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I am renting a house in the United Kingdom. The house has a storage box in the garden. A few months ago, there were strong winds and the lid of the box was, we presume blown open and one of the front two doors then broke off. We promptly emailed the estate agent images of the damage and as we had no use of the box I taped it up to hold it together and prevent the wind causing more damage. It's worth noting we've never had any use for the box.

The estate agent however, in a very passive aggressive manner suggested that we should have acted in a "tenant like manner" and placed a padlock on the box to prevent it being blown open. They also said that the Landlord has fitted a piston to the box lid that should have prevented it being blown open, which if I'm not mistaken is plainly false as a piston should prevent it slamming closed, not prevent it from opening. Finally, the estate agent said the Landlord had dropped by over that period and noticed the box lid was open from the other side of the fence. Now, this is possible, but due to the cold weather and the fact the box is down beside the house, not visible from the inside we simply probably didn't notice that day. I would also ask why the Landlord didn't simply knock to inform us it was like that if he thought it was an issue.

Now we are coming to the end of our tenancy and my question is, in the likely event the estate agent tries to charge us for this damage at the end of the tenancy are we likely to be able to successfully challenge the charge? We are okay for money so shouldn't encounter any issues if we have to wait longer to get our deposit back. Despite their suggestions I have so far given no indication that I will repair the box, aside from taping it up to prevent more damage.

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Unless and until this is assessed by a tenancy deposit scheme adjudicator, this is mostly a matter of opinion. I present my non-expert view here.

If the storage box wasn't damaged by the tenant, and if the tenant did nothing unreasonable that might lead to it being damaged, then this would typically be regarded as normal wear and tear, and hence not the tenant's responsibility.

The estate agent ... suggested that we should have acted in a "tenant like manner" and placed a padlock on the box to prevent it being blown open.

I find this unreasonable. It's the landlord's responsibility to ensure that accidental damage is avoided, either by taking suitable measures (e.g. fitting a padlock himself), or giving any relevant instructions in advance to the tenants.

Even then, in this instance, I don't see why the tenants should be expected to fit their own lock to an external storage box, unless they planned to store items in it and were concerned about things being stolen.

Landlord has fitted a piston to the box lid that should have prevented it being blown open, which if I'm not mistaken is plainly false as a piston should prevent it slamming closed, not prevent it from opening.

I'd argue that it doesn't matter. Even if the piston was supposed to stop the lid blowing open, it clearly failed here.

In any case, once any damage is done, it is still the landlord's responsibility to either fix it, or decline to do so. Decent tenants might try to fix things themselves, but they cannot assume that they will be compensated for this.

In the likely event the estate agent tries to charge us for this damage at the end of the tenancy are we likely to be able to successfully challenge the charge?

Impossible to say. I think that the landlord has been unreasonable here...but I'm not an adjudicator.

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