Water damage in flat

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    Water damage in flat

    I am unsure if this is the right forum. It may also belong in insurance, but I feel it's more a leasehold issue.

    Background - I'm a long leaseholder in a block of seven flats. Freeholder and named management company (FMC) in the lease (MC) are one and the same limited company. This management company has seven members, of which I am one along with my six other lessees. I am also a director of the management company.

    We, however, employ a managing agent (MA) as no one other than myself interested in leasehold issues.

    Just over two weeks ago, water damage appeared in our ceiling in a central hallway adjoining bathroom. Contacted MA immediately and after a few days got access to Mr. Upstairs flat (Upstairs) who is resident long leaseholder like myself.

    During this time, advised to move out as have young baby and asthmatic wife. Have asked for, and are due to received, written medical evidence to support this. Presently living at In-laws.

    Initially advised after MA contractor attended upstairs and discovered significant damage to bathroom that upstairs damage was due to negligence and would not be covered under insurance. Mr Upstairs confessed financial difficulty and wouldn't be able to meet cost of repairs. FMC also in perilous state due to low service charge income and also in no position to meet cost of repairs and then recover from Mr Upstairs service charge.

    I then circumvented MA (though told them after the event) and contacted insurers myself who agreed to send loss adjustor (LA) out.

    After more delay, LA reported back that unhappy with assessment that upstairs bathroom damage caused downstairs hallway damage and wanted further investigation. LA stated he would report back to MA.

    Contacted MA yesterday and today and met with 'out of the office' answer by receptionist. Today informed that MA out of the office until next week.

    We have spent two weeks away from our home so far and with no end in sight (no further investigation work arranged) cannot see how this process can be finished in less than another three weeks.

    Options:
    I am trying to work out if any of the following options are realistically feasible to get our damage repairs so that we can return home:

    1. Injunction? (Expensive, long winded?)
    2. Inform FMC in writing we intend to repair damage next week and reduce off service charge?
    3. Keep waiting patiently for all three parties (Upstairs, MA and Insurers) involved who have shown a distinct lack of speed to get things sorted.
    4. Anything else?

    Any advice gratefully received?

    #2
    Forgive me, but it sounds a bit extreme to move out because of a damp patch on the ceiling.

    There is no point in you repairing your flat until the one above is rectified. (This may take some time.)

    In the past, when my rental flat was suffering from another rental flat's poor maintenance above, I asked the lessee if I could repair it for him. I bought some masking tape, a bottle of meths, a £10 tube of silicone, and some Stanley blades. I scraped off all the defective silicone, wiped over with meths, and renewed the silicone.

    I think the pragmatic solution may be for you to do something similar.

    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by JK0 View Post
      Forgive me, but it sounds a bit extreme to move out because of a damp patch on the ceiling.
      It does. But our baby's health visitor has recommended it and my wife suffered an asthma attack one afternoon after returning home. Simply put, my wife has said "We're not living there" and I don't really get a choice (well I do, but its between divorce or live at in-laws)

      Originally posted by JK0 View Post
      There is no point in you repairing your flat until the one above is rectified. (This may take some time.)
      Again agreed. And if we were living at home, I really wouldn't care, safe in the knowledge it would get fixed at some point. But we're not living at home.

      Originally posted by JK0 View Post
      In the past, when my rental flat was suffering from another rental flat's poor maintenance above, I asked the lessee if I could repair it for him. I bought some masking tape, a bottle of meths, a £10 tube of silicone, and some Stanley blades. I scraped off all the defective silicone, wiped over with meths, and renewed the silicone.

      I think the pragmatic solution may be for you to do something similar.
      I wish I was that good at maintenance and I've no idea where the leak is coming from. Upstairs bathroom is wrecked. Mr Upstairs has had this leak for months and ignored it/not noticed it.

      My concern is just the extreme slowness that things are moving. I know insurance is slow anyway, but its not aided by:
      1. Slow MA
      2. Slow Mr. Upstairs ("When can I get access?" "Errr, next week okay?")
      3. Other lessees ignoring issue (even though it affects them)

      Comment


        #4
        its is urgent and pressing to you but it is unfair to say its lies at eh Agents feet as being slow and that it is their issue to resolve. Can I offer a different context?

        I agree with JKO that the circumstances where a damp patch requires someone to move out would be in very rare circumstances. I suspect the timing, which, in most cases, is not unreasonable, results from a disparate understanding of the seriousness of the damp patch.
        As it is a damp patch and not a collapsed ceiling, I can understand why it is not treated as a matter of upmost urgency, but perhaps you need to explain why it is one of the very rare cases.


        The PM is entitled to annual leave or sick leave as well as required to do inspections, they are not a call centre, at least not the good ones...

        If the bathroom has been "wrecked" then you may have shot your selves in the foot by lodging a claim as if theirs is an act of waste, then the claim is invalid but may result in an increased premium and exclusion due to what the person has done.

