Halloween – Trick or Treat for the Private Landlord?

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October comes, this season of ‘Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness’, but also of Trick or Treat. Some people love it and will decorate their homes with pumpkins, skulls, chains of dancing skeletons.

Each to their own and most homes will have a bag of sweets ready to hand out to the children, dressed as ghouls and witches, who knock on their doors.

What does this have to do with the private landlord? Well, it may be slight, but there is a chance that innocent Trick or Treaters could be casing the property for valuables worth stealing, if they are invited into the home. Many children will have an adult accompanying them and they may be the main risk; caring parents yes, but they could also be taking the opportunity to become a familiar fact and lull your tenants into a sense of security. 

What of the tricks? A favourite trick is to pelt windows with raw eggs. Sticky and nasty to get rid of, it is remotely possible that a window could get broken, if it is not firmly fixed or is already damaged. The temptation is probably to stay in with the curtains closed and the door locked, but if someone knocks on the door and decides to ‘trick’ you, going to the door ensures you know who it is, should they do anything that constitutes damage.

You may very well be thinking that you really don’t need to worry about Trick or Treat in relation to your tenants. It is for them to deal with, unless the shock of answering the door to Quasimodo kills them. But you as landlord do need to be aware that should one of these fun-loving or unwelcome visitors fall on your premises, you will be held liable.

You may think that this is an unlikely scenario; your tenants have a very clear tenancy agreement that holds them responsible for clearing paths of leaves etc. But if the tenant is sick, has been working long hours and neglected to sweep the leaves, they can become sticky and slippery. Thick coatings of leaves can also disguise uneven and broken paths and lead to trips. 

A broken ankle or wrist may be comparatively trivial injuries, but compensation claims will still amount to thousands and with regular advertisements on the television for solicitors who don’ miss a trick and are happy to conduct a claim on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, anybody would feel confident to pursue compensation for their injuries.

Landlords may remember I advised during the summer that they should carefully inspect gutters and drains whilst the weather allowed them to do this and take action where required. But what if the gutters had seemed clear and without breaks, only for a drip to reveal itself in the very wet weather we have had? 

Water that drains away does not look nice but is unlikely to greatly increase the risk of falls. But remember – autumn leads into winter and nights become colder. Once standing water freezes, it becomes a very serious hazard. Speak to your tenants, advice them of the risks and that they MUST notify you of any situations where this could happen. If the weather is very bad, it may not be possible to rectify the problem immediately. An old-fashioned remedy – buy your tenants a bag of salt to scatter on icy patches.

Private landlords should not need to worry about things that concern the tenant who, with common sense, could minimise risks of broken windows, or of robbery on the basis of what has been seen from the front door; they should ensure that paths are free of debris and notify you of standing water or broken paving. 

They should – but sometimes they don’t, so be proactive yourself and take whatever steps you can to keep your properties, and visitors to your properties, safe.

Halloween – the trick is to make it a treat.

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon 

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