Burst damage- can T obtain copy of L's insurance policy?

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  • Burst damage- can T obtain copy of L's insurance policy?

    My question relates to this statement in my lease, and the general premise I have seen on this forum that a tenant must take “due care and attention” for their rented property.

    The statement reads:
    To take all reasonable precautions against frost damage, and should any damage result from the Tenant’s failure to take such precautions, to effect all necessary repairs to reinstate the damaged system into good working order and repair any damage that may have been caused to the Property and fixtures and fittings


    First, some background:

    I rent a property with my partner. We recently went away for 12 days, over New Years. Having experienced the stress frost damage can cause (from a previous incident some time ago), we made sure that the heating was on timer for four one hour blocks whilst away. Of course, we returned to find the place awash with water! At some point during our trip, one of the pipes had burst in the roof void.

    Considerable damage was done to the property. During the re-heating of the house, it was discovered the there were two breaks in the central heating pipes in the roof void as well. Now, being the handyman, and wishing to avoid as much stress for my landlord as possible, I repaired these leaks on the Sunday (after spending the previous night in a hotel, having discovered the mess at 8pm on the Saturday).

    I promptly called the landlord on Monday, who came out to inspect the property. Expecting to find the damage and repair an issue for his building insurance, I was unpleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t going to be so simple. The building is owned by a company, not an individual. Their building insurance, it seems, has an excess in the tens of thousands, and the representative said they would not be claiming on it. As such, we now face the carpets trying to be dried, rather than being replaced, and general comments about the bills we are rapidly running up in regards to the utilities (for the dehumidifiers and heating) that we would “work it out later”.

    Now, I have no reason to assume that we are going to be left holding the can, so to speak, but it is more hassle than I was expecting. The most important thing for me was the comment from the rep that this is a “grey area” as there is no way to prove to the Landlord that I did indeed have the heating on. Now, the pipes in the roof are not insulated, so I would have thought that it would not be all that grey at all!


    So, my question is two-fold. Firstly, what point is there in the statement in the lease above, and the general approach that a tenant must take “due care” if I cannot prove that I have taken said care? After all, why should I have bothered with the heating at all, if someone later says “ah yes, but you can’t prove that, can you?”


    The second part of my question relates to my particular situation. Am I to expect to have to shoulder some of the costs of all this? I feel slightly aggrieved, as one of the advantages of renting is that things like this (I thought) were the issue of the Landlord. If not, I would be better off in my own property – in fact, more so in this case, as I would have had decent property cover that would have arranged it all for me by now!

    I’d be interested to hear people’s opinions on my situation.

  • #2
    I was unpleasantly surprised to find it wasn’t going to be so simple. The building is owned by a company, not an individual. Their building insurance, it seems, has an excess in the tens of thousands, and the representative said they would not be claiming on it.
    There's something not right there, are you saying an individual claim has to be in excess of 'tens of thousands' before the insurance company will cough up ? It sounds to me as if someone is telling you 'porkies'.
    In any case it sounds as if you could take them through a small claim to cover your costs.
    I offer no guarantee that anything I say is correct. wysiwyg

    Comment


    • #3
      To be honest, I think it would be iffy to argue that you took reasonable precautions against burst pipes (given that they clearly froze in the cold conditions), so I think this should count as accidental damage to the fixtures and fittings.

      It sounds like you should be covering carpets etc from your contents insurance, unless you want to go to court to argue the case. Not sure about the damage to the building structure (if any) -- surely it's not your fault that the LL is effectively underinsured.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by asquithea View Post
        To be honest, I think it would be iffy to argue that you took reasonable precautions against burst pipes (given that they clearly froze in the cold conditions), so I think this should count as accidental damage to the fixtures and fittings.

        It sounds like you should be covering carpets etc from your contents insurance, unless you want to go to court to argue the case. Not sure about the damage to the building structure (if any) -- surely it's not your fault that the LL is effectively underinsured.
        Who is liable for what in this situation must surely depend on whether the tenant behaved correctly during the very cold weather. To be honest I do not think that four blocks of one hour's heating would have been sufficient to keep pipes from freezing given the temperatures outside over the last two weeks, but if OP went away before the very low temperatures set in, it could be argued that these constituted freak conditions about which he could not reasonably have known in advance. OP, on what date did you leave the property?

