Storm Desmond has devastated swathes of the country – with high winds and heavy rainfall leaving tens of thousands of homes without power and thousands more flooded throughout the north of England.
Desmond is the MET office’s fourth named storm this season and with the average cost of flood damage to homes estimated as between £30,000 to £40,000 the Residential Landlord’s Association is encouraging members to make sure they are prepared for extreme weather.
The RLA Landlord Advice Team advise landlords to keep an eye on weather forecasts and ensure properties are regularly checked for potentially dangerous trees or branches and that drains and gutters are kept clear.
Should the worst happen the RLA encourages is members to keep an open dialogue with tenants – and come up with the best solution for all involved. Although landlords are responsible for all repairs they are not obliged to find alternative accommodation for tenants who have to move out of properties due to flood damage.
There is no one-size-fits all approach and landlords are encouraged to keep the lines of communication open with tenants to work out the best way forward for both parties, whether this is reducing or suspending rent payments, or contributing towards alternative accommodation.
Landlords’ insurance policies may include temporary rehousing for tenants. In this instance, the tenants would carry on paying their normal rent and any additional expense would be covered by the insurers. In such cases once work is completed and the property habitable once again, the tenants would be able to move back in.
If, as is the case with many of the properties currently affected in Cumbria, it is likely to be several months before the home is likely to become habitable again it could be best for the tenancy to be surrendered.
However it is worth remembering that tenants will only have to move out of the property if it is impossible to move from room to room.
The RLA would stress that if you know that your property is on a flood plain or close to a river or other water source you should always get a bespoke quote from your insurers and ensure that you contact the company as soon as you are made aware the property has been affected by flooding.
From the RLA Landlord Advice Team:
What can I do to protect my property from high winds and flooding?
Keep an eye on weather warnings from the MET office and Environment Agency. You can register for free flood warnings by phone, email or text message if you live in England or Wales via the Environment agency.
You can call the Environment Agency’s floodline on 0845 988 1188.
- Check your property – Ensure that any unsecured items, like ladders in the garden, which could cause damage in high winds are secured.
- Check for any vulnerable trees or branches that will struggle to withstand high winds and have them removed.
- Check the roof and clear the gutters
- Chimneys should be stable and pointed
- It is also prudent to have sandbags on standby if possible.
- Advise tenants that if a storm hits to move more valuable or essential items, like photographs which cannot be replaced, upstairs or to a high place and ensure they have all the emergency numbers they may need.
- Make an evacuation plan – and make sure tenants know how to turn off the gas, electricity and water. It is important to remember that any water near live electrical cables is extremely dangerous, so once the flood has hit stay away from electrical equipment.
What happens if my property is flooded?
As a landlord you are responsible for repairing flood damage, including damage to the structure, and keeping the supply of water, gas, electricity, sanitation and heating in working order and these repairs need to be made within a reasonable period of time. The first thing to do would be to contact your insurance firm. Then collect evidence of the damage, with pictures. Make sure electrical appliances and wiring are checked before you switch anything back on.
Do I need to provide alternative accommodation for my tenants?
Tenants will only have to move out of the property if it is impossible to move from room to room. If the damage is so bad they have to move out you are under no obligation to provide alternative accommodation. However you will need to reach an arrangement with the tenants, who may ask you to suspend rent payments or pay reasonable costs for alternative accommodation. If you cannot come to an arrangement a tenant could potentially take you to court, where they could make a legal bid for a reduction in rent and could also claim compensation for things like inconvenience and distress. Tenants should have their own contents insurance to cover their belongings.