Here is an interesting question to the blog clinic from Felicity (not her real name) who works for a letting agency
A while ago a tenant at one of the properties we manage reported a leak so we sent a plumber to fix it.
The landlord had given authority and said that the cost could be taken from the rent. It turned out that the leak was caused by the tenant knocking some pipework while doing some DIY.
We advised the landlord and he said the cost should be passed onto the tenants to pay, which is understandable.
The plumber has sent in an invoice to us which we forwarded to the tenants but they have not paid and it is clear that they do not intend to.
The plumber wants payment and has taken to coming into our branch demanding to speak to our manager stating that we instructed the work so we should pay, our manager disagrees and keeps telling him (indirectly) to pursue the tenants.
My question is this – if the tenants refuse to pay, who’s liable for paying this invoice, us as the agent or the landlord? Also is it legally possible to add the cost to the tenants rental account?
The plumber has done the work and should be paid. As your company instructed him to do the work, I think your company is responsible for paying him. If he sues anyone for payment it will be your firm.
However, as it is something you did in your capacity as agent, it is a cost you can pass on to the landlord. Particularly as the landlord agreed, at the time the plumber was instructed, that you should do this and take the money from the rent. So you are entitled to do this.
The landlord cannot retrospectively cancel his authority to you, after you have instructed the plumber and the work has been done.
However I agree that ultimately the tenants are the people who should pay for this. If they fail to make payment now, the cost is something that can be deducted from their deposit when they leave.
So make sure that you keep all the evidence regarding the cause of the problem – get written evidence from the plumber about the cause of the problem (hopefully he will agree to do this) so that if the tenants challenge the deduction, you will be able to uphold the claim if the matter goes to adjudication.