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Roof damage - want to issue small claim v neighbour?

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Am helping out my friend.

Friend is overseas and the roof of his cottage has been damaged by his neighbour.   

The damage is clearly not naturally-made.  And not made by my friend as the cottage has been empty.

He has a grade 2 listed cottage.  The adjoining cottage is not listed. 

The neighbours of the adjoining cottage undertook building works to their own cottage and roof without notifying my friend - which I believe they should have done due to his cottage being listed? 

Somehow the builders made a hole in friend's cottage roof.

The neighbours have refused to acknowledge the damage or to pay for it.


Friend's son has repeatedly asked them to fix and pay for the damage.   They just refuse.   

The son has done no temporary repairs and has not taken any legal action, on behalf of his father, against the neighbours.    There has basically been a stalemate for years.  This means the cottage has had a hole in the roof for ages.  Wind, rain, snow has now damaged the internal rafters.   

Personally I find this silly - which is why I have got involved. 


I went and spoke to the neighbours several months ago.  I asked them if they could sort the roof repairs via their insurance.  The guy just laughed and said its not his roof and he's not paying to repair it...

So clearly he needs some pressure put on him.

The neighbour applied for planning permission to build an extension and are currently in the midst of further building works - so clearly they do have some money.


Can friend write a Letter before Action as a precursor for making a MoneyClaim via small claims court?

I have got some quotes from local roofers.  They all did a site visit.  All have quoted apx £8-9k to do a full repair.   One firm can do a temp patch up job almost immediately and the full repair in a few months.

Can friend write a LBA stating the cost of both the temp and full jobs - and stating the neighbour needs to cover the costs or he will make a small claim?

Is the small claims court suitable for something like this?

Friend does not have the funds to pay for this himself.  He's an oap.



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When you say years, how long exactly?


It begs the question, why on earth have they waited this long????

Who ever heard of someone getting a job at the Jobcentre? The unemployed are sent there as penance for their sins, not to help them find work!



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I don't actually know how long.

It does beg the question why the son has not sorted out a temporary repair before?  But he does refuse to pay or do anything on behalf of his father.  And although I understand he has complained to the neighbour, he has taken no action.

I was told about it.  So I just did what the son could have done - and remotely sourced some roofers online and got them to go to the site and give quotes. 

I sense a bit of dysfunctional family issues.

And I also sense the son would quite like to get the cottage cheap off his father... so no repairs = damage = cheaper cottage???


However, I like to take care of friend who is frail.  And now I've seen the damage and got the quotes I'd quite like to help him take action against the neighbour.  Is this possible?




Edited by HP Mum
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I'm not an insurance expert but it could be that the insurer could have put pressure on the neighbour or their insurer.


Why are you pursuing this on behalf of a family who don't seem to care though? You seem to have plenty of problems of your own, HP Mum.


ETA: You haven't said how long this has been going on and I don't know if there's a cut-off for insurance claims.



Illegitimi non carborundum




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Thanks HB.  I find this a positive distraction from my own stuff.

I help him where I can because his children don't.  He was a neighbour of mine, lost his wife, got sick and frail. 

I do at least talk to one son (never met).   Perhaps, now I have quotes I could get him to call the neighbour and give the guy his options: put through his insurance or we'll make small claim?


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You need to find out exactly how long ago the hole was made otherwise how do you know whether or not any court claim is time barred?


Even if not time barred one obvious problem is that there appears to be no evidence that the builders next door did cause the hole in the roof. It all sounds very circumstantial from your description.


Another problem is that your friend is under a duty to mitigate his losses but has not done this. Leaving the hole unrepaired has resulted in significantly more damage to the cottage than if it had been repaired at the time. A court would be unlikely to award compensation for all this extra damage.


The neighbour and his insurers are under no duty to do anything about this because your friend has not made any claim against them. The neighbour can't "put it through his insurance" even if he wanted to. Your friend should have claimed on his own Buildings insurance policy but it's way too late to do that now


Court procedure isn't my special subject but I doubt your friend's son has any legal standing to bring a claim unless he holds some formal power of attorney to do so. I assume from your post that the son does not own the cottage.


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Thanks Ethel


There is absolute evidence the builders working on next door's roof caused the damage.  The neighbours knew it at the time and still know it now.


The son repeatedly asked the neighbours to remedy the damage to mitigate the damage and they repeatedly refused.  They knew the owner was overseas and cottage empty and the owner unable to remedy himself.  The neighbours just did not want to spend money on fixing his damage.  


