Anyone who lives in rented accommodation can breathe a sigh of relief after a tenant whose weekend cottage suffered severe flooding damage during a cold snap saw off a £128,000 demand from insurers. The High Court found that the woman was covered by her landlady’s insurance policy, having contributed to premiums through her rent.

The woman rented the thatched cottage for £2,600 a month. She was not present when a water pipe burst during freezing weather. The landlady’s insurance company honoured her claim in respect of the damage but sought to recover its loss from the tenant on the basis that she had left the cottage’s central heating system turned off in her absence. That was said to be a breach of her tenancy agreement.

In exonerating the tenant, however, the Court found that, given her background as a physicist, she must have been aware of the risk of bursting pipes and would probably have left the heating switched on. The possibility that there had been a mechanical failure in the heating system could not be excluded.

The Court also rejected the insurer’s arguments that the policy benefited only the woman’s landlady. It noted that such a ruling would seriously disadvantage tenants in that they would be required to take out their own policies to cover already insured risks, thus incurring additional and unnecessary insurance costs. The Court found that the tenant had indirectly paid towards the premiums via her rent.


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