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Were you made homeless due to flooding? options…

The UK has experienced some unbelievable weather recently and floods have ruined 6,000 homes this winter alone. It is a scary time for homeowners and even scarier for those living as a tenant in a home at risk of floods. What happens to tenants living in a home that floods? What rights do they have and what should the landlord do to help and protect every one connected to the property?

The winter of 2013-2014 has been the wettest on record costing the insurance industry approximately £1.2bn with over 200,000 claims. The storm isn’t over yet and there are concerns this amount could increase further by the end of March. Homeowners are scrambling to put their homes back together again and tenants are either finding themselves out on the streets or with limited space in their home. What are the options for tenants?

Emergency housing:

If your property has been so badly damaged that it is completely unliveable then you need to know your options for emergency housing. You are considered legally homeless if you fall into the following categories:

  • You have no legal right to live anywhere in the world
  • You can’t get into your home (landlord has locked you out)
  • It is not reasonable to stay at home (violence)
  • There is no suitable accommodation for you
  • You are living in very poor conditions.

The council has to provide you with help if you fall under any of the above categories and the amount of help they give you depends on:

  • If you became homeless through no fault of your own.
  • If you are eligible for assistance
  • If you are in priority need.

As a flood victim you are a priority need. You are in priority need if:

  • You or someone you live with is pregnant.
  • Dependent children live with you.
  • You are considered vulnerable (age, disability)
  • You’re homeless after a flood, fire or other disaster.

Your local council should provide you with emergency accommodation but you can also see what is covered under your landlord’s insurance. In most cases with landlord/tenancy agreements, if the landlord hopes for the tenancy to continue, the landlord must provide suitable accommodation for tenants whilst repairs take place on their property. Landlord insurance should cover this cost.

I need long-term accommodation because the damage is severe. Now what?

This situation can be very stressful for all parties involved as the landlord is losing a tenant and a tenant needs to find alternative accommodation immediately. How this situation is resolved all lies in the tenancy agreement. Here are the options:

  • If long-term means a couple of months then the landlord can provide alternative accommodation for tenants under their insurance. The tenants will continue to pay rent as usual and the insurers will cover any additional expenses.
  • If long-term means six months to a year or longer then it may best to end the tenancy. The terms for this will be in the original contract and many tenancy agreements state that if the house becomes uninhabitable then the agreement ends. This means the tenant should receive their deposit back.

What if the agreement is silent?

If your tenancy agreement doesn’t refer to floods, or how floods can be dealt with, then you have two options:

  • Frustrated: You can claim that the contract has been frustrated, a term which means the contract cannot perform it will end. If the property is badly damaged and the tenant cannot possibly live in the space then there is room for this type of claim.
  • When did the tenants move in? If you have lived in the property for a while then this may not be the option for you but if you have just moved into your new home you may have a grace period to play with. Like many modern day contracts, if you aren’t happy within 30 days you can cancel the contract. This may not work but it is certainly worth a try.

Reclaiming your deposit:

You need to look into the tenancy scheme being used by your landlord. You can ring the scheme and find out their policy in these circumstances. In most cases, landlords will be fair and end the agreement and return the deposit, but this may not always be the case.

In this situation tensions will run high. Landlords will be concerned about the cost of repairing the damage to their property and tenants will be concerned about finding, moving into and affording a new place. In most circumstance it is a hope that each person will have empathy and do what is morally correct. But unfortunately the world doesn’t always work like that.

If you are concerned that you may be at risk of an experience like this, it may be worth taking out your own additional insurance to cover any costs you may experience during bad weather. It is also very important to check and make sure there is something in the tenancy agreement before you move into a new home.

Have you been badly affected by the floods and gone through an experience like this? Tell us how you handled it below!

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