difficult tenant (and guarantor) - do I have a case?

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  • difficult tenant (and guarantor) - do I have a case?

    I'm just after opinions and advice here.

    I've a student renting out a property of mine. There was a break in where she lost a fair amount of her property (jewellery, laptop) along with a television of mine. The TV is about 5 years old and was £700 new.

    The cost of the door repair came to £135. I don't have contents insurance and am prepared to take the loss of an old TV on the chin.

    Here's the catch however (no pun intended). There are two locks on the door - a latch lock (a yale) and a 5 lever mortice lock. She went away for a holiday for a fortnight without locking the door using the mortice. This was despite being told at the beginning of her agreement and twice during to make sure she did so.

    Her reply was that she didn't see it necessary to lock it as there was a communal door downstairs (to a block of 6 flats) and the the key provided to her didn't work. (Later on I asked for the key back to find that it looked as if she'd bent it - at no point had she requested a new key... over a year into her tenancy and the keys provided to her were all tested naturally)

    I spoke to the police officers who had handled the break in and their advice was that it was negligence on her part and they didn't see why I should be paying for the door damage. Also, to be fair when asked about the cost of the TV they did feel that a stolen item could not be placed under that bracket of negligence - she didn't of course break in herself!

    The end of this story is that this tenant is moving out in a couple of months. I spoke to her today and she put me onto her Dad who is a guarantor of the lease agreement. I basically got abuse down the line from him, accusing me of being a bad landlord amongst the swear

    After speaking to my wife, and calming down, I made the decision to meet her half way and ask for half the repair fee.

    She phoned back and initially talked about not wanting to end things like this and that we should come to a professional agreement. However, when I asked her what she meant about that she felt that she shouldn't be paying the cost at all and that was that. She then said she would think about paying half the cost IF I could guarantee that she would get all her deposit back - I can't actually do this as part of the lease agreement is the inclusion of an independent inventory (which helps both parties in the event of a dispute). Finally, she said that she'd taken advice and that in terms of the property she was not happy with it, inferring that I somehow had not leased it out as advertised. None of this is true at all, which is why I got a proper solicitors agreement and an inventory drawn up in the first place.

    So, I'm pretty shaken by all this. I didn't break in... neither did she, but who leaves for a fortnight and doesn't lock the door properly?

    Am I right in asking for the door repairs? I should mention that of course my buildings insurance stipulates that there is a 5 lever mortice on the entry door - I would assume that the onus is that it it is USED to keep the door secure when leaving the house. All of this is by the by as my excess is £500 anyway.

    Advice and opinions would be greatly appreciated. Should mention that I live in, and the property is in Scotland. I have a landlord certificate, and the property was let out by a letting agent (though they do not 'manage' the property and there is an independent inventory agreement built into their lease.

  • #2
    Hmm, but presumably the thief didn't slip the Yale lock with a credit card? Wouldn't there have been a similar amount of damage if the mortice lock was on?

    Honestly, I think you should deduct the value of the old TV. £100 or something, and forget about the door.


    • #3
      Hi James,

      Well, I'm getting advice from various forums - usually it's in the region of take the cost of the door AND the TV (minus the age etc.). The door can't be opened with a credit card due to the framing of it. There is of course nothing to say that the thief would not have broken down the door even if the mortice had been locked too. But there is no doubt in my mind the door would have been more secure (hence why my insurance and the vast majority of others stipulate this). I'm aggrieved because I am unable to claim and have lost out on this incident and of course the tenant has a duty of care to my property which I would expect includes securing it in all ways that I have enabled her to.

      Does that make sense?


      • #4
        Also James, what is the reasoning behind taking the value of the TV as this was stolen rather than broken/removed etc. by the tenant? Surely by claiming this I would be making the judgment call of negligence by the tenant but accepting that the point of entry was not the tenant's fault.


        • #5
          Yes, that is exactly my reasoning. Your tenant put the TV at greater danger by not locking the mortice lock, and the result was that the TV was pinched.

          The door might still have been damaged in an unsuccessful attempt to break in, so that wasn't really the tenant's fault was it?


          • #6
            Interesting debate. My opinion would be get some level of contents insurance if you are going to leave items in the property. A lot of "buildings only" policies do have a standard (low) level of contents cover built in. Are you sure yours doesn't? If it really doesn't then I think you should take the cost of the TV on the chin. It's your responsibility to get it covered. However, I feel you are justified to ask for the cost of the door repair.

            A Yale lock is quite easy to overcome with a well placed foot, but a 5-lever mortice is quite another matter. My husband, a joiner, makes the fit of his external doors very tight with a 5-lever mortice and it took another joiner almost 20 minutes to break in when I needed a lock changed on one of my properties and hubby wasn't around. And that was with tools. If you told the tenant to use the mortice lock and she didn't then she didn't take the preventative action you could reasonably expect. A mortice lock may not have kept the thief out, but the extra effort required to overcome it may well have alerted someone else that a break-in was taking place. I'd take the cost of the repair from her deposit.
            Last edited by MrsMac; 25-08-2011, 09:08 AM. Reason: spotted a mistake


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