        The correct procedure

        a: enter and remedy the leak under notice if the lessee refuses
        b: inspect and decide if there is an insured cause or
        C: and most likely, is require the tenant to reinstate the bathroom to at least a safe state.

        While it is breach it is unlikely to be enforceable beyond making safe and usable as the leaseholder has the benefit of the 38 Act. If there are financial issues it might come to forfeiture and therefore the agent needs to consider that anything he does might waive that breach and remove your single biggest stick

        Sadly after the contractor made that report with the possibly of that waiver the agent needs to carefully consider anything they or the freeholder do next- as a member of the freehold company, you may well have waived that breach by contacting the insurers.

        Any legal action will require the consent of the MC directors as it is likely to give rise to costs and be outside the agents authority.

        That's why sometimes these things take time....


        As to medical advice the HV is not in a position to say if the damp patch is hazardous, but cannot offer you reassurance either, as to whether there is something eg moulds or bacteria or material being released, and therefore worrying. Being asthmatic, I understand how stress and concern, as much as an irritant, can trigger it.

        In the short term

        1: a de-humidifer tonight from ARGOS or a hire centre and a good spray with a household disinfectant and ventilating the area is goods start to minimise this and get a head start on remedial work. Wear a mask and disposable overalls if you are very concerned.

        2: Meet the Loss Adj on their inspection.

        3: The local council have powers to enter and repair and recover the cost from him

        Remember: The upstairs neighbour did this, and it is for them to rectify, not the agent and in most cases not without express instructions from their client. Your agent can be your best friend in this try and work with them rather than hanging them
        Based on the information posted, I offer my thoughts.Any action you then take is your liability. While commending individual effort, there is no substitute for a thorough review of documents and facts by paid for professional advisers.

        Comment


          #5
          Thank you for your answers. Any assistance is gratefully received.

          With respect to specific points:
          1. I agree I may have 'shot myself in the foot' regarding insurance and the damage as if it is not covered under insurance they will note the attempt at the claim and increase our premiums accordingly. Indeed, this has already happened within our block previously. However, I viewed it as better than 'hoping' for the guy upstairs to win the lottery to be able to fix his leak.

          2. What is the 38 Act, and why would my contacting the insurers possibly waive the breach by Mr. Upstairs?

          Regarding legal action, I was referring to it in the context of me as long leaseholder (rather than member/director of freehold company) against the freeholder for breach of its covenants to keep the building in good repair. I'm aware of the hilarity of effectively 'suing myself' but it may convince my fellow lessees/members/directors to apply pressure to Mr. Upstairs (who can also in another act of hilarity apply pressure to himself) to act.

          Regarding immediate measures, I hadn't considered this, as I am not convinced that damage is not still ongoing (the damp patch is still slowly expanding suggesting the water is still leaking). Would this measure be effective if water is still leaking?

          Thank you for your help.

          Comment


            #6
            The main threat that a landlord has is forfeiture; a tenant can claim relief under Leasehold Repairs Act 1938 that the reversion is so far off the landlord cannot claim damages or insist on a certain standard of repair,even if the lease requires it. That can means that far from reinstating the flat he might be able to simple "do enough" to make it safe. An example would be patching leaks rather than re-plumbing.

            Once the landlord is aware of a breach any act that suggests they will allow the tenancy to continue means that they cannot forfeit leaving them with fewer options; any communication needs to be sent or made in a particular way to avoid that waiver and frankly the average agent is not equipped to do that.

            On to the hilarity its not absurd as long as you wear different hats....

            As a member of the FH company, wearing that hat, your actions could be a waiver of the right to forfeit and the breach.

            As a leaseholder wearing that hat, you cannot take action against the freeholder for failing to repair as frankly it's the leaseholder who is in breach, not them. They are most likely his pipes and fittings that he has damaged....

            So next steps

            1: Immediate unless the building is simple in construction water will have to seep out in order to dry. Even if it is still weeping, it doesn't hurt to start. Do puncture the ceiling , but at a safe distance!

            2: check your lease if it has a clause allowing the landlord the right to enter and on notice require the tenant to repair failing which they can do so, ask the agent to take steps to do this

            3: In the lease does it have a clause that allows you to insist that if another tenant does or fails to do something, that, on request, the landlord must then investigate and act? If so, invoke that clause.

            And impress on them the seriousness of the situation and it is still leaking, it must be the stains "getting bigger and dripping" (hint hint).

            Good luck
            Based on the information posted, I offer my thoughts.Any action you then take is your liability. While commending individual effort, there is no substitute for a thorough review of documents and facts by paid for professional advisers.

            Comment


              #7
              Bear in mind insurers will do all they can to avoid a claim.

              If as you say the upstairs flat is in poor repair this will be the Mr Upstairs responsibility not the FMC's responsibility to repair.

              @leaseholdanswers has succinctly and accurately set out the course of action for you to follow.

              Good luck and I hope you get back home soon.

              Comment

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