Here is a question to the fast track blog clinic from Vidhya who is a tenant
I was mugged and had my house keys in my handbag (which did not have any identifiable data to trace my home address to). My landlord wants to charge me to change the 4 security locks (2 on the main door and 2 on the flat door which are all security locks) and provide 2 sets of replacement keys for the 8 flats in the building including a further 5 sets for myself, the landlord and the rental agency.
He has quoted me £471 for the main door change and the 16 keys plus another £350 for the flat door and keys.
1. As I was mugged and have a crime reference number will I be liable for the cost as I was not negligent?
2. My home contents insurance would not cover it but my landlord has insurance, why can it not be taken from the insurance?
What legal standing do I have?
My tenancy agreement states:18 Locks
18.1 The Tenant will not install or change any locks in the Premises without the Landlord’s prior written consent, except in the case of an emergency.
18.2 The Tenant agrees that if any additional keys are made the Tenant will deliver all keys to the Landlord at the conclusion of the tenancy and in the event that any such keys have been lost the Tenant agrees to pay to the Landlord all reasonable costs incurred by the Landlord in replacing the locks to which the lost keys belong.
18.3 The Tenant agrees that if any lock is installed or changed in the Premises without the Landlord’s prior written consent then the Tenant will forthwith remove and replace the same if so required by the Landlord and make good any resulting damage.
Since it says lost not stolen/mugged do I have any legal way of stopping him from asking me for £700?
You can’t stop him asking for it – the question is, are you liable to pay it?
The first thing to consider are the words “in the event that any such keys have been lost”. What exactly does this mean? Does it include loss through the keys being stolen?
‘Lost’ v. ‘Stolen’
Looking on the internet there are various definitions of the word ‘lost’
- that has been taken away or cannot be recovered
- no longer possessed or retained
- no longer held, owned, or possessed
- missing or unable to be found or it can mean something that was wasted or not used in a valuable way. An example of lost used as an adjective is lost money which means money that has vanished due to a bad investment.
Here are some definitions of the meaning of ‘to lose’
be deprived of or cease to have or retain (something).
“I’ve lost my appetite”
synonyms: be deprived of, suffer the loss of, no longer have, stop having
“he’s lost a lot of blood but his life is not in danger”
become unable to find (something or someone).
“I’ve lost the car keys”
synonyms: mislay, misplace, be unable to find;
Lose definition, to come to be without (something in one’s possession or care), through accident, theft, etc., so that there is little or no prospect of recovery:
Simple Definition of lose. : to be unable to find (something or someone) : to fail to win (a game, contest, etc.) : to fail to keep or hold (something wanted or valued)
lose meaning, definition, what is lose: to no longer have something because you do not know where it is:
I think it is arguable that there is a difference between losing the keys and having them stolen from you, but it is a debatable point – for example, one of the definitions above does include the word ‘theft’. But only one of them.
You could maybe argue that the word ‘lost’ implies that there is some fault on behalf of the tenant – for example losing keys by leaving them on the bus, whereas there can be no fault on your part if they were stolen by being mugged on the street.
You could also say that if the clause was intended to include stolen items it should have said so. And that if it did, it would be an unfair clause as you should not be held responsible for something which was not your fault.
I am not aware of any legal cases on whether the word ‘lost’ includes ‘stolen’ – does anyone know of any?
The problem is I suppose, if the cost of the keys was something like £20 people would be less likely to argue about it. It is the replacement cost of £821 which is the real problem. Which leads us on to:
The clause also refers to ‘reasonable cost’ and this is another factor to take into account. Is £821 a reasonable cost for the loss of two keys?
It is certainly an unexpectedly large sum. Most people would probably expect to have to pay something in the order of £50 for getting several copies of a couple of keys cut. You might perhaps do some investigation – for example, contact the company which makes the locks and verify with them that the landlords quote is correct.
Then, were you ever warned that the loss of the keys would be so expensive? For example, so you could protect your position by taking out insurance? If you were, then this would make the landlords claim more likely to be considered fair.
Bear in mind also that the landlord has to protect the security of the other tenants, and he only has your word for it that a note of your address was not in your handbag. If the other tenants are all burgled as a result of this he would be strongly criticised for failing to deal with the lock replacement.
Dealing with deposit adjudications
If you refuse to pay up then the landlord will probably make a deduction from your deposit. You would then be able to refer this to the adjudication service provided by all of the schemes. How would they deal with it?
The starting point in all adjudications is that the deposit money is the tenants and so to be entitled to an award, the landlord must prove – with reference to the tenancy agreement terms – that the tenant is liable for the item claimed and also that the sum claimed is a reasonable one.
As discussed, it is arguable in your case that this is not covered by the tenancy agreement terms. However, it would depend on the adjudicators definition of the word ‘lost’ in your tenancy agreement. And also on whether he or she felt that the sum claimed was a reasonable one in all the circumstances.
So far as insurance is concerned, it is hard to say whether or not this would be covered by the landlords insurance as we do not have sight of his policy. If you are a landlord reading this – would it be covered by YOUR policy?
£821 is a large sum for the loss of two keys and this in itself could be a reason for arguing that it should have been covered by the landlords insurance.
There are two possible ways to deal with this:
1. Refuse to pay and if the landlord then deducts it from your deposit – ask for this to be referred to adjudication
2. Try to negotiate a settlement (with the proviso that if you are unable to reach agreement you will want the matter referred to adjudication).
For example, you could offer, without prejudice, to pay half.
If the matter is referred to adjudication, I would suggest you make all the points in this post and be sure to include a copy of the police report.