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    • deannatrois
    • By deannatrois 31st Jul 18, 4:35 AM
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    Fire at Ex's Private Rental House
    • #1
    • 31st Jul 18, 4:35 AM
    Fire at Ex's Private Rental House 31st Jul 18 at 4:35 AM
    I have no experience of a serious fire so thought it might be worth asking on here.

    My ex rented a one bed house four months ago. At the time of renting he told the LL he was hardly there as he works as a dog handler/security guard which normally means he is only in the house one day in seven (I was with him and heard this). However, recently he was away for roughly 30 days. It was a new area of work he hasn't done before. Just over three weeks into this (a week ago) there was a fire at his house. The fire brigade were called by neighbours but couldn't locate where the fire was (they had smoke coming through to their house). His house is on the end of a block, surrounded by fencing. No windows can be seen.

    Its a bit of an unusual smouldering fire. Not a lot of flame, but there was heat and smouldering, it probably smouldered for a day or two and then went out on its own, which is unbelievable but apparently can happen. Absolutely everything in the house is black. It seems to have started in the kitchen, possibly via an appliance but started three weeks after he was in the house. The fire brigade have inspected the house, said that they find he is not at fault as even if it was say the deep fat fryer, it had an automatic cut off which didn't work. There is a kitchen window, which is broken, and a deep fat fryer/kettle next to it. The fire seems to have started somewhere near there. But three weeks after he left the house.

    He is contacting the LL tomorrow. The fabric of the house is sound except for the kitchen ceiling (apparently it was ceiling laminate which is legal) which has melted, the doors of the cupboards were damaged and some appliances including my ex's fridge freezer because the laminate melted onto it and a coffee maker (expensive) he had in there. All othere items are just unusable because of the smoke.

    Fire brigade warned of carcinogenic chemicals present in the black stuff so I stopped scrubbing the walls lol. They said the place is uninhabitable, the black stuff is everywhere, covering upstairs, the bed, the bathroom completely and obviously everything downstairs.

    No my ex does not have contents insurance. He does have an incident number from the fire brigade and they said his LL could get a report off them. Apparently the property has an ancient wired fuse box but they are legal. We don't know how anyone didn't hear a fire alarm (fire alarms melted) so wonder if they went off.

    1) My ex doesn't seem to get that the fact he was away for 30 days on this occasion could stop the LL being successful with his insurance claim. He also doesn't seem to understand that the LL probably has buildings insurance and that won't cover his contents. He says because it wasn't his fault, the LL should make some contribution. I doubt this is true but wonder if anyone has experience of this?

    2) I am worried if in some way the LL/his insurance can try to claim the repair/refurb/redecorating costs from my ex in spite of Fire Services saying its not his fault.

    To be honest, with our doubts as to whether the fire alarms were working, the general problems with the electrical installation, I am just glad he wasn't there.

    3) God knows how the LL will take the news. I am half expecting the LL to say he has to find somewhere to live but not sure how to advise my ex to handle this. He still has eight months of his fixed term to serve.

    EVERYONE who reads this, get contents insurance.
    Last edited by deannatrois; 31-07-2018 at 4:50 AM.
Page 1
    • Smellyonion
    • By Smellyonion 31st Jul 18, 6:09 AM
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    • #2
    • 31st Jul 18, 6:09 AM
    • #2
    • 31st Jul 18, 6:09 AM
    Most tenancy agreements have clauses that state that a tenant should tell the landlord if they are going to leave the building inhabited for a period of time. Usually 3 weeks or longer. The LL could easily claim negligence under this clause - check your agreement.

    Who do these appliances belong which allegedly caused the fire belong to? If they belong to you, then again, the LL will have a claim. If it's the ll, then you may be ok but he will still have a case over leaving it inhabited without turning everything off.

