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Water damage to a flat beneath my mother's flat - who pays for the repair costs - The building's insurance or my mother's independent home insurance?


Tosca1
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Hi,  I am wondering if anyone might be able to help please?    

 

My 85 year old  mother is involved in a financial dispute with the owner and their representative of the building she lives in, regarding payment for repair costs, which they claim my mother is 100% responsible for.  We don’t know how legitimate this is.   The dispute is over some water damage, which occurred a couple of years ago, to the flat directly underneath my mother’s flat (please see – Current Dispute Section below). Due to the complexity of the situation, I am confused as to who needs to pay for the repair costs (please see – My Question to Ask Section below) .

 

 

To help understand the situation, I have included some background information:-

 

·        My mother lives in a in a big 4 storey Victorian building of multiple occupancy. The building is made up of: -

    • My mother's maisonette flat (she owns the 100 year lease on it) and consists of the top 2 floors.
    • 1st Floor residential Flat, (which the owner of the building’s brother lives in)
    • A ground floor business premises, (which the owner’s brother runs his business from).

The owner’s  brother (who I will call Mr X) acts as her representative and manages the day to day running of the whole building. According to him, his sister does not want anything to do with the running of the building and all decisions are made by him.

 

Current Dispute; -

There is a small extension (roughly 8ft x 5ft) at the back of the main building, which is part of the ground floor business premises and Flat 1 (on the first floor).  The extension does not extend past my mother’s maisonette flat.  It’s roof is flat and felted.  Over the top of the felt is decking, so you can walk on it.  My mother’s kitchen back door opens directly onto the decking area.

She uses this area as:-

§  A mini roof garden, which has some potted plants and hanging baskets.  It is something she really enjoys and has been instrumental in her slow recovery following a stroke some time ago.

§  Access to maintain the gas and water pipes on the exterior walls of her flat.

A couple of years ago, there was an issue with the flat roof. According to Mr X, my mother was  100% responsible.  He claimed the gully running on the outer edge of the roof top (just beneath the edge of decking) had become blocked blocked for some time, with plant debris and soil, from my mother’s plants.  Apparently, this caused water to overflow and penetrate down through the brick work into Flat 1’s kitchen.  Last year, Mr X employed a builder to extensively refurbish Flat 1, which included scaffolding being erected, repointing of exterior brick work, new windows, installation installed, redesigning of flat layout and the felt roof was renewed.  This work took well over 8 months to complete. 

 

As part of this work, Mr X demanded, (as my mother pays 50% of maintenance for the roof), she should pay the full cost to renew the decking and have wrought iron railings installed to the edge of the roof top, for health and safety.  All totalling £2,500.  This seemed to be a lot of money, considering the size of the area.  At the time my mother and her partner were trying to dispute this, but sadly both had mental health issues (which we were unaware of) and extremely vulnerable.  They were not able to find an independent builder, to give a quote for the necessary work to be carried out on  flat 1.  So we only have Mr X’s builder and structural surveyor’s say so as to what the cause of the damage was.  We did ask for a copy of the reports, but did not receive any.  Before the dispute could be resolved, my mother’s partner died last year.  As this was an extremely difficult time, Mr X becoming increasingly demanding for payment and then the onset of covid/ lock down,  as my mother was scared, she paid up. 

 

 

We thought that was the end of it, then last week Mr X sent my mother a quote  (£7,000) for some more work to be carried out on Flat 1.  Apparently, there is now dry rot in the kitchen.  Mr X claims this is a knock on effect from the block gully a couple of years ago.

 

Mr X is now arguing: -

·        This work cannot be carried out through the building’s commercial insurance company because the cause was down to her neglect.

·        He wants my mother’s independent home insurance details, so he can go through hers.

 

I am suspecting Mr X has a hidden agenda, as the more questions I ask, the more defensive his behaviour is becoming.  He is using bullying tactics to get what he wants, including nitt picking as to what my mother is doing/not doing, grilling her carer about my mother, aggressively talking to me.  His behaviour is causing my mother, which in turn is having a detrimental impact on her health.  

 

 

Questions I would like to  ask

1.     Is it possible for this work to go through the building’s commercial insurance?

Ø  The owner is the policy holder

Ø  My mother pays 50% of the total annual cost of the policy

Ø  My mother’s name is in the business of interest section, which states insured against floods, water damage, etc.

 

2.      If we must go through my mother’s independent home insurance, how does this work with Mr X and how will it affect my mother?

 

3.      How do we know there were not any other contributing factors, regarding the clogging up of the swan neck gully, eg moss/sediment coming off the slate roofs from the surrounding properties (the building is in a street).

 

4.      The possibility Mr X’s flat was not maintained properly?  The quote, from the dry rot company stated, the were another 4 possibilities as to why it could have occurred, but they would not know until they started work.

 

 

5.      I am wondering if there have been claims made against the commercial insurance policy, which my mother has paid for?  Unfortunately, I am unable to access the policy as my mother is not down as a policy holder. 

 

6.      Is there anything legal that I can do for my mother?

 

Any help with the above matter, would be appreciated.

 

Thank you.

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First thing is that your Mother independent Home Insurance won't cover the damage under standard insured perils.

 

However, what your Mother's Home Insurance policy does provide for is liability cover, where a third party proves your Mother is liabile for damage. But the third party would need to gain Court judgement against your Mother which appears unlikely if she defended.

