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Are landlords responsible for food lost when the freezer breaks down?

Your tenant is happy as Larry. You've provided them with a nice fridge and freezer and everything is fine. They're enjoying chilled wine from the fridge and microwave meals from the freezer. Life couldn't be better.

But then disaster strikes. The freezer breaks down and all those ready meals, pies and burgers are ruined. They have to throw out all the food. Naturally enough your tenant isn't happy. They've spent their hard earned money on that food only to have to chuck it in the bin. They want compensation. More specifically they want you to pay for all the ruined food.

But where do you stand? Do you have to replace the food your tenant has lost?

You do of course have to repair or replace the freezer. This will be in the tenancy agreement. And you do have a responsibility to ensure all electrical appliances in your property are in good condition and safe to use. You won't have any issue with that.

But as for replacing the tenant's food? No. You certainly don't have to do that.

A tenant's responsibilities

You'll have contents insurance as part of your landlord's insurance policy. And contents insurance usually covers food in the freezer. But, and it's a big but, your contents insurance doesn't cover your tenant's personal possessions. And that includes the food they have stored in your freezer.

The tenant should have taken out their own contents insurance. If they have done so they can claim for the cost of the food they've lost against their own policy. However they may find the excess is suchthere is no point in claiming anyway.

Your options

As a private landlord you're under no obligation to pay for your tenant's ruined food. But it may well be worth thinking twice before rejecting your tenant's claim outright.

If your tenant has never been any trouble, pays their rent on time and keeps your property clean and tidy you may want make a goodwill gesture. If the tenant has lost £20 or £30 worth of food it might be a smart move to offer to replace the food.

A goodwill gesture can make a good tenant an even better one. It's all part of establishing that special relationship which can make any private landlord's job so much easier. You may consider £20 a small price to pay to keep your tenant onside and happy.

If you do choose to do this make sure you let your tenant know how lucky they are to have a landlord like you. That you're under no legal obligation to replace the food but are happy to make the gesture.

So deciding whether to replace your tenant's lost food is a judgement call. If it pays to keep them sweet it may be worth swallowing the few pounds it takes to keep the tenant happy. On the other hand if the tenant is a pain in the backside. Well, legally you don't have to replace the food.

A slight caveat here may be if you've been negligent. If the tenant told you weeks ago the freezer was in danger of breaking down and you did nothing about it you may be liable. In which case it's not worth the hassle of arguing. You may as well take the hit.

Take the chance to upgrade

The freezer breaking down may be a message that it's time to upgrade to a new appliance. Instead of a costly repair which might just be a temporary fix it may be worthwhile splashing out on a new freezer. A new model will be more efficient, more reliable and they don't cost the earth. Your own insurance may even trade old for new.

Private landlords can find tenants fast by listing their property with MakeUrMove the leading online letting agency.

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