    It sounds to me that you are trying to find defects with the building that pass the buck. The fact of the matter is that the building was left uninhabited for a long period of time without telling the ll and or agent and without preparing the building for a long period of being empty.
    • anselld
    • By anselld 31st Jul 18, 6:39 AM
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    • #3
    • 31st Jul 18, 6:39 AM
    • #3
    • 31st Jul 18, 6:39 AM
    The fact that it is not your Ex's fault does not automatically make it the Landlords fault. Unless the Landlord was somehow negligent it is nobody's fault.

    So Ex can probably kiss goodbye to his belongings and start looking for somewhere else to live. The flat is uninhabitable so the rental contract will be "frustrated" and will terminate.

    As others have suggested, check any terms in the agreement requiring notice to be given of periods of absence.
    • Lioness Twinkletoes
    • By Lioness Twinkletoes 31st Jul 18, 6:56 AM
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    Lioness Twinkletoes
    • #4
    • 31st Jul 18, 6:56 AM
    • #4
    • 31st Jul 18, 6:56 AM
    A cautionary tale indeed. I have home contents but am constantly surprised at the number of people that don't.

    I think your ex needs to stop laying blame, contact the landlord and start looking for somewhere to live.

    Incidentally, I do not agree that the landlord should shoulder the burden of your ex failing to adequately protect his own goods.
    • haras_nosirrah
    • By haras_nosirrah 31st Jul 18, 7:24 AM
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    • #5
    • 31st Jul 18, 7:24 AM
    • #5
    • 31st Jul 18, 7:24 AM
    Your ex won't have a claim over his contents. He had the option to purchase a contents policy and chose not to spend 8 a month to do so - unfortunately choices have consequences and the consequence of this choice is that he has lost all his belongings.

    In the landlords policy it may well entitle the ex to another residence as this one is uninhabitable but there is still a tenancy. The insurance may pay his rent on another property while this one is still going.

    Whether the policy is invalidated by the tenants absence I couldn't say - had the tenant been there then the fire would have not been left for days and the damage would have been less. Also to leave the property for a considerable period of time and not turn of appliances may be deemed negligence.
    I am a Mortgage Adviser
    You should note that this site doesn't check my status as a Mortgage Adviser, so you need to take my word for it. This signature is here as I follow MSE's Mortgage Adviser Code of Conduct. Any posts on here are for information and discussion purposes only and shouldn't be seen as financial advice.
    • Davesnave
    • By Davesnave 31st Jul 18, 7:42 AM
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    • #6
    • 31st Jul 18, 7:42 AM
    • #6
    • 31st Jul 18, 7:42 AM
    Your ex was unwise to volunteer detailed information about his long-term absence. It proves he had no idea about insurer's T&C, but why would he know if he has none? It's possible the insurers will use the long absence as a reason to prevaricate, but that ultimately depends on what their T&C are for cover if the property is unoccupied. Landlords can't be expected to track their tenant's movements, so I'd think their specialist cover would allow for that in some way.

    What the rental agreement says about notifying long absences is also important.

    I suspect the exact wording in Fire Brigade report will be pivotal, and none of us has access to that. I had a fire during a short (4-5 hour) absence and the cause was never officially determined. I was told verbally that it was probably a visitor's cigarette end falling inside the sofa, but that was not recorded.

    The walls, floors ceilings etc could take many days to sort out and nowadays PPE will have to be worn by those doing the sorting. Cleaning before repair took two of us two weeks. The whole place will need redecoration, even where the fire didn't spread.

    I have no idea what a 'ceiling laminate' is. When a lady in a flat below me had a malfunction in her electric fire many years ago, it involved no great heat, but something made of a polystyrene material melted. By the time we'd bashed the door open, it was impossible even to see a hand in front of one's face in there, so if that material was involved, say polystyrene ceiling tiles or similar, the potential for smoke damage would have been enormous.

