A case settled yesterday between a landlord and a tenant who was killed in a fire in a Cambridgeshire property has resulted in the landlord being fined £10,000 and required to pay legal fees of £6,000. The judge described the fire precautions in the landlord’s property as ‘woefully inadequate’ and the landlord was unable to offer any defence to his charges, despite the case being dismissed as ‘accidental’ just over a year ago.
Accidents do happen and the number of cases that end up in legal battles are relatively small. The impact of the risk of a legal battle is massive, however, and no landlord should take it lightly. Not only are the financial impacts of such a case massive, but the damage to any landlord’s reputation is extremely severe. An incident like the one above would put most landlords in financial difficulty, with little or no hope of letting property again.
There is no way to ensure any property is completely safe, but as a minimum landlords need to comply with the legal regulations for fire safety. It can’t be emphasised how important it is to abide by the regulations and to continue ensuring standards are maintained – in the eyes of the law negligence is as bad as ignorance.
Of course, if you’re protected with a good landlord insurance policy and complying with the proper regulations then you should be able to defend your case well. Most policies will pay legal excesses of several million and will help to restore damage to buildings and physical property. You’re unlikely to be covered if you are found to have been negligent, though, so you need to keep up with what you are required to do.
It’s always tragic when we hear about a story like this, especially when it could have been prevented. The importance of proper precautions can’t be stressed enough and you need to make sure your both your landlord insurance cover and your fire safety equipment are legal, working and sufficient to prevent an accident.