Buy To Let Water Damage. Who's Responsible?

Monday 1st Oct 2018

The Buy-to-Let market experienced considerable growth throughout the past five years. If you are reading this article you may be someone who contributed to this growth, either by adding to your existing portfolio or investing in your first property.

Ideally, you will have landed your dream tenants who treat the property with the utmost respect and care. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and even the most perfect tenants cannot prevent unforeseen damage. Determining responsibility for said damage can poise many grey areas and uncertainty on who is liable for restoration and damage costs. 

The Responsibility of the Landlord.


As the landlord of a buy-to-let property, you do yield certain responsibilities for specific aspects of the property, namely structural design. As set out in Section 11 of The Landlord and Tenants Act this includes;

  • The external structure of a property, including drains, gutters and external pipes.
  • Keep in repair and proper working order the supply of water, gas and electricity.
  • Installation of heating the home and heating water.

Water is one of the main culprits of property damage, with many possible causes behind escaping water and subsequent damage. Referring back to the Landlords and Tenants Act, provisions of the supply of water, gas and electricity is the responsibility of the landlord, but what does it mean exactly.

Water Damage caused by Leaking Pipes.


Any causes created by deterioration of the structural design of pipes or by a faulty water system is covered in the Landlords and Tenants Act, and therefore responsibility for any damage ensued will lie with you, the Landlord.

This can be incredibly frustrating had the tenants noticed the leak early on and opted not to report it. If this is the case responsibility cannot be passed on to the tenant but preventative measures can be in place to reduce the risk. Incorporating a term into the tenancy agreement specifying that tenants report the damage or leak immediately highlights the importance of doing so. An additional option is to educate your tenants on the prevention of water damage. Make it clear where their stopcock is located, and prepare them to turn off water at the first sight of a leak, or potential problem.

As a landlord, your role in the prevention of water damage simply can be to provide sufficient maintenance to the pipes and pipework and carry out regular inspection to assess the structure. 

Water Damage Caused by Tenants.


Not all water damage lies within the responsibility of landlord. Tenants are liable if they opt to change the pipework system without seeking approval from you first. Compensation from your tenant for any resultant damage can be sought.

Not all situations will be as clear cut as the above. Those will be those grey areas mentioned earlier. Some causes of water damage will be questionable, and it is advisable to anticipate potential causes, and assume and outline responsibility in the tenants’ agreement. That said, it is important to note that any responsibility listed in the Landlord and Tenants Act cannot and should not be transferred to the tenant. Anything stated in the act will always remain the responsibility of the landlord.

Tenants leaving water running can be a real conundrum. Inevitably it is the tenants that are liable since they allowed the water to escape from the property. But getting them to admit this can create a real headache. To avoid conflict and to cover any unresolved disputes, it might be wise to get cover for accidental damage. 

Water Damage Caused by a Property I don’t own.


As a landlord, you are obligated to provide a duty of care to your tenants. If a property that you let has been damaged by a leaky neighbour, then unfortunately there is an unwritten rule for you to put the damage to your property right, especially if it can be considered a health hazard. You are not responsible for tenants’ possessions that may have been affected by the leak. It is likely that you can seek compensation from the property owner of the originating leak. Including accidental damage in your insurance property can aid in minimising restoration costs.

This particular source of damage is probably the trickiest to resolve. If you experience this and cannot resolve the issue of compensation independently, legal action may be required. To read further on this particular subject there are many insurance and legal websites offering in depth advice.

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