    Nevertheless, polystyrene tiles probably still don't invalidate insurance, nor will an old, fused-type consumer unit. It's the actions of people that cause most fires. Even in the matter of fire alarms, it's a two minute job to test them and then know whether they are operative or not.
    Last edited by Davesnave; 31-07-2018 at 9:13 AM. Reason: Changed thoughts about landlord's buildings insurance.
    'There are places to go beyond belief'

    Neil Armstrong, apparently referring to worlds beyond the solar system.
    • davidmcn
    • By davidmcn 31st Jul 18, 8:25 AM
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    • #7
    • 31st Jul 18, 8:25 AM
    • #7
    • 31st Jul 18, 8:25 AM
    1) My ex doesn't seem to get that the fact he was away for 30 days on this occasion could stop the LL being successful with his insurance claim.
    Originally posted by deannatrois
    Well, firstly you (presumably) don't know what his insurance policy actually says, but is there a similar condition in the tenancy agreement? And in any event, is it relevant, if the fire could have happened during a (permissible) week-long absence?

    He says because it wasn't his fault, the LL should make some contribution.
    On what basis should they make a contribution? It doesn't sound like the LL has been negligent - unless, for example, it's the LL's deep fat fryer and they knew it was faulty.

    I am worried if in some way the LL/his insurance can try to claim the repair/refurb/redecorating costs from my ex in spite of Fire Services saying its not his fault.
    No, because it doesn't sound like he's been negligent - unless, for example, it's his deep fat fryer and he knew it was faulty.
    • pinkshoes
    • By pinkshoes 31st Jul 18, 9:12 AM
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    • #8
    • 31st Jul 18, 9:12 AM
    • #8
    • 31st Jul 18, 9:12 AM
    He needs to check his tenancy agreement ASAP. What does it say about periods of absence?

    Most insurance policies want you to agree that the property will not be left unattended for more than 21 days. By accepting a job which meant being away for longer than this, so worst case scenario the insurance is valid and he could be held liable for the landlord's losses.

    At the very least, this was not his LLs problem so his house contents being damaged is his own responsibility. If he had no contents insurance then oh dear!!

    He also nees to double check that his tenancy agreement doesn't mention that he needs to take out contents insurance!!
    Should've = Should HAVE (not 'of')
    Would've = Would HAVE (not 'of')

    No, I am not perfect, but yes I do judge people on their use of basic English language. If you didn't know the above, then learn it! (If English is your second language, then you are forgiven!)
    • saajan_12
    • By saajan_12 31st Jul 18, 9:32 AM
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    • #9
    • 31st Jul 18, 9:32 AM
    • #9
    • 31st Jul 18, 9:32 AM
    What invalidates who's insurance is secondary. First you need to look at

    1) If the fire was tenant's fault, (through negligence / unsafe property they brought to the house) then they are liable for the LL's losses.

    2) If the fire was LL's fault (through negligence / failure to repair after knowing about an issue) then they are liable for the tenant's losses (moving out, contents)

    3) If the fire was nobody's fault (most likely) then everyone pays their own costs, either out of pocket or through insurance.

    4) IF the tenancy agreement included a clause to inform the LL of extended absences and the tenant failed to do this, then the tenant is liable for the LL's direct losses of this (e.g. if insurance is invalidated then what the insurance would have paid out, not LL's unavoidable losses e.g. rental void/things insurance didn't cover anyway). He's not expected to know what would void the insurance, but he is expected to abide by the tenancy agreement.
    • HampshireH
    • By HampshireH 31st Jul 18, 9:33 AM
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    In addition to your ex being in complete denial. He could incur a huge bill here.

    If i was the LL and still a week later I hadnt been notified of major damage to my property I would be furious. The insurance company need to be notified as soon after the event as reasonably possible to assess liability and claim.

    By starting to scrub walls etc and clean up without the insurers being aware or assessing it or the Landlord even seeing it in its original state could compromise their claim.

    The fuse board is irrelevant unless it started there (which it sounds like it didnt) my fuse board is the original 80s install. It doesnt meet current install regs but is currently safe and working.

