When there’s an emergency situation at a rental property, it affects the tenants, the landlord and/or the managing agent. Emergencies must be responded to quickly and dealt with effectively, so that their impact on both the occupants and the property is kept to a minimum.
So the first thing to ensure is that your tenants have contact numbers for emergencies that they can use 24/7 – whether that’s a contractor, a management service or you directly. Put a list in their rental property information pack and advise them to also save the numbers to their phones for quick access. And emphasise right at the start of the tenancy the importance of reporting any major issues right away.
Here are three of the top emergencies you might come across at some point, with our advice on how best to deal with them.
1. A flood
Flooding in your rental property can happen as a result of rainwater getting in from the outside – for instance if there’s rising floodwater in the area or serious damage to the roof during a storm - but it’s much more commonly caused by an internal leak or overflow situation.
If the water in pipes freezes in the winter, the pipes can crack and then when the ice thaws, the water escapes. The joints in old pipework could also fail, or flooding could be cause by something as simple as your tenant let a bath overflow.
Whatever the cause, if there’s escaped water in the property, the first thing the tenants should do is turn off the water supply via the stopcock, then call the relevant emergency number. If there’s damage that you might want to claim for, you should contact your landlord insurance provider. And if you believe the tenants are at fault, it’s important to establish that as quickly as possible.
If the flood is significant and/or it’s been caused by a storm or environmental floodwater, check your insurance cover and if necessary, it may be the tenants will need to be advised to leave the property immediately. If this happens, check if your insurance will pay to re-house your tenants temporarily.
2. Lost keys
If a tenant has lost their keys, they are responsible for all subsequent costs. They may be able to phone you to gain immediate entry, however, if it’s outside working hours or they can’t get hold of you, they – or your agent - may need to call a locksmith.
From your perspective, the important thing to consider is that lost keys could undermine the security of the property and may affect your landlord insurance. For that reason, we would recommend changing the locks as soon as possible and passing the cost on to the tenant, if needed.
If you’ve taken out insurance cover for lost keys and replacement locks, there should be a 24/7 response line, so make sure the tenant knows who they should call.
3. Fire damage and an uninhabitable property
Obviously, if there is any fire, no matter how small, your tenants should know to call the fire brigade immediately and then inform you or your agent. Your insurer should then be informed.
Fire is one of the main emergencies that will render a property uninhabitable. Even if the property only has smoke damage and is structurally sound, that can still pose a health risk, so the tenants should be moved out.
If the fire is ruled an accident, you and your tenants are simply responsible for paying for your own repairs and replacement of property. If it was due to negligence on your part as the landlord, you may have to pay for damage to your tenants’ property, loss of earnings, etc., and you may be responsible for securing alternative or temporary accommodation for them.
If your tenants caused the fire, while you might feel a moral duty to make sure they’re housed, you’re under no legal obligation to do so and you should be able to charge them for the cost of repairs. However, if it’s an insurable event and your landlord insurance includes alternative accommodation costs, speak to your insurer about what to do next.
If you’ve taken our Fully Managed service, we can handle everything relating to your tenant on your behalf and may also be able to help deal with any insurance claims. But if you self-manage and would like to discuss the benefit of full management, just get in touch with your local Reeds Rains branch.
There are all sorts of things that can go wrong when you’re letting a property, so it’s important to make sure you have a comprehensive insurance policy. A ‘standard’ landlord policy will include buildings insurance and should also cover you for accidental or malicious damage by tenants. Some policies will include alternative accommodation costs and you can take additional cover for things like replacement of glass and locks. The best thing to do is speak to your provider directly so you can make sure you’re properly protected.
If you’d like to discuss emergency cover or get a quote from Reeds Rains Insurance Services, you can request a callback via our website.
Reeds Rains Limited is introducer to Reeds Rains Insurance Services for general insurance including household insurance, landlords insurance services, rent protection insurance and Legal Expenses Insurance. Reeds Rains Insurance Services is a trading style of First2Protect Limited. First2Protect Limited is an Appointed Representative of PRIMIS Mortgage Network, a trading name of First Complete Ltd, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Reeds Rains may receive a referral fee from insurance providers for recommending their services. You are not under any obligation to use the services of the recommended providers. The insurance provider may be an associated company of Reeds Rains.