Lock unchanged - who is liable?

Question from Darren updated on 11th April 2012:

A friend's property is under a property manager and had a tenant that was evicted due to rent arrears. The property manager did an inspection the day after the tenant moved out and discovered the hot water cylinder was missing with no forced entry. The property manager did not change the locks. A second burglary occurred and again no forced entry. The property manager agreed that had been a bit slack. The insurance company declined the claim. Do we have any avenue to claim against the property manager for the second break-in?

Our expert Juliet Robinson responded:

I assume that you have the friend’s authority to act on their behalf. If your account is correct and the property manager admitted being 'a bit slack' by not having had the locks changed then the next question is whether it was agreed between you after the first burglary that the property manager should have the locks changed.

Your answers to those questions will give you an indicator as to whether the property manager was in breach of their duty as your (or your friend’s) agent. If you believe the agent was in breach of their duty then you may choose to make an application to the Disputes Tribunal to claim against the property manager in respect of any loss that could have been prevented by the changing of the locks after the first burglary.

You will note that I have used the words 'assume' and 'if' a few times. There is no clear-cut answer here... it depends on the facts of the case as they appear to the Tribunal.

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