Spike in landlord accidental damage claims

Over the last few months our Total Landlord Insurance claims team has witnessed an increase in landlord accidental damage claims. Accidental damage is damage that occurs suddenly due to an unexpected and non-deliberate action. 12 per cent of claims in 2016 were as a result of accidental damage, a large proportion of which were due to tenants leaving taps running unintentionally.

In one reported case, the tenant left the property and came back to discover that the ground floor had been flooded in three inches of water. The tenant had accidentally left the bath taps running and the bathtub had overflowed. As a result water seeped through the walls and ceilings, affecting the electrics and the entire ground floor. Kitchen units and ground floor ceilings were damaged and bathroom tiles, floorboards and joists were impaired and therefore needed replacing. Consequently the bathroom was unusable, resulting in the property being uninhabitable. We reimbursed the landlord £8,000 for building repairs.

This case is typical of a number of recent cases in which tenants have accidentally left the bath tap on, causing extensive damage to the ceiling and floor below. In these situations we will ask the client to provide photos and estimates to repair the damage before assessing the claim. We would also advise the client to install de-humidifiers, to air the property and to switch the electricity off if the electrics are affected.

Accidental damage is, by its very nature, impossible to prevent completely. However, as a landlord you can reduce your risks by selecting tenants carefully and encouraging your tenants to be careful and making sure you take out landlord insurance. Some tenants may be tempted to try to ‘fix’ the damage themselves. To avoid this make sure your tenants know that they should contact you immediately in the event of accidental damage so that you can raise the matter directly with your insurer.

Particularly where water damage is concerned it is important that your tenants know that they must not use any electrical appliance while standing on wet floors, particularly tile or concrete floors. Tenants should also avoid irreversible actions such as carpet removal until a professional assesses the situation.

To find out more download our free guide on Allowing for Accidental Damage by clicking here.

Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 states that the landlord is required to keep the property in good repair throughout the tenancy, so that it is maintained at the same standard throughout the agreement as it was at the start. The landlord is responsible for repairing the structure and exterior of the property, installations for the supply of water, gas, heating, electricity and sanitation (including sinks, baths and sanitary conveniences). Therefore in the event of accidental damage to the building, it is the landlord’s responsibility to pay for the repairs.

Our Total Landlord Insurance premier cover includes accidental damage by tenants and guests for buildings. Whilst accidental damage to contents is not covered, as long as the property is adequately insured at the correct sum insured, our premier insurance will cover damage to the buildings should an accident happen.