Fire started by tenant - does rent continue while uninhabitable ?

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    Fire started by tenant - does rent continue while uninhabitable ?

    My tenant did the classic thing.
    Came back from pub. Put something on the hob. Crashed out asleep then fire started 1am on Saturday.
    He's in intensive care due to smoke inhalation making a good recovery fortunately.
    I'd done a total refurb only 4 months ago :-(
    The newly fitted worktop is ruined, the hob the ceiling the cooker hood etc etc plus smoke damage to the other rooms
    The flat is insured under the building policy, apart from the carpets as they aren't fixtures & fittings.
    As for rent. His father intimated his son wants to remain as a tenant.
    But if somewhere is uninahabitable due to fire or flood etc then the rent stops as I understand.
    I don't have an LL policy to cover loss of rent.
    The policeman asked me if I wished to pursiue the T for damages.
    I said no as flat is insured & he's in intensive care so that would seem a bit harsh.
    It seems from what the policeman said then the T is liable to compensate in other words maintain rent payments to me so I don't experience loss of rent due to his actions.

    1] As the T is responsible for starting the fire albeit by accident, is there an onus on him to ensure I don't lose out on uninsured losses, meaning in theory he should continue to pay rent while it's unihabitable ?

    2] Is it the LL responsibilty to fit smoke detectors ?
    Luckily the T had put one up in the hall. From now on I'm going to in all my flats.

    #2
    Hi,

    Not sure about Q1, but there was a fire in another flat in our leasehold block a few years ago. Similar sort of circumstances, T left something cooking and went out! Luckily freeholder lives on premises and called Fire Brigage. They had to break in to deal with the fire. Senior Fire Officer in attendance discovered the whole block was in contravention of fire regs. We had to have a Compulsory Fire Inspection and were only a few points short of a prohibition order - ie making the whole building uninhabitable and having to move all T's out and pay their alternative accommodation fees until the problems were put right!. We had to spend big money putting in fire alarm, emergency lighting etc (costs shared amongst the 8 in the block), to bring it up to standard. We have actually exceeded the standards and now have heat activated sprinkler heads in all the flats and the communal areas, as regs are constantly being updated, so hopefully we are "future-proof"!

    You should also install minimum fire fighting equipment. Our flat has extinguisher and blanket and all flats in the block have annual fire inspection and service arranged by the freeholder.

    You must check out your obligations under fire regs as failure to do so and any resulting death or injury means you are liable and could be taken to court. A death could result in manslaughter charges against you. Ignorance of the rules is not an excuse. Make sure you check it out as if your T decides to get funny about it, they could feasibly make a damages claim against you for not complying with the regs! Also, as you are making a claim on insurance, the insurance company will likely want to know what fire precaution measures are in place.

    Fire Service no longer do inspection visits; they will offer advice, but will not survey any premises, it is landlords responsibility to make sure your premises is up to the regs. Our Freeholder dealt with it all on our behalf, as he actually owns 4 flats out of the 8, so wanted to ensure everyone was brought up to the same spec. He employed someone to survey all the flats and advise a total package. It might be worth getting hold of all the other landlords/owners in your building and doing a similar exercise, which might work out cheaper and better for everyone in the long run.

    It was a steep learnng curve for us, but we were just relieved that no one was seriously hurt and we managed to bring everything up to date so that we were not liable for anything in the future.

    Comment


      #3
      Thanks.
      The block is purpose built with concrete floors & very well managed by a good agent.
      I'm sure it's up to scratch fire safety wise. There's smoke dets & emergency lighting in communal hallways & stairs
      As for what I should leave in my flats by law ref smoke dets & fire blankets etc I'm not sure.
      As smoke dets are so effective at giving the all important early warning & cost £3 or £4 it's plain common sense to fit them.
      I'd like to know if T is obliged by law to keep paying rent as he caused the fire.

      Comment


        #4
        Does not the Letting Agreement (AST?) contain a Rent Suspension clause?
        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
          AST says - "(3) To return to the Tenant any rent payable for any period while the property is rendered uninhabitable by fire the amount in case of dispute to be settled by arbitration"

          So not specific about whether the T causes the fire.

          The policeman thought I might have a case against T as he caused fire.

          Besides what determines the law ?
          The AST agreement or the law on AST's ?
          For example one could put in AST that T to permit LL to show prospective T's flat in last month of tenancy at 24hrs notice & at reasonable times of day, but I understand it's not worth the paper it's written on if T doesn't cooperate.
          I'd like to see a clear definition of what AST law does & doesn't allow on all these points.

          Comment

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