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View Full Version : Huge water bill caused by hidden leak - who's responsible?



Gaz
10-12-2009, 20:09 PM
As per the title. Friend of mine has been a furnished tenant in a flat for the past 8 months, in a managed tenancy by a local lettings agent.

Her first water bill after six months was around £800 - the water company informed her that the average bill for a one-person flat would be around £250 a year, so obviously £800 in six months was highly suggestive of a leak.

Letting agent arranged for a plumber, who identified a leak behind the toilet which was invisible and silent and thus escaped detection until the arrival of the bill.

Arrangements were made to fix the leak, but the existing bill remains a problem The water company have indicated the additional cost should be absorbed by the landlord, but the letting agent dispute this and have told the tenant that the bill is her responsibility.

If anyone is aware of the usual precedent in such cases, I would be happy to hear it. Tenancy agreement is a fairly standard AST.

subjecttocontract
10-12-2009, 20:33 PM
This must be a pretty rare occourance and therefore its unlikely that there is a precident. So, if I put my common sense hat on I'd suggest.....

As the leak would be the landlords responsibility to fix anyway and the tenant had no way of knowing that there was a leak I'd suggest it should be the landlord who picks up the bill of £675 and the tenant pays £125 Ouch ! I wouldn't like it either but thats what I would consider fair.

Paragon
10-12-2009, 20:40 PM
I agree with Subject. Sounds like a good plan.

Ericthelobster
11-12-2009, 07:32 AM
Sounds like a very good reason to avoid metered water supply, doesn't it?

Out of interest, it sounds as if this leak was inside the property... how do you lose £675 of water there unnoticed?

asquithea
11-12-2009, 07:46 AM
... because the leak was invisible and silent? Could easily have been draining through a wall cavity or something.

If the LL doesn't pay up, it might possibly be worth the T trying their contents insurance. I'm with Legal & General, and my policy booklet reads something like:

"- Escape of water from any washing machine, dishwasher or plumbed in domestic water or heating installation.

Except:
* during a period of unoccupancy
* overflow as a result of taps being left on
* loss or damage caused by the failure, or lack of, grout and/or sealant

- Oil and metered water
... following accidental damage to your domestic water or heating installations"

I think there's a good chance you could get payment under one or both of those clauses.

Lawcruncher
11-12-2009, 10:08 AM
I agree the landlord should pay the extra as the problem flows directly from a failure to comply with the (implied) covenant to keep in repair and working order the installations for the supply of water.

Will the insurers pay up if it is not a claim for damage?

subsalesman
11-12-2009, 11:56 AM
This is just my view and I may be totally wrong :-)

T has contract with water company so in the first instance T should pay water bill.

T could take L to court for amount due to leakage. L could dispute because the leak is merely a lack of efficiency within the supply and that the landlord does not have to supply efficient services, just safe and functional ones.

Whether this argument would stand up I don't know as I am not a judge.

Gaz
11-12-2009, 12:33 PM
Sounds like a very good reason to avoid metered water supply, doesn't it?

Out of interest, it sounds as if this leak was inside the property... how do you lose £675 of water there unnoticed?

Basically the leak was in the toilet unit, which is in a fairly modern bathroom and totally enclosed under the worktop. According to the plumber, he'd never seen a leak quite like it, but essentially water was leaking and then draining away in the toilet, so there was no water spilled at any point, and the leak was basically silent.

Thanks to all for the helpful responses so far.

westminster
11-12-2009, 12:37 PM
T could take L to court for amount due to leakage. L could dispute because the leak is merely a lack of efficiency within the supply and that the landlord does not have to supply efficient services, just safe and functional ones.
Good point. Also, AFAIK, LL's statutory repairing obligations do not arise until disrepair is reported to LL. If so, LL might argue that he has no liability prior to that.

p_cas
12-12-2009, 09:33 AM
Basically the leak was in the toilet unit, which is in a fairly modern bathroom and totally enclosed under the worktop. According to the plumber, he'd never seen a leak quite like it, but essentially water was leaking and then draining away in the toilet, so there was no water spilled at any point, and the leak was basically silent.