        We asked our tenants (who also went away over Christmas and New Year) to leave the boiler on, at the 'frost' setting, and the radiators turned on, so the temperature in the property would not drop below 4 degrees Celsius. They did this, but even so, when the outside temperature hit minus eight, we went up and switched the water off to the property so that any water leaking from frozen and (subsequently thawing) pipes would be limited. We should really have asked the tenants to switch the water off, but it is rare that it gets as cold as minus 8.

        Should OP's LL have requested he do this/done this himself? Or should OP have done it, as he would if he were an owner occupier?

        Perhaps someone with more experience of insurance claims will have a view as to whether the tenant acted reasonably in the circumstances or not. If he did act with reasonable prudence then I do not see why he should have to compensate the LL for his carpets etc.

        It is definitely a case for an insurance claim but LL might claim T should pay the excess. The 'thousands' excess seems very odd, I agree.
        'Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation fo the first link on one memorable day'. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by jta View Post
          There's something not right there, are you saying an individual claim has to be in excess of 'tens of thousands' before the insurance company will cough up ? It sounds to me as if someone is telling you 'porkies'. ...
          I think the implication was that the policy covered the entire business, not individual properties per policy.


          Originally posted by asquithea View Post
          To be honest, I think it would be iffy to argue that you took reasonable precautions against burst pipes (given that they clearly froze in the cold conditions), so I think this should count as accidental damage to the fixtures and fittings. ...
          That is an interesting argument. Does that mean that a "reasonable precaution" is anything that results in no damage, and as soon as any damage occurs, the precautions are considered no longer reasonable? Where would that leave someone where say a tree fell on their house? By the very act of the tree falling, they have failed to take reasonable precautions?

          Originally posted by asquithea View Post
          ... It sounds like you should be covering carpets etc from your contents insurance, unless you want to go to court to argue the case. Not sure about the damage to the building structure (if any) -- surely it's not your fault that the LL is effectively underinsured.
          As far as I aware (from our policy people anyway) carpets are never covered in contents, as they are a "fixture". - I should have added that I would very much like to be proven wrong here, as the carpets are terribly damp smelling at the moment.


          Originally posted by mind the gap View Post
          Who is liable for what in this situation must surely depend on whether the tenant behaved correctly during the very cold weather. To be honest I do not think that four blocks of one hour's heating would have been sufficient to keep pipes from freezing given the temperatures outside over the last two weeks, but if OP went away before the very low temperatures set in, it could be argued that these constituted freak conditions about which he could not reasonably have known in advance. OP, on what date did you leave the property? ...
          We left on the 24th Dec, returned on the 27th, staying overnight, and leaving the next day. We were in the property for the night only of the 27th. We returned on the Saturday just gone, having been by the pool in South East Asia, and totally unaware that there was such a large cold snap occuring. I would add that the Landlord was saying that they would have set the heating themselves for four one hour blocks if the property had been unoccupied, as their default policy.

          Originally posted by mind the gap View Post
          ... Perhaps someone with more experience of insurance claims will have a view as to whether the tenant acted reasonably in the circumstances or not. If he did act with reasonable prudence then I do not see why he should have to compensate the LL for his carpets etc.

          It is definitely a case for an insurance claim but LL might claim T should pay the excess. The 'thousands' excess seems very odd, I agree.
          The Landlord is not saying that they wish us to pay for the carpets - only that they intend keeping them. My issue is my liablity in regards to the utilities bills during the cleanup (the dehumid units are chewing up the power) and the excess water bill. If I owned the preoperty, none of this would be an issue. It's enough that the house is very damp, and the bathroom practically unusable at the moment as it is.

          Comment


          • #6
            The fact that you were out of the country and unaware of the cold weather is neither here nor there, really. I was not saying it is necessarily your fault that the pipes burst; I was just exploring the possibilities. You are supposed to act in a 'tenant-like way', in other words do everything an owner occupier would do with the exception of repairs to the property (for which LL is responsible). It could be argued that an absent OO would have been caught out in this freakishly cold snap, too.

            If the carpets got wet and remained wet for several days, your chances of restoring them to an acceptable state are very slim. For your health's sake it would be better to claim for them on the insurance.
            'Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation fo the first link on one memorable day'. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

            Comment


            • #7
              your landlord also has a responsibility to ensure the house is habitable. I would not of thought that it the carpets were wet, and highly unlikely to be dry in this current weather any time soon, that this is not the case.

