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What is the landlords liability for tenants loss if they have previously complained about the locks?

keysHere is a question to the blog clinic from Millie who is a landlord

I have recently become a landlady for the first time and I am not sure how to handle my tenants.

When they took up their tenancy they asked for a second lock to be installed on the internal door from the garage into the kitchen because they had been advised by an alleged security expert that the lock already there was not fit for purpose.

It locked the door so I couldn’t see what the issue was, therefore I did not grant their request but gave them permission to install their own deadlock.

Six months later, the property was broken into through the garage and the internal door in question was busted. Several of the tenants’ belongings were stolen or damaged but they told me they could not claim on insurance because the lock did not meet the insurer’s standards.

I was fairly confident that I have done nothing wrong, however I am having doubts now the tenants have started talking about legal action and using words like negligent. What’s your advice, do I call their bluff and stick to my guns or have I indeed not fulfilled by obligations?

I am sure I am not the first landlord/lady who has been put in this sort of position.

You don’t say what sort of lock it is which makes it a bit difficult to answer.  For example if it was a chubb or mortice lock you are probably OK.  The fact that the tenants have had their insurance claim refused though makes it look as if the tenants were right and the lock was substandard.

I have to say Millie, that it probably would have been wise to get a better lock installed when the tenants asked you about this.

It is not a huge expense, it would have kept them happy, and you would not have your current problem.

My feeling is that you may well be vulnerable to a claim for compensation.  You would be able to defend such a claim by saying that you gave permission for them to instal their own lock – this may be sufficient but I am inclined to think that a Judge’s sympathies would be with the tenants.

One other point that occurs to me though – was the entry actually because of the poor quality lock?  You say the door was busted.  If the intruders entered by breaking down the door rather than picking the lock, then it would not have mattered if you had put in a different lock – they would have got in anyway.

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3 Responses to What is the landlords liability for tenants loss if they have previously complained about the locks?

  1. I seems there are some missing pieces to the puzzle here.

    Have the tenants submitted proof that their insurance claim has been turned down? If not ask them for this.

    The door was inside a garage, was the garage door left open so that the internal door was easily accessed? It may be that the tenants are also at fault.

    I must say that this does seem an odd reason to reject an insurance claim if there were two doors for the perpetrators to break through, so as Tessa says: would anything have stopped them? In response to Tessa’s question about the door being busted, some standard locks are easy to push out of the frame with little force whereas heavier duty locks such as a mortise take a bit more effort.

  2. As has been said there are several facts that have not been given. To make a claim the tenants would have to be based on some legal principle. In contract it does not seem as if the landlord has breached any implied term of agreement.

    In relation to the tenants’ insurance they themselves appear to have failed to ensure that the terms of insurance covered them. In negligence, also taking into account Steve’s comments they may find that they had not taken their own reasonable precautions, even though the landlord may be partly liable.

    The landlord used the word tenants in the plural; if the property is a licensable HMO then there council may have a minimum standard requirement for locks so there may be a breach there. Student HMOs are often target for burglary as a thief can get several electronic items very quickly.

    Lastly, if the tenants’ insurance was invalid for the reason of the lock, it is quite likely that the landlord’s own insurance cover is invalid for the same reason. Unfortunately, more questions than answers.



About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer and specialises in creating products and services which help landlords and letting agents learn and understand landlord & tenant law. For example, she runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 14th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

The Landlord Law Blog from Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.

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