THE PROPERTY DOCTORS
£1,500 I have already paid to the flat below, despite the cause emanating from the flat above. Do I have any rights to demand a contribution to my costs from the flat owner above?
RM, BY EMAIL
ALeaks from one flat to another are always a problem. As your own case shows, it is often very difficult to work out the cause of any leak. Unless the lease of the flat expressly provides it, which would be very unusual, the “leaker” is not automatically liable to the “leakee” for damage caused. To bring a claim, you would effectively have to show that the leaker knew that there was a leak from his flat and deliberately chose to do nothing about it. I suspect you will not be able to do that.
This is precisely why most insurance policies for a block of flats say that leaks of this nature can be the subject of an insurance claim. Of course, it is only the building itself that is insured, but the policy should cover any necessary replastering and decoration of your flat. It would not cover damage to any contents. These will be covered by your own contents insurance policy, assuming that you have one.
Although it may be too late, I would certainly advise you to make an insurance claim now to see if you can recover the costs of making good the damage to your flat. There is bound to be an excess, which the insurers will not pay. Normally this is fairly modest but, if there have been several leak claims, it’s common for a very high excess – possibly £1,000 or more – to be payable. Unless you can prove that the leaker is at fault, you will not be able to recover that excess from him.
Often, insurance excesses are put through the service charge, but you need to see what the leases of the flats say. If they are silent on this point, I’m afraid you will be liable for the excess.
The ‘leaker’ is not always liable to the ‘leakee’ for damage
David Fleming is the head of property litigation at William Heath & Co solicitors (williamheath.co.uk)