              The carpets are going to shrink when dry and wont fit properly?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by EasyUserName View Post
                Does that mean that a "reasonable precaution" is anything that results in no damage, and as soon as any damage occurs, the precautions are considered no longer reasonable?
                This year's cold weather's been particularly protracted, but not (unless you're in Scotland) much colder than typical "pipe freezing" weather. From this, I would draw the conclusion that you didn't take reasonable precautions. But that's purely as a disinterested party speculating on how a court might see it -- I'm not sure my precautions would have been any better in your position.

                As far as I aware (from our policy people anyway) carpets are never covered in contents, as they are a "fixture". - I should have added that I would very much like to be proven wrong here, as the carpets are terribly damp smelling at the moment.
                Yes, that's what I was trying to say. My LA recommended that I insure myself against accidental damage to the LL's fixtures and fittings, just to cover this sort of event. I had previously done this, but interestingly on careful inspection of my current policy booklet (new insurer; Legal and General), it appears that the LL's F&F are specifically excluded, which is slightly alarming. It sounds like you're in the same boat.

                Like the others, I don't really see how drying the carpets is going to work. Also find out what the LL's position is going to be about the deposit when you come to move on. I don't see how they're going to let the property with such damage, so they might as well replace them as soon as the property's dry. Obviously you'll be stung for part of the cost, minus the existing wear and tear. Depending on their age, this might not cost you that much. If the LL won't do it, maybe consider moving on.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by mind the gap View Post
                  The fact that you were out of the country and unaware of the cold weather is neither here nor there, really. I was not saying it is necessarily your fault that the pipes burst; I was just exploring the possibilities. You are supposed to act in a 'tenant-like way', in other words do everything an owner occupier would do with the exception of repairs to the property (for which LL is responsible). It could be argued that an absent OO would have been caught out in this freakishly cold snap, too.

                  If the carpets got wet and remained wet for several days, your chances of restoring them to an acceptable state are very slim. For your health's sake it would be better to claim for them on the insurance.
                  I accept that an OO would have been equally caught out - in fact, if this was our house, we would have been - we would have done nothing different.

                  However, had we been an OO, we would have also had insurance that was practiable to claim on. If we were OO, I would not be stressing about how much we would have to pay on the clean-up bills, etc, as it would all be part of the insurance. As it stands though at the moment, the LL is saying we are in this "grey area" of responsiblity, and as such, our liablity is yet unknown. All whilst living in a house that is habitable, but far from fun to be in.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    What you say about the pipes in the roof void (?attic) being uninsulated seems very relevant to me. Even with the central heating running for a few hours each day; in last weeks weather conditions I would expect problems if the attic pipework wasn't heavily insulated.
                    I think that in the circumstances you describe, your LL (or building freeholder)is definitely at fault. You couldn't possibly be expected to insulate the pipes in the roof void.
                    As others have pointed out, the excess of thousands of pounds sounds odd. It means the insurance would only be used if the building was totally destroyed.
                    Meantime you are paying rent for a building which is not really habitable. The LL or Agent should activate their insurance, or pay themselves to put things right as quickly as possible.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      My tenant has allowed pipes to freeze, though damage not so severe as OP and he has been absent for a long time. So a couple of things from recent experience:

                      I have 1 small bungalow, buildings and landlord insurance has an excess that increases to £1000 for unoccupied buildings, so £10,000+ for multiple properties/blocks of flats sounds somewhat plausible.

                      As I've been searching for advice or repairs/thawing/prevention I have read advice of leaving the thermostat on minimum 12°C, and 16°C is recommended. When I was a tenant myself I always left the heating system running 24/7 on low (10°C on the thermostat) while away during bad winter weather, and 2x 3-4hr blocks daily when it's milder/overnight freezing only forecast.

                      Emptying the main tank by opening the taps and closing the stopcock is inadequate - central heating is a closed loop and draining it must be done separately. Only recommended for long periods of absence as it's not as simple as refilling to get the system running again: quite often the there will be more effort required to rebalance the system.

