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Cold Weather and Tenant’s Obligations

Given the current weather conditions it seemed appropriate to do a post on what happens if a property is left by the tenant and the pipes freeze and burst.

The short answer to the question is to consider how unreasonable the tenant’s conduct has been. If the tenant has only been away for a short period and during that time there has been an unexpected cold snap then the tenant will not be liable for burst pipes (Wycombe Health Authority v Barnett). If however, the weather is well-forecast or the tenant goes away fro an excessive period with no reasonable precautions taken then the Scottish case of Mickel v McCoard would be relevant. In this case it was held that the tenant was liable for burst pipes.

So, in each case, the tenants behaviour and its reasonableness in relation to the foreseeable danger is the key factor. Given that the current spell of cold weather has been well advertised any tenant who fails to take proper precautions is likely to be liable for any damage caused.

It should be noted that, separately to this, there is a responsibility for landlords under the HHSRS to make sure that homes do not suffer from excess cold. Local authorities will be keen to ensure that properties are properly insulated, have sufficient heating, and do not suffer form drafts and have the right to serve enforcement notices to ensure that this is the case.

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