Water Damage – My tenant has caused a water leak in my flat which has done damage to the ceiling and the tenant’s possessions in the flat below. She is at fault as she opened the washing machine door before it finished its cycle. The managing agent does not want to help; should I claim off her?
There are some important points for landlords here. Water leaks in properties, where there are other occupiers above and below, can have serious consequences for occupiers and landlords whether they are perpetrator or victim. Water leaks can do serious damage in these circumstances, have the potential to be very expensive, and can also have human health implications through mould and damp.
Flat occupiers may be owners or tenants and may be leaseholders or shared freeholders. The management of the block may be directly by the freeholder (head landlord), through a managing agent engaged by the landlord, or by a right to manage company (RTM) operated by the leaseholders themselves. Commonhold is also a possibility, though relatively rare.
Victims will have a claim against someone, though the exact process may differ and the victim should be fully recompensed (indemnified in insurance terms) including any excess payable for a claim.
The starting point for the victim is to check their lease to see what repairing responsibilities they have agreed to. They will also almost certainly be paying service charges towards a block insurance, to which they have a right to see the policy and if necessary, make a claim.
Landlords should have a landlords policy, and occupiers, be they tenants or leaseholders, should have their own contents insurance. Often the easiest course of action is for the victim to claim on their own policy and let their insurance company pursue a claim from the other parties, under the subrogation principle.
Alternatively, the victim may claim against the block policy, the landlord, or even buy suing the owner or occupier of the offending premises in tort under the Rylands v Fletcher principle. Always make absolutely sure the cause of the leak has been cured before any remedial work commences.
In this case, the landlord is blaming the tenant. The washing machine is faulty as the door should not open when in operation, but who owns the machine landlord or tenant? In my view it’s not worth risking losing a good tenant when you can claim on one or other insurance policy.
©LandlordZONE All Rights Reserved – never rely totally on these standard answers which apply primarily to England and Wales. Before taking action or not, always do your own research and/or seek professional advice with the full facts of the case and all documents to hand.