping. I’ve had this happen before and I fixed it by turning off and fully defrosting, so I asked her to do this.
    19th May – She reported that the fridge was not cooling at all. I phoned John Lewis, and arranged an engineer call for first available date (the Following Tuesday).
    26th May – Engineer came and wrote the fridge off (It’s less than three years old).
    27th May – Tenant contacted me (evening) to say there was some paperwork I had to deal with
    28th May – Phoned Warranty company – confirmed letter had been sent out for replacement.
    2nd June – Letter arrives at flat. I go down to collect at 5pm that afternoon and order new fridge at 6pm, get first available delivery time.
    9th June – New Fridge arrives.

    Tennant is now saying that she has been without fridge for three weeks and lost some food through no fault of her own and I should have arranged a temporary replacement. On that basis she’s proposing taking £200 off this month’s rent.

    From my point of view I think I did everything I could do as fast as possible. I’m not sure how I could get a temporary replacement short of buying another fridge, and I don’t see how I could be expected to do this either in the week it took for the engineer to come round or in the two weeks it took to get a replacement delivered. Even if I’d bought one straight away it would take a week to deliver.

    I don’t be the wicked landlord and I want to do the right thing by her, but is this really my responsibility ? I’d welcome your views – thanks.

    Coincidentally, the tenant is moving out next month so I do owe her a deposit.

    #2
    £200 worth of food !
    Must be a very large fridge

    Comment


      #3
      Simmo,

      Ask her to detail in writing exactly how she estimates her food losses at £200. I wouldn't discuss anything about her claim until I'd seen that.

      You've got to give people enough rope to hang themselves with, and there is always the possibility that she genuinely did lose £200 worth of food so you need to get her to demonstrate that if that's the case. However, short of having a bag of truffles in there, I think it's fair to say that she's probably just trying it on.

      Comment


        #4
        It appears that T is seeking compensation for inconvenience as well as food that has spoiled.
        I would be inclined to send a letter headed 'WITHOUT PREJUDICE' words to the effect that 'it's not the L's responsibility to maintain white goods and, in any, case you acted as quickly as possible under the circumstances (claiming under a warranty takes longer than going out and buying a replacement) however you are prepared to contribute towards spoiled food and inconvenience in the sum of £40'
        IMO, that's a reasonable sum and what I'd be happy to settle for as a good compromise.

        harry

        Comment


          #5
          While broadly I agree that the tenant is trying it on a bit, it's always helpful to consider in these circumstances what you'd do and how you'd feel if it was you being put out, rather than your tenant.

          In the calendar of events you describe, you've obviously down everything as quickly as you could; however it took a full week for John Lewis to inspect the faulty fridge, then it took them almost two more weeks to move from condemning the fridge to delivering you a new one. For something like a fridge during the summer (rather than, say, a TV), I think that's pretty appalling. Would you have accepted that if it had been your own fridge at home?

          Comment


            #6
            From what you said the £200 is part food cost, and part inconvenience compensation (which should be negotiable).

            Regardless of how it started out, you are providing a service. If you consider what you would do and how you would feel in the same position as the tenant then maybe your view might change a little. If I lost the contents of my fridge/freezer and was without an alternative for three weeks I would not be happy. In any other customer service type scenario where a customer is significantly inconvenienced and there are losses then most people would argue that a refund/compensation is appropriate. For sure you did as much as you could, as quickly as you could, but does that make being without a fridge/freezer for three weeks any easier?
            I also post as Moderator2 when moderating

            Comment


              #7
              It hinges on two important points (IMO). Firstly, is the L responsible for the maintenance of white goods? - if not mentioned in the lease then possibly not, in which case there's nothing to pay. My understanding from other posts/threads is that the L is only responsible for heating and lighting, not other electrical goods.

              If the L is responsible then it should be seen in the context of the whole residency and compensation should be proportionate. The T had the benefit in the 3 weeks concerned of the flat of which the 'fridge is just a small part of the overall tenancy. I believe my suggested figure of £40 in earliers post is more realistic but should be offered 'without prejudice' otherwise any offer could be construed as acceptance of liability.