 

What your Mother should do is to pass on all documents and information to her Home Insurers claims department, advising that the neighbour is trying to hold her liable for damage. Explain the mental health and bereavement issues which may have delayed the Insurers being notified of the possible claim by the third party. Your Mother's Home Insurers are likely to write to the third party denying any liability.

 

In regard to your Q's.

 

Yes the Buildings Insurance company should be contacted by the Policyholder and your Mother as interested party should be provided with the policy documents, plus any letters regarding the claim submitted.

 

Notify Mother's Home Insurance of possible third party liability claim.

 

I think your Mother needs legal advice about the leasehold position as to what rights and responsibilities exist.  I would look into that before paying out for Building surveys. Did your Mother really have formal legal entitlement to use the 1st floor roof extention as external space ?  Hence the need to check leasehold documents, which may have been amended following works to the building ?

 

Given your Mother's age, might be worth contacting Age charity or Citizens Advice locally to see if there are local Solicitors they have details for.  Or if you have a family Solicitors to speak to them.  Often Solicitors will provide a free 30 minute consultation.  Check Mothers Home Insurance to see it it includes legal expenses cover. If there is Legal cover, the Insurance company  have their own legal team and list of Solicitors, which mostly have to be used. They won't normally cover expenses for Solicitors you arranged.

 

To summarise, yes contact the Insurance companies, but be prepared for Insurers to refuse claims due to insufficient evidence of an Insured peril causing the damage. This will be a legal argument about liability for the damage and may end up in Court. 

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Thank you for replying back to me. 

 

 

 I really appreciate you all the information you have mentioned. It is very informative and the suggestions you have made are really helpful, especially with my mother being so vulnerable. I will look into all the suggestions you have made.  Thank you again

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Hi

 

Could I also mention my concern is you point out that the actual Owner of the building has passed all the maintenance/upkeep etc of that building onto her Brother that lives in the building but did the actual owner notify your Mother in writing of this change as legally required?

 

If the above was not done (i.e. only verbally) then your Mother needs to write to the Actual Owner of the Building requesting clarification if writing that she the Owner of the Building has passed these responsibilities onto her Brother that lives at XYZ Address. (your Mother needs a paper trail of all this)

 

I also agree that as your Mother is named of the Building Commercial Insurance then she should be entitled to a copy of that Policy especially since she is paying 50% of that policy.

 

I would also consider sending them a Subject Access Request (SAR) asking for 'ALL DATA' that simple phrase covers which ever format they hold that Data in whether it be recorded telephone calls, writing, email etc. and it is FREE to do so and they then have 30 Calendar Days to comply but that time limit only starts once they have acknowledged receipt of your SAR Request

 

 

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I am so sorry this MR x is bullying your Mother. 

in reply to your questions 

 

1) Not fully sure o this but your Mother pays half and is named so would be entitled to ask questions etc

 

2) Mothers insurance policy costs could rise. This is due to a claim being made. He could try to bully the insurance company but l thin they have heard it all before. 

 

3) You don't unless you have the pipes checked or even have a video of the other causes blocking the pipes. I know when we had a lot of over night heavy rain 2 years ago our downpipe got blocked and ended flooding into our house. Long story short the LL tried to blame the neighbours house as his guttering was blocked but we have 3 private owned houses connected to our down pipe, 6 houses in total, so it could have been any of them and it ended at ours with the down pipe. 

 

4) The company have said there are other reasons. Do you have a copy of that report and do you have a copy of that report. Does it give possibility's as to what could have caused it. 

 

5)Based on what you have said l think there might be. Your mum is not a holder but she is a interested party Do a SAR and see what comes up. 

 

6) How is your Mums health now. Could you get Power of attorney. I am wondering as if you can this may help as you can order that everything has to go threw you and have it in writing only. 

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

 

honeybee13

@unclebulgaria67

@stu007

@The GodMother

 

 

Thank you  all  for replying back to me. 

I am not sure how to reply back to you all, as new to consumer action forum, hence this reply. 

 

 Nevertheless, I really appreciate you all the information you have mentioned. It is very informative and the suggestions you have made are really helpful, especially with my mother being so vulnerable. I will look into all the suggestions you have made. 

 

Update on the the situation:-

Things have escalated even more with Mr X and my mother has been very stressed out.

 

At the moment,  I am still in the process of looking for a solicitor.   I have tried citizen advice and age care (who have taken a while to get back to me) to see if I can get solicitors for the elderly, unfortunately not for this type of situation.  I have spoken to my mother's free legal advice team, they can only offer advice.  They are not able  to look through any documents or represent her. 

 

 I am a bit unsure what to do next.

I have contacted my mother's insurance company,  only for legal advice.  I am not sure whether I should be contacting  them about a liability claim without having a solicitor first,  as worried never hand to deal with insurers in this way before?  Does anyone have any suggestions in what type of solicitor I would need to get?

 

Many thanks,

 

Tosca1

 

 

 

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Yes contact Mothers Insurance company to advise of potential liability claim and provide them with as much information as possible.  Don't need to contact a Solicitors first.

 

Don't delay contacting the Insurers

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 Have we helped you ...?         Please Donate button to the Consumer Action Group

 

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