The son didn't do any work because it is not his house.  This doesn't make sense to me but that's family dysfunction for you! 

I went and saw the damage and have been trying ever since to get the son to get a roofer to mend the hole. 

It seems that they have all been arguing over who will pay rather mitigating the damage.


The damage was done before covid lockdown.  Not time-barred yet.


Friend doesn't have building insurance.  Neighbours either won't put it through their insurance or don't have insurance either.


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What is this "absolute evidence" that the neighbour's builders caused the damage? 


Are there photographs taken at the time showing the builder cauing the damage?


Or at least taken closely before and after the damage was caused?


Are there any independnent witness statements fro someone who saw the damage being caused?


Has the neighbour &/or the builder admitted causing the damage?  "The neighbours knew it at the time and still know it now" needs evidence that they knew it. What is that evidence?


If none of those then what evidence would your friend put before the judge if he took the case to court?


As I posted before, the neighbour can't "put it through his insurance" even if he wanted to. His insurance doesn't cover your friend's roof. If your friend made a formal claim against the the neighbour then his insurers would treat it as a third party liability claim under the public liability section of his policy. But the insurers wouldn't pay anything unless your friend could establish that the builders had negligently damaged his roof, with evidence.


The duty to mitigate losses falls on the person who has suffered the damage, not the person who is alleged to have caused it.


That your friend isn't insuring his own cottage is beyond stupid. Although until he mends the roof it is probably uninsurable. 

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I hear you about being stupid!  He is an oap and frail though - which is why I try help.  


Yes the son took photos.  He has sent me some.

For clarity - the damage is man-made.  There are only the 2 cottages in the vicinity.  When the damage was caused the neighbours had scaffolding erected and builders on their own roof.  There was no hole in friend's roof - and suddenly there was.  They are semi-detached.

Thank you for helping and advising about ensuring he has irrefutable evidence.  I will push the son to send me everything 


Edited by HP Mum
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The son took photos of what? A hole in the roof with nothing to show how it was caused?  When did he take them?  Back pre-covid when the hole in the roof was first made? Or recently?


Back to your original question in Post #1, can your friend bring a small claims court action?


He can if thinks it worthwhile, starting with a letter before action and following the usual SCC processes described elsewhere on here. If the claim is £8k - £9k as you suggest then he'll have to pay a fee that from memory is around £450. If the judge decides, on balance of probabilities, that the builders caused the damage then the neighbour is likely to be held liable and ordered to pay for the damage. 


But is it worthwhile is the question. I can't see that evidence is compelling, but even if successful your friend wouldn't recover anything like the £8k to £9k it will cost to repair the damage now. Only what it would have cost to repair the damage at the time it occurred.  All the subsequent damage caused by water penetrating the roof space is a result of your friend's failure to mitigate his losses and not down to the neighbour.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks Ethel for your thought.


The son took photos when the neighbours had scaffolding up. When the hole "happened".  They had builders doing roof work.  I understand the builders placed something (heavy bucket?) on friends roof. Friend was away so no-one other than the neighbours builders could have caused the damage.  They just refused to mend and took the scaffold down.


I think friend may be eligible for court fee waiver?  I will check the requirements.


I hear what you are saying about further damage being caused which will now cost more.  Friend was away and son didn't do any further damage preventative repair. But son and friend constantly told neighbour to fix it - and they refused.   Yes someone should have done the repair.  If I had been involved earlier I would have organized a patch job.  I now understand the son did put tarpaulin over the hole. - but it wasnt/ isn't good enough.


I think I may get a roofer to patch it up now - whilst friend and neighbour communicate properly to come to a resolution outside of the courts.

Edited by HP Mum
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Good luck to him! From what you've said my guess is nothing is going to make the neighbour come to an agreement to pay for it, or to discuss it at all, unless your friend starts the SCC process.


Bear in mind that mitigating losses doesn't mean asking the neighbour to repair it. It means repairing it himself to prevent further damage then claiming the money from the neighbour.


Small Claims Courts/MCOL only deal with claims for monetary compensation.  Even if your friend had started a SCC when the damage was first done, and even if the court had found the neighbour's builder 100% responsible for the hole, the court would not have ordered the neighbour to repair the roof themself. It was always your friend's responsibility to repair his own roof and then start a SCC for monetary compensation.

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