You could be blessed with the conscientious and careful tenants that every landlord dreams of, but all it takes is a few less careful neighbours and you’ve got yourself a case of property damage. It can be tricky to know where you stand when a neighbour damages your rental property. Should they be the ones to deal with it? Should your tenant deal with it, or is it your problem?
When we refer to damage by a neighbour, we’re not necessarily talking about malicious damage. Malicious damage by a neighbour is pretty rare and this is usually a case of a neighbourly dispute. Check out our neighbourly disputes section for more advice on this.
What’s much more common is the kind of damage that can happen accidentally. Accidental damage could be leaks and other water damage, footballs through windows, damage to shared walls or fencing, damage from unkempt gardens such as tree roots cracking the garden path and damage from pests or vermin.
The question of responsibility depends on the situation. For the most part, it should always fall to you rather than the tenant to fix any damage - the only exception being if the damage was caused by your tenant. This is because it’s a landlord’s job to keep the structural elements of the property in repair, such as the walls, ceilings and plasterwork. Arguably the most common case of damage caused by neighbours is floods or leaks, particularly in flats due to the close proximity. If the flat above has a leaky shower or bath and the water leaks through to your property’s roof, it’s your responsibility to fix it. Make sure your tenant lets you know as soon as they notice any damage of any kind. You’re only responsible if you know about it!
If your tenants belongings get damaged in any of these situations, you won’t be liable for replacing anything. The only person that could be liable for this is the neighbour that caused the initial damage, but only if it was a result of carelessness, such as letting a bath overflow. This is also the case if the neighbour’s child kicks a football through your rental property’s kitchen window. Technically, this is trespassing so the neighbour would be liable to financially compensate you for the damage the ball caused.
If you or your tenant notice damage of any kind caused by a neighbour, act fast and nip it in the bud as soon as possible. Hopefully, you can catch the damage whilst it’s a small and simple problem. This avoids costly repair bills and the neighbour may be more inclined to address it. You may be having problems with repeated damage as a direct result of your neighbours actions. Perhaps their washing machine is causing leaks in your rental property whenever they use it and they have failed to get it fixed. Remember, communication should always be the first port of call. Take responsibility for the situation over your tenant and try to resolve problems between yourself and the neighbour before taking any further action. This is always the best way to fix an issue. If not, contact a local mediator for external help.
If things get particularly bad, there’s always court action to fall back on for nuisance or negligence, which could get you an injunction. However this is a long and complicated process that no one wants to go through, so should be treated as a last resort. Property damage caused by tenants needs to be treated as a case-by-case basis. If it is malicious damage, tread carefully and work on solving the dispute. In all cases, keeping a strong and open relationship with any neighbours around your rental property/s will make solving any issues much, much easier.