                      LL should insure their own fixtures and fittings, not something that can be transferred to T I don't think, but T should pay for their negligence.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        A few years ago my elderly parents had a serious burst following a period of very cold weather. This was despite the fact that they were house-bound and maintained room temperatures at 70-75 degrees F. The problem was in the attic, where there was deep insulation everywhere, except (as it turned out) over the shower pump where the foam cover had either been accidently left off or had perhaps blown off (the attic was nor airtight). The water in the exposed pipe and pump had frozen and the joint between pump and pipework was broken. When thawing occurred the fall in water pressure was equivalent to the shower being switched on and several hundreds of gallons of water pumped out and descended through the house.
                        As a LL I learned a valuable lesson and I now check attic or (roof void) insulation very carefully. If night-time temperature falls to -10 degrees C, then having the CH on in the house may well not be sufficient to protect uninsulated pipework in the roofspace.
                        I don't think that a tenant should be expected to fit insulation. It's not an easy, cheap or pleasant job and it is definitely the LL's responsibility.
                        I doubt if many tenants would even think about water fittings in the attic and why should they?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Interstingly, I have asked about re the buildings insurance, to get a clearer picture if I was an OO. I have found that I could have a policy with a £50.00 excess - the cost of my "negligence". However, as a nice catch, my insurance broker was unable to offer me any policy which covered me for uninsulated pipes loacted in the roof space.


                          Originally posted by IanM View Post
                          ... As I've been searching for advice or repairs/thawing/prevention I have read advice of leaving the thermostat on minimum 12°C, and 16°C is recommended. When I was a tenant myself I always left the heating system running 24/7 on low (10°C on the thermostat) while away during bad winter weather, and 2x 3-4hr blocks daily when it's milder/overnight freezing only forecast. ...

                          ... LL should insure their own fixtures and fittings, not something that can be transferred to T I don't think, but T should pay for their negligence.
                          That is interesting advice. However, being from the Southern Hemisphere, I am not used to such cold temperatures, and have yet to ever recieve any such advice from any of the landlords or agents of the various properties I have rented here over the years. I accept that some form of heating during winter whilst away is needed - hence the 4x 1hr blocks I had. If your advice was what the LL felt was needed, it should ideally have been made clear in the lease. I guess "reasonable precautions" are open to some discussion!

                          By the way, the second part of your comment interests me. It has raised an seperate issue that I might make another thread about to talk about further. That is, the topic of Buildings Insurance. If I was to accept that I was negligent (something I am yet to do, I might add!), what "cost" should I pay? I could rent from LL "A" who has a Buildings Insurance policy with an excess of £50.00 - my "cost". However, LL "B" might have none - thus, my liability might run into the thousands? And what of LL "C" who has a poilicy, but finds it is invalid due to unlagged pipes in the roof?

                          It is a bit hit-and-miss for a tennant as to the potential liability for any property in regards to unforseen incidends.

                          Should as a future tennant, I be asking to view the LLs Building Insurance Policy before I rent in the future, so I can be sure of the amount of my potential exposure?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by johnjw View Post
                            If night-time temperature falls to -10 degrees C, then having the CH on in the house may well not be sufficient to protect uninsulated pipework in the roofspace.
                            Of course the question of what is reasonable has to take into account the circumstances. In your example there is no way T could be responsible

                            Originally posted by johnjw View Post
                            I don't think that a tenant should be expected to fit insulation. It's not an easy, cheap or pleasant job and it is definitely the LL's responsibility.
                            Agreed

                            Originally posted by johnjw View Post
                            I doubt if many tenants would even think about water fittings in the attic and why should they?
                            As an owner/occupier you would consider this, so tenants should consider it the same. I think this is why the recommendations say 12°C-16°C. It keeps the rooms warm, but heat loss through the ceilings will keep the roof space a little above freezing unless conditions reach extremes.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Pipes in the roof space should be insulated from the cold, which would typically mean that below them you don’t fit loft insulation, and ideally box them so that you can put insulation on top. In my case as an extra measure I am planning to fit thermostatically controlled electrical heating tape. This of course will not work if there is a power cut, and the central heating will also fail in that case, there were some areas of the country which lost power in the last few weeks. I still therefore believe that it is the mechanical solution of boxing in the pipe work and tanks which is the answer and this would not be a tenants responsibility.
                              I also post as Moderator2 when moderating

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