‘Water came gushing in through the roof for two weeks due to the stupid managing agent. Can I sue?’

Emilee Geist

Every week, The Telegraph’s Property Doctors bring expertise on renovations and DIY, planning, buying and selling, lettings, legal issues and taxes. Send your questions to [email protected] Q Our daughter lives in a block of 66 flats built about 60 years ago. Each owner holds a share of the freehold, and it […]

Every week, The Telegraph’s Property Doctors bring expertise on renovations and DIY, planning, buying and selling, lettings, legal issues and taxes. Send your questions to [email protected]

Q Our daughter lives in a block of 66 flats built about 60 years ago. Each owner holds a share of the freehold, and it is managed by a board of directors.

Our daughter’s flat is on the first floor directly above the entrance lobby. Five weeks ago, her electrics went and having called an electrician it was found to be caused by water leaking from above. The electric supply was restored but the electric shower had to be isolated. The water couldn’t be switched off so she was left with having to empty buckets every two hours. 

This meant she didn’t get a night’s sleep and missed 11 days from work and had to rely on the kindness of neighbours to have a shower.

She emailed members of the managing board informing them of the situation, and asking them to get the water switched off and to investigate the source of the leak. She also asked to see a copy of the buildings insurance. It took over two weeks to get the water switched off which was found to come from a tank on the roof.  

To date despite many requests she still hasn’t had a copy of the buildings insurance. She updates the board regularly on the lack of progress, but nothing seems to be getting done.

If all this were not bad enough our daughter is disabled with multiple sclerosis. What further action can she, or the family, do to get resolution?

NPW, by email

A Leaks from one flat to another are always a problem. As your own case shows, it is often very difficult indeed to find out exactly what has caused a leak. Unless the lease of the flat expressly so provides, which would be very unusual, the “leaker” is not automatically liable to the “leakee” for damage caused by the leaks.  

To bring a claim, your daughter 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 blocks 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 re-plastering and decoration of the flat. It would not cover damage to any contents; these will be covered by her contents insurance policy assuming she has one.

It is disappointing that the freehold company and their managing agents have not provided a copy of the buildings insurance policy. You (or strictly speaking your daughter) are entitled to a copy of the policy and, subject to various conditions, to make a claim direct to the insurance company if the freehold company itself, which will be the insured person under the policy, fails to do so.  

The managing agents should have a complaints procedure and you would be well advised to go through that. Having said that, however, the managing agent acts for the freehold company and if the freehold company refused to allow the policy to be disclosed, then I do not think you could claim against the managing agents in those circumstances. 

It may well be that if your daughter instructed a solicitor who wrote a suitable letter to the freehold company, they would comply with their obligations so far as the insurance is concerned. 

David Fleming is the head of property litigation at William Heath & Co solicitors (williamheath.co.uk)

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