              And in any case, the T should have his/her own insurance policy to cover such risk.
              also the L could try to claim under the warranty if not too late.

              harry

              Comment


                #8
                1. L is certainly not responsible under section 11. Appliances are outside the section's scope.
                2. L might be liable contractually, if:
                a. the refrigerator is shown on the pre-Letting inventory; and
                b. the Agreement says that L is liable.
                3. Did T not have contents insurance, however? This covers food damaged by refrigerator/deep-freezer failure, unless the appliance was kept in a garage (for instance) where the ambient teperature is lower than in the house and so the insurance conditions are breached.
                4. And what about L's warranty for the newly-purchased appliance? If L paid by credit card, the card-provider is also liable.
                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


                  #9
                  Thanks for your opinions, here's mine (and a bit of an update).

                  Tenant viewed the flat with Fridge, washing machine in place so I think she's entitled to expect that they will work. I've had a situation before when I left an old TV explicitly stating that it would not be replaced if it failed. In this case, because of the circumstances she moved in, there's no inventory.

                  I asked tenant how much food was worth, and she said £100, the additional £100 is for inconvenience / loss of facility. It turns out that the warranty will cover the food in the freezer, so I'll claim for that on her behalf.

                  Would I be upset if it happened to me ? Yes. Would I have had a replacement any faster if I had the same situation in my own home ? No.

                  My expectation is that I am supplying a repair / replacement up to the standard that she would get if she had bought the appliance herself. Short of going out and buying another fridge the minute the engineer was called there's not much more I could have done. It's not like I've left her with an old second hand frifge, it was less than three years old so it was reasonable to expect it to last (it replaced a 20 year old fridge).

                  I think if you accept that fridge food is written off and freezer food is paid by warranty we're now talking about the £100 she's claiming for inconvenience.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by simmo View Post
                    I asked tenant how much food was worth, and she said £100
                    I assume she has empty food packets, or photos of spoiled food and receipts or bank statements to prove there was £100 of food that spoiled? Can't see the insurer paying up without some evidence!

                    If you feel £100 is too much compensation for the inconvenience it might be worth calling Citizens Advice Bureau, that way you can demonstrate that you have been reasonable and sought independent advice.

                    Question for the legal experts: Would the suitable amount of compensation depend on the amount of rent? i.e. If the rent is only £400-500pcm would suitable compensation be approx. half what it would be if the rent is £800-£1000?

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I would compare the rental income of the place with/without a fridge/freezer, I doubt there’s a lot in it, and that would be my starting point for talking about compensation for the three weeks, but maybe accept something slightly higher since someone initally renting a property without a fridge would probably plan to get one.
                      I also post as Moderator2 when moderating

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by Mars Mug View Post
                        I would compare the rental income of the place with/without a fridge/freezer, I doubt there’s a lot in it, and that would be my starting point for talking about compensation for the three weeks, but maybe accept something slightly higher since someone initally renting a property without a fridge would probably plan to get one.
                        Just to finish this off,

                        Thanks for your opinions on this one. One thing which I feel is relevant is that because the Tenant was a friend of a relative who couldn't afford full rent, and appeared in the country at exactly the time the flat became empty, she was getting the flat at a substantial discount (£250 p/mnth from market rate). This left me with a bit less financial leeway and sympathy than otherwise.

                        I wrote back to her that bearing in mind that I'd done all that I could as fast as I could, she didn't offer any solution during the problem, and throughout the repair / replace period I had no reason to think the outage would be more than a week I disagreed with her claim. That said, I'll be claiming the food on the manufacturer warranty (she gave me an itemised list for £153 which looked plausible) and if she did disagree and could suggest some independant way of coming to a decision I'd be happy to look at that.

                        She's accepted what I said, so that's the end of it.

                        Comment

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