Tenants claiming 'inconvenience compensation' for water leaks

#1
Hi,

I have tenants who are claiming compensation for the inconvenience resulting from a series of water leaks in the property. The leaks were not as a result of any misuse of the property on their part..

Aug 20 - Leak No 1.
The day the tenants moved in water dripped through the dining room ceiling from the high pressure hot water tank above. A plumber was on site within half an hour and he could not find the leak. In his opinion, since the property had not been occupied for 4 months (while being refurbished and redecorated) the seals on the hot water tank had shrunk but once the hot water system was re-started the seals expanded to complete the seal properly (Certainly a lesson to me to keep the central heating and hot water systems ticking over between tenancies!!!)

Aug 23 - Leak No 2.
On a Saturday night I was informed by the tenant that the toilet in the en suite bathroom would not flush and that water was dripping from the ceiling in the downstairs bathroom (actually not a bathroom but just a WC and basin). The toilet cistern is enclosed within boxing in the bathroom. The silent flush refill valve in a toilet stuck partially open sending a fine spray out of the cistern and that was what was dripping throught the ceiling below. I was on site within a matter of hours and isolated the supply to the cistern. Isolator valves are installed on all water appliances for just such an emergency. I informed the tenant that they could not use the toilet in the en suite bathroom but they could use the other two toilets in the property. I returned on Monday and replaced the silent flush refill valve system.

Sep - Leak No 3.
Water was still dripping through the ceiling below the en suite toilet. I was on site within 24 hours but could not detect where the leak was coming from. Again said that they should not use the WC in the en suite. My investigations required removing a section of the downstairs ceiling to try and find the source of the leak. This revealed that three floor joists were wet indicating a significant leak. A plumber was called but could not make it on site for 2 or 3 days. The leak was determined to be from the cistern to the WC pan at the point that the pipe is joined to the pan and exactly where the pipe comes through the boxing. This was repared but before fixing plasterboard, plastering and painting the ceiling I left the downstairs ceiling void exposed in order to let the joists dry out. Fixing plaster board to wet timber will not work in the long run.

Oct 4 - Leak No 4.
After 11pm I received an email which I did not see until Saturday morning. The silent flush refill valve in the family bathroom failed in the same way as in the en suite bathrrom. I was on site within 10 hours of reading the email. and replaced the valve. This time the water was dripping through the cailing into the dining room but no furniture was damaged. The tenants had collected the water in a large pan and emptied it three times during the day.
Downstairs ceiling re-plasterboaded and re-plaster on Oct 14th and repainted on Oct 15th

Meanwhile...
An under cupboard strip light failed which I replaced on Oct 14th and two wall cupboards in the family bathroom had been pulled off the waal which I repaired and re-installed on Oct 14th.

The tenants are now claiming £300 compensation (monthly rent is £1733.34) for the inconvenience of having to live with these defects.

I should maybe point out that the property is a three bedroomed townhouse which was built in 1999 and that the plumbing has not been changed or upgraded since it was first installed as new.

Are the tenants justified in their claim?

Best Regards
Jeremy
 

Jeffrey Shaw

Member
Staff member
#2
As L, you are inescapably responsible for the building's structure (inc. plumbing): s.11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
That's so, even if- as here- defects are the fault of neither you nor T.

First thing: tell your property insurer (and, if applicable, your Legal Expenses insurer too) and ask for their intervention.
Obviously, I cannot advise whether- and to what extent- you ought to compensate T.
The property insurance might cover compensation (and loss of rent, if rent is suspended due to the property being uninhabitable).

But I doubt that you'll be liable for compensation re the strip-light and wall cupboards.
 
#3
Dear Jeffrey,

Many thanks for your very prompt reply. I am aware that as a L I am reponsible for maintaining the basic structure of the building (including plumbing). I have not asked for any contribution from the tenants for the repairs. The property was not uninhabitable while the repairs were being made and the tenants did feel it necessary to vacate the property.

In my opinion, and I am probably biased in this, the repairs and redecoration were performed in a timely manner and the inconvenience experienced by the tenants was negligible.

Are there any legal precedents for compensation in these situations?
There are websites identifying compensation to tenants where there is prolonged deprivation of services and these seem to limit the compensation to around £10 + £2/day.
 

Jeffrey Shaw

Member
Staff member
#5
Are there any legal precedents for compensation in these situations?
There are websites identifying compensation to tenants where there is prolonged deprivation of services and these seem to limit the compensation to around £10 + £2/day.
'Precedents' will not be of any major use here- each case has to be judged on its own facts, inc. the amount of disruption and inconvenience.
T cannot unilaterally move-out if the property is inhabitable; or, rather, T who moves out cannot expect to be excused payment of rent.

But are you saying (".. the insurers are not interested in the case...") that none of the problems is covered by your insurance?
 
#6
The insurers were not interested on 2 counts
1. Damage was only to the structure (not fixtures and fittings) and the cost of repair was below the policy excess.
2. The situation was not bad enough for the need for the tenants to vacate the premises
 

Jeffrey Shaw

Member
Staff member
#7
OK- so maybe reject T's claims in their entirety.
Or, if T has been good (esp. re paying all rent on time), you could be slightly more generous; it's up to you.
 
#8
I had something similar a few years ago; I fully accepted the tenants were slightly inconvenienced and slightly out of pocket as they were paying for the water going down the drain so gave them a cheque for £50 for good will when they started muttering. They've been there for 13 years and keep the house well so I tend to react promptly as and when there is a problem. Case of balancing good tenant retention v potential void periods. Though my rents are well under local market rents!
 

Jeffrey Shaw

Member
Staff member
#9
I had something similar a few years ago; I fully accepted the tenants were slightly inconvenienced and slightly out of pocket as they were paying for the water going down the drain so gave them a cheque for £50 for good will when they started muttering. They've been there for 13 years and keep the house well so I tend to react promptly as and when there is a problem. Case of balancing good tenant retention v potential void periods. Though my rents are well under local market rents!
Yes. Finding and keeping a good tenant is a big plus! £50 is a small price to pay.