Here is a question to the blog clinic from Sean who is a landlord.
I am a landlord, I have rented out a flat for the past 8 years. I was very fortunate to have a corporate tenant for 7 of those years with an impeccable record.
I live a long distance from the property so I used a local agent to re-let it, I was delighted when they informed me that the flat was left in excellent condition, and even more so when they found a new tenant within a matter of days.
However, it turned out too good to be true…
I was surprised to receive a phone call from the letting agents advising me that the washing machine had broken down. “Washing machine, what washing machine?” I replied.
The flat was let unfurnished and the only appliance I was aware of was an oven so I asked the agent for a copy of the inventory.
It turns out that the corporate tenant had left behind the washing machine and also a fridge-freezer, kettle and games console but the agent had not informed me.
I have now discovered that all these appliances are faulty and were probably left behind for this reason. The tenants have now asked for fridge-freezer to be replaced too.
I have told the letting agents that the appliances should not be there and asked them to tell the tenants they are responsible for replacing them. The tenants have refused and have contacted Trading Standards so I am left with no option other than to replace them myself.
If my interpretation of agency law is correct, I sincerely believe the agent should pay for the new appliances because they were given a copy of the inventory from 2005 and should have noticed the appliances were not included. Am I right?
If your property was rented out with defective appliances then you are responsible for repairing or replacing them.
As you say – the question is, are your letting agents liable for letting you in for this expense by failing to notice the appliances left behind so this issue could be dealt with?
Always with agent issues, the first thing to do is to take a look at your agency agreement and see what they were tasked to do for you.
However I agree that their service seems to be less than satisfactory here:
1. If they dealt with the checkin and checkout for you, as you say they should have noticed that there were additional items left behind
2. It is arguable that they should then have contacted the outgoing tenant and asked for the items to be removed, and in default of this, charged them with the cost of removal and disposal. Which, depending on the terms of the tenancy agreement, is probably something which could have been deducted from the deposit.
3. Further – as your managing agents, it was up to them to ensure that the property was re-let in good condition and that the property and its contents were compliant with all relevant legislation. They must know that you cannot do this yourself and that you are relying on them.
So having failed to do this, you are now faced with the cost of replacing the appliances left behind which were never intended by you to be a part of the letting in the first place.
Under contract law where a party is in breach of contract, the measure of damages is to put the other party in the position they would have been in had the contract been performed as it should.
So in this case, the property should have been let without those defective items in situ – so it is arguable that your letting agents are liable for compensating you for the extra expense you have been put to in purchasing new ones (as well as any costs of removal).
Subject to the terms of your actual agreement with the agents, which I have not seen.
The only problem that occurs to me is that you are very dependent on these agents as you are so far from the property. Making a claim against them may well sour the relationship permanently.
So you may want to consider visiting the area and lining up another agency to take over in the event that this happens.