One of the best things about Chelmsford is the city’s proximity to three stunning rivers in the Chelmer, Wid and Can.
The waterways are home to a huge variety of wildlife and provide a rich environment for walkers throughout the year.
However, the downside of having three major rivers in such close proximity is, of course, the risk of flooding.
And with the weather in the UK decidedly on the turn as we head towards winter, additional rainfall and winter storms present an increased risk of floods.
In 2017, it was estimated that more than 2,000 homes in Chelmsford sit in flood warning areas.
That’s a lot of property.
And if you’re a landlord, there are a number of responsibilities you should be aware of should your rental property be a victim of flooding.
Flooding: A landlord’s responsibilities
The first thing to state here is the importance of a sound buildings insurance policy.
That should cover your costs in the event of your rental property suffering major damage or destruction due to flooding.
But, essentially, you are responsible for repairs to the property as its owner.
And on top of that, a major obligation is that you return the property to your tenant in the same condition it was in before any damage.
Some of the major costs involved in that could include:
- Replacing or repairing carpets, flooring, appliances and furniture affecting by the water damage
- Structural repairs, including damage to floors and walls
- Decoration needs and cleaning
A tenant’s belongings in the event of flooding
Landlords aren’t responsible for a tenant’s personal belongings, although you should always advise your tenants to take out contents insurance when moving into your rental property.
But furniture, electrical equipment and any other personal belongings that need to be replaced or repaired are the responsibility of your tenant.
Rehousing a tenant
If your rental property is damaged through flooding caused by natural causes, such as a river bursting its banks in heavy rainfall, landlords are not liable to provide tenants with somewhere else to live.
However, if flood damage is caused by neglect, for example poorly maintained pipes bursting, you could be forced to rehome your tenants – and pay for doing so.
Rent payments and flooding
This is where things can get complicated.
Whether or not a tenant should continue to pay rent when your rental property is inhabitable will be largely down to the terms in your tenancy agreement.
If there is no clause stating otherwise, for instance an agreement that any rent paid during the time the property is inhabitable will be refunded, your tenants should continue to pay rent.
However, these situations can quickly become as hostile as they are complex, and the prospect of court action is never a nice one.
Check your landlord insurance
As well as adequate buildings insurance cover for repairs to flooded rental properties, your landlord insurance should cover either the loss of rent or costs for a tenant’s alternative accommodation.
In the case of the latter, the tenant must continue to pay rent on the flood damaged property in order to claim accommodation costs from your insurance – otherwise they’d be living rent free!
Alternatively, you could halt the tenant’s rent and claim this from the insurance so long as the tenant pays for their own alternative accommodation.
Ending the tenancy early
Another alternative when a property is flooded and needs substantial repairs is to simply agree to end the tenancy.
Your tenancy agreement may well stipulate terms for this in the event of fire or flood damage.
Alternatively, the tenant could surrender the keys, but you must agree to the surrender and a deed must be agreed and signed with witnesses present.
Advice for tenants
You should issue clear guidance to tenants on steps to take in the event of your rental property being flooded.
- Move valuables and belongings to high floors
- Turn off gas and electric supplies
- Keep away from electrical appliances and sockets
- Turn off the water supply in the event of a burst pipe
- Place buckets to catch water where possible
- Use towels at the base of doors to halt water
- Take photographic evidence of damage