The Public Liability Insurance Blog

The worst tenants ever? Renting horror stories and their insurance solutions

Tenant blockThe problem with a lot of dysfunctional, sociopathic, violent, greedy, criminal, deranged, antisocial and psychotic people with behavioural and personal hygiene problems is that, when the occasion demands, they can scrub up quite respectably and give off the impression of being rational, affable and trustworthy individuals. As many landlords have found to their cost.

Take Kindred Hummer (not a name anyone could have invented in their wildest nightmares – so type it into Google if you have any doubts). Her tenancy specifically stated “no pets”. When (ultimately) her landlord evicted her, he also had to evict 50 cats, 10 dogs, and a squirrel. Meanwhile, her boyfriend (just down the road in Hull) was harbouring 21 dogs and 2 giant tortoises. It was little consolation to Kindred’s landlord that she was later fined for the crime of “illegally keeping a squirrel”.

Then there was the case of the seemingly pleasant lady with three children, a husband in a well-paid professional job, and impeccable references who rented a house in Bromley. On moving in she put locks on all the internal doors, littered the house with bunk beds and rented the place out to 15 single people. Not wanting to seem ungracious or anything, when she moved out she poured cement down the drains and filled the cast-iron bath with acid.

But for sheer, unadulterated commitment to the art of bad tenancy, the occupants of a house in Manchester which ultimately attracted its very own ASBO win by a country mile. Where to start? They lit a bonfire with the kitchen table, five chairs and all the fencing from next door’s garden, dug a tunnel under the kitchen floor from the toilet, ripped the water main out of the wall and caused the living room ceiling to collapse, twice fell through the loft and had a four-day 24/7 party with a £20k sound system banging out 140 decibels in the basement. Oh, and there was the small matter of the kitchen window which was smashed when someone threw a 25-kilo pig’s head through it.

And when they moved in, they seemed like such nice respectable lads from the Welsh valleys.

Options

When faced with stories like this landlords have two options: sell their property and diversify into something less stressful like strapping raw steak to themselves and moving into a cage with an underfed lion, or think very seriously about sorting out some proper insurance. There’s insurance for everything and anything. After all, Diana Dors once insured her breasts for £100,000. So insure the building, insure any contents which are yours, insure for temporary accommodation for tenants in case the place burns down, insure for malicious damage and theft, insure for rent arrears, and (definitely) insure for liability if a tenant or tradesman sues you for stubbing his toe in the bath.

Well, maybe that’s a bit extreme. But landlords will definitely benefit from putting together a package of some sort. We live in an uncertain world. And nothing is more uncertain than human behaviour, particularly when it goes on in rented property. After all, who’d have thought a nice demure young lady with excellent references would start paying her way through college by pole-dancing, install a practice pole in the front room, and bring down the ceiling? Human beings: we’re complex. Frankly, we’re a bit of a mess.

And of course, it cuts both ways. Tenants need to beware. Definitely insure your personal property (no landlord will pick up the tab for that: it’s not legally possible), and know your housemates. An American girl recounted how a German exchange student who was living in a shared house lost his rag after being defeated at Level 8 in some half-witted video game, and naturally enough stabbed the kitchen door 40 times with a carving knife. She very rapidly took a trip to the hardware store and got a proper lock for her bedroom door. It might have been wiser to get the German locked up, come to think of it.

But listen, don’t take this too much to heart. The vast majority of tenants are reliable and conscientious and (fundamentally) they like to live in a home which is tidy, warm, welcoming, comfortable and well cared for. So what they do (surprise surprise) is keep the landlord’s property tidy, warm, welcoming, comfortable and well cared for. Seems like the obvious solution.

However, since there will always be the odd one or two folk who can’t quite grasp how society works and how people should behave, insurance is a necessary evil. Just make sure there are no exclusions in the contract concerning accidental damage caused by temporary loss of control of a pig’s head.

This guest post was provided by letting agent Martin & Co.