Thanks to all for the helpful responses so far.


I take it from what you say here that the toilet cistern was leaking into the toilet bowl? If that is the case I would expect the tenant to notice something wrong i.e. the continual running and draining of water. Again, based on what you've said here, I can't see that the loss of water would have been 'invisible and silent' as the cistern would be filling continuously. Before you mentioned how it was leaking I was inclined to say the the LL would be liable, but now I'm not so sure. £600 - £800 of water is an awful lot to lose and not notice. Based on this I would suggest perhaps splitting the bill 50/50?

teeps
12-12-2009, 10:10 AM
I had similar problem when T was vacating they happened to mention toilet cistern continually filling. they said this had only just happened recently so had'nt reported it to me.however when they got the water bill it was for £66 for 8 months.the water company asked me to monitor readings for 3 months to see if there was a hidden leak,I had of course had the cistern fixed in the mean time.new tenants only used about 9 units per month over 3 months of monitoring the readings, so I can only conclude that the leaking cistern was the cause of the huge bill.they asked me to help pay but I refused because they had not reported the leaking cistern and only mentioned it casually on the day they vacated.

Ericthelobster
12-12-2009, 12:14 PM
I take it from what you say here that the toilet cistern was leaking into the toilet bowl? If that is the case I would expect the tenant to notice something wrong i.e. the continual running and draining of water. Again, based on what you've said here, I can't see that the loss of water would have been 'invisible and silent' as the cistern would be filling continuously. Before you mentioned how it was leaking I was inclined to say the the LL would be liable, but now I'm not so sure. £600 - £800 of water is an awful lot to lose and not notice. Based on this I would suggest perhaps splitting the bill 50/50?

I agree - that's a completely different scenario. Modern toilet cisterns are usually designed with an integral overflow, which means that if there's a problem in the cistern with the ballcock or whatever, instead of getting a trickle of water running from a pipe coming out of the outside wall, the excess runs into an overflow pipe which then runs down the flush pipe into the toilet bowl. Frankly I don't believe that the plumber had "never seen a leak quite like it" (it's not even a "leak", for heaven's sake).

A fault like this is relatively common and unpredictable - that's why cisterns have always had overflow protection - really no different to a tap dripping because a washer has failed - and I would suggest that noticing it happening was part and parcel of behaving in a 'tenant-like-manner'.

If you assume water costs about £1 per cubic metre, then the extra £675-worth of water over 6 months equates to about 1.5 litres per hour continuously running down into the toilet bowl. Is the tenant really claiming that wasn't noticeable?

I think if I was the landlord I'd probably be offering to split the difference, but in the interests of maintaining good relations with the tenant rather than out of any obligation.

teeps
12-12-2009, 12:39 PM
sorry, I meant to say £600 for 8 months.

jumbone
30-12-2009, 14:24 PM
Annoyingly I'm an LL in the same situation. Except the tenants have stayed in the property with the outstanding bill, but have refused to pay it, so it risen from £300 to £700 (with solicitors costs etc). Ouch.

In my opinion, if the tenant only becomes aware of the issue on receiving a huge bill, it's their responsibility to contact the managing agent in order to arrange repair, as well as to ask for assistance when dealing with the water company - the tenancy agreement can be faxed to the water company in order that the agent can assist.

As the contract is between the tenant and the water company, the tenant in the first instance should contact them and advise that there was an undetected leak in the cistern (this is possible in modern toilets as the overflow doesn't spill into the toilet bowl as it does in older toilets). They can then ask the agent for assistance in terms of providing details as to the type of problem it was, whether it was detectable, when it was repaired etc etc.

The water company should then be prepared to waive a percentage of the additional bill.

I can't see how the LL is liable if the problem occurs during the tenancy. I believe that the LL is responsible for the timely repair, and potentially any costs that may be accrued between the problem being reported and it being fixed.