    I would dispute the post above which says he hasnt been negligent unless he left his fryer on. If he knew he was going to be absent for so long he should have switched the various appliances off when not in use. Same with the water.
    • davidmcn
    • By davidmcn 31st Jul 18, 9:33 AM
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    He also nees to double check that his tenancy agreement doesn't mention that he needs to take out contents insurance!!
    Originally posted by pinkshoes
    I don't see what difference that makes - it's his loss either way.
    • sal_III
    • By sal_III 31st Jul 18, 9:57 AM
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    It was a new area of work he hasn't done before. Just over three weeks into this (a week ago) there was a fire at his house.
    He is contacting the LL tomorrow.
    Wait, what? Why not call/e-mail him the first instance he knew about the fire?

    1) I doesn't matter whether your ex realised the terms of the LL insurance or if the LL had an insurance at all. He should check his tenancy agreement which more than likely have a clause stipulating he has to inform the LL if the property will be unoccupied for longer than (usually) 2-3 weeks. He clearly failed to do so, not only that he still hasn't informed the LL about the fire!!

    2) Although the fire might not be your ex fault failing to notify the LL about the vacancy and subsequently about the fire itself is negligence and might make him liable for damages. You said the the smouldering has been ongoing for days, if he was at the property it could have been put out in time before the fire broke and limit the damage.

    Trying to shift the blame to faulty electrics or fire alarm not working (completely irrelevant since he wasn't there to hear it in the first place) doesn't change facts that according to your investigation they are apparently legal. And the Fire brigade report doesn't point fingers at them.

    3) It beggars believe that we are finding about this on the MSE forums before the LL. Even if the tenancy agreement have provisions making the LL liable to provide alternative accommodations at his cost in case of unihabitability of the property, I'm fairly sure that your ex negligence in this case will render the tenancy agreement void. So he better start looking for new home, likely kiss his deposit goodbye and pray it stops there.
    • SnooksNJ
    • By SnooksNJ 31st Jul 18, 10:16 AM
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    He's your ex for a reason, stop enabling him. Unless you have a Law Degree you can't fix this.
    Unlucky he lost his coffee maker but just be thankful nobody was killed.
    • G_M
    • By G_M 31st Jul 18, 11:00 AM
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    Plenty of advice / information in posts above.

    Just to add that if the property is now 'uninhabitable', and likely to remain so for a significant proportion of the remaining fixed term of the tenancy, then the contract can be deemed 'frustrated'.

    That means that for reasons beyond the control of either party (ie a fire) the terms of the contract cannot be fulfilled (the landlord cannot provide the agreed habitable property).

    The contract ends. The tenant no longer has to pay rent and the landlord no longer has to provide a property.
    • westernpromise
    • By westernpromise 31st Jul 18, 11:58 AM
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    If the property is uninhabitable and if that's due to the tenant breaching the terms of the lease, I as the landlord would be coming after the tenant to make good my losses.
    Buying a house, if you believe the market has a way to fall, or if you are paying sill asking prices ( like some sheeple ) or if you are buying in London, is now a massive financial gamble!!!!! - June 8, 2012 by TheCountOfNowhere
    • TBagpuss
    • By TBagpuss 1st Aug 18, 1:02 PM
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    He is your ex so none of this is your problem to solve.

    That said:

    -He should have told the landlord immediately about the fire, and if he hasn't, should do so now as a matter of urgency.

    - The landlord is not responsible for the fact that he chose not to get contents insurance. unless he can show that his property was damaged as a direct result of negligence by the landlord, he has no chance of getting any contribution from the landlord for his damaged possessions.

    - If the house was unoccupied for 30+ days it may invalidate the landlord's insurance. He should check his tenancy agreement to see whether he had any obligation to notify the landlord if he was going to be absent for that length of time.

    - If there was nothing in the tenancy agreement about him leaving the property unoccupied then the landlord is unlikely to have any claim against him.

