SPECIAL FEATURE: Avoid a stormy tenancy

Following the UK’s recent bad weather ARLA is reminding tenants to be aware of who is responsible for what in the event of damage to a rented property.

Storm damage, power cuts and flooding can be unpleasant and stressful experiences for those involved, but familiarising yourself with your tenancy agreement can help ensure any problems are sorted as quickly as practically possible.

Susan Fitz-Gibbon, president of ARLA, said: “The recent bad weather has affected homes across the UK. As well as the inconvenience and expense suffered by homeowners, many tenants will have been caught up too, and it is essential that they know where their responsibilities lie if they do experience weather damage.

“Asking the right questions before you move into a rental property remains the best way to avoid future problems, but there are also a number of steps that one can take to allay concerns over the potential impacts of weather damage. In addition, I would always advise tenants ensure they fully understand the terms of the tenancy agreement and the responsibilities contained within it.”

ARLA has the following tips for those concerned about the effects of harsh winter weather on their rented home:

Tenants should always have access to relevant contact details if there is a problem with a rented home. It is always advisable to contact your landlord or letting agent as soon as possible if weather-related damage occurs.

If the responsible party cannot attend immediately, taking time-stamped pictures of any damage is a sensible course of action to ensure the details of the incident are accurately recorded.

In most cases landlords will be responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the building’s exterior of your building. However tenants should do everything they can to minimise damage, even if this is limited to reporting a problem as soon as it happens. Remember, any damage may be the subject of an insurance claim for the landlord.

In certain agreements tenants can be required to perform limited upkeep tasks like clearing gutters, which could lead to drainage problems in heavy rainfall.

During the colder months, it is also a tenant’s responsibility to make sure the pipes don’t freeze if they are away from the property for extended periods. The best way to combat this problem is to set the heating to come on at a low level during the coldest parts of the day, whilst also informing your landlord that you will be away from the property.

When viewing a rental property, it is worth checking if the area is prone to flooding. This is an especially important consideration if the property is near a water source, however small, or if is in a low-lying area.

Contents insurance for your own goods is a tenant’s responsibility, and always ensure it provides adequate cover for water damage if you remain concerned about the potential for flooding.

If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a power cut as a tenant, checking the UK Power Networks website is a quick and easy way to get updates on the current situation. If the power cut is affecting more than just your home, it is worth getting in touch with your utility provider directly, rather than your landlord in the first instance.

If the power remains off for an extended period of time, remember that freezers may leak as contents warm and any appliances that were on at the time of the cut will come back to life once power is restored.

If you would like clarification on any aspect of renting a home, always seek advice from a letting agent affiliated to a professional organisation like ARLA.

All ARLA licensed agents must adhere to a strict code of conduct, as well as offering client money protection and redress schemes, which protect all parties if things go wrong.