Fire at rented property

I have been the landlord of a singe property for over 20 years. During this time i have had multiple separate tenants usually with good results when the property is returned. The present joint tenants, of three years standing, are a married couple with two young children who did delay the monthly rent by about two weeks some month ago as the Covid=19 epidemic affected his income.
The problem i have is that he is a smoker, the tenancy restricts smoking in the house, so does his wife.
Nevertheless on September 21st 2020 the male tenant was outside smoking, late at night, which he admits. Shortly after he retired to bed the house smoke alarm went off. On investigation this was from a fire in the outside garden shed. The fire brigade investigator said this was due to an inappropriately discarded cigarette. This caused about £10,000 worth of damage to the shed and the central heating oil storage tank (both burnt out) together with four double glassed pastic windows and back door to the rear of the property all destroyed, pebble dashing damaged together with soffits and gutters. The property was left uninhabitable.
The tenants have had to find altrenative accommodation but have indicated they would like to return.
My insurance assessor told them they would they would have to move out immediately and stop paying rent. (my insurance covers the loss of rent).
Mt questions cover the contract (standard open rent). They have of course moved out but the majority of their possessions are still there. They have agreed an alterntive property, they are currently living with her mother but the exact time the alternative property is available is a moving target…
Whet is my legal position regarding contract does the contract terminate if the house becomes uninhabitable whatever the cause?
Can they live elsewhere and continue the tenancy when the house is repaired,(probably in 6 months time)?
As they pay no rent and the house is uninhabitable can the tenancy be termiated and the deposit settled?

Hi Haydn

Sorry to hear about the fire and about tenants smoking even not allowed.

I would like to say that it depends on when tenancy contract ends. Also both of you as landlord and tenants wants to do with tenancy. If the tenancy ends before the repair work is complete then you need to find out from your insurance company too as they have different rules and legality

  1. if they would pay the full rent after the contract end and tenants decide leave the place as they might not want to come the same place
  2. if the tenancy is renewed and
  3. repair work finish before end of tenancy but again tenants are going to move out

But I am sure that if there is any excess with building insurance then your tenant is liable for paying the excess. Also if any of your contents is damaged then they would be liable for that as it’s tenants fault and tenants should have their contents insurance.

The reason is that my tenant who flooded the property and we have excess on building insurance. Tenant was liable for excess and insurance company paid for the storage and not for alternative accommodation as it was not necessary.

I hope all gets sorted.

Haydn check the agreement to see if there is anything about the property being uninhabitable.

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The tenans signed an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement for a fixed term of twelve months on the 3rd of August 2017. This became a periodic tenancy one year later, so has no end date.

The Tenancy Agreement makes no mention of the property becoming uninhabitable. It only gives details of how the contract may be terminated during a fixed term or a periodic tenancy.
I will contact Open Rent direct to determine the status of the tenancy now. Will post any reply here.

I think you have to be very careful because insurance company is paying the rent to you. So try to find out for how long they are going to pay for
And what happens if you would like the tenant to end the tenancy contract as you don’t know how long it will take and another reason that they were not suppose to smoke and he did against the tenancy contract.

As tenants got the periodic tenancy and they want to return but if you ask tenants that as you are not sure and at the end you want them to end the tenancy contract Or you could ask them to end the tenancy contract and give them 2 months notice period.

If the tenants end the tenancy contract then I am sure insurance company will pay the rent to maximum time until the property is repaired.

Bur yes it’s good to take legal advice from

If they have admitted the smoking indoors then the contract is breeched and now void if you want it to be.

My advice is to get everything fixed, claim on insurance, get new tenants and make a damages claim on existing tenant with court action if necessary.

My advice to myself would be the same but might consider them to continue the tenancy, depending on feelings and thoughts.

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