    - if the landlord could prove that the fire was as a result of your ex's negligence ten they might be able to make a claim against him, however, it doesn't sound very likely.

    - The contract between your ex may have been 'frustrated' meaning the tenancy ends and your ex gets his deposit back, or alternatively, the landlord may have an obligation to provide alternative accommodation and your ex would be obliged to continue to pay rent. He needs to check his tenancy and to take his own advice.
    • deannatrois
    • By deannatrois 3rd Aug 18, 7:04 AM
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    Lots of assumptions made.

    Not lookiing to solve his problems, I was hoping to find some suggestions as fires of this kind aren't something a person normally experiences.

    I was hoping for more balanced than 'its your ex's fault and I'd be going after him no holds barred' views, but such is life. He clearly feels terrible about this plus very aware that fires can happen, which is very understandable. I clearly stated the fire brigade said it wasn't my ex's fault. Personally as it looks like the fire alarm didn't go off (and I had my wired fire alarm test ok, but didn't actually go off when it should have done and needed replacing so I know personally this can happen), if he had been there, he could very easily have died. I for one am glad he wasn't there.

    It does look like it wasn't an electrical fire, it was caused by the extreme heat and strong sunlight. As most people would have been out when strong sunlight occurred, there is no way he could have prevented the damage caused. It doesn't take long for smoke damage to incur expensive repairs.

    Anyway, a loss adjuster has been round. No quibbles about the claim. Unfortunately the house requires specialist cleaning, almost ripped back to the shell and everything replaced. My ex has the option of having the tenancy brought to a mutually agreed end or living elsewhere while the works are being carried out and then moving back in. He won't be charged rent during this time.
    The LL is keen for him to move back in so that's what he'll do. The insurance company are going to be handling the repair process. The place will be cleaned (one month) another assessment carried out as to the best way of doing the refurb/exactly what needs to be done, then the builders will go in. Should take 12 weeks. Apparently there have been other fires caused by the strong sunlight and heat, peat filled pot plants have been a cause, as have been crystals that some people have as ornaments. Well, that's what the loss adjustor said. My ex was dreading seeing the agent/LL but was surprised by the matter of fact way the situation has been dealt with. Restores your faith somewhat (I've had bad experiences myself lol). There's no getting away from the fact that this is going to incur huge expenses of course. But I guess, fires do occasionally happen. My ex will be responsible for disposing of and replacing his contents, which is what I expected.

    Hopefully this will help anyone else who has something unpleasant like this happen.
    Last edited by deannatrois; 03-08-2018 at 7:17 AM.
    • HampshireH
    • By HampshireH 3rd Aug 18, 7:50 AM
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    Glad he had a positive response from a very reasonable landlord
    • Davesnave
    • By Davesnave 3rd Aug 18, 8:12 AM
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    To be objective as possible, it was you who led thinking down the electrical deep fat fryer/electric kettle route initially, implying that one or the other might have been left switched-on.

    It now seems the fire brigade's report is saying something different.

    Glad it's all working out as OK as it can. Loss adjusters are luck of the draw, I think. Mine was insensitive and lazy, but I had the last laugh as a result of his apparent inability to quantify things like electical sockets etc. With the house I had at the time, betterment was inevitable!
    Last edited by Davesnave; 03-08-2018 at 8:15 AM.
    'There are places to go beyond belief'

    Neil Armstrong, apparently referring to worlds beyond the solar system.
    • candycow
    • By candycow 10th Aug 18, 11:29 PM
    • 112 Posts
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    Don't count on it being 12 weeks. We had a house fire in January. We were told the build would take 8-10 weeks, but the work wasn't started until the day before the six month 'anniversary' of the fire due to delays and hold ups on the part of the Loss Adjuster. We still haven't had our list of contents that are going to be written off, and so cannot start buying new furniture yet, and we are nearly at the 7 month mark. It's looking increasing likely it will be around 10+ months post fire that we are able to move back in.
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