Can’t trace suspected leak from flat above

Can’t trace suspected leak from flat above

10:52 AM, 10th September 2014, About 9 years ago 23

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My flat has suffered from a persistent leak, that is coming into my bedroom ceiling from the flat above me. The landlord of the flat above has said this is my problem, as he has had two builders round to check and they have found nothing. In each case a builder came round, apparently opened his bathroom floor and found no leaks. The first builder charged £168 and the second visit cost £250.

Since no leak has been found, the owner of the flat above has told me it is no longer his responsibility and that I should now pay for a builder to open my ceiling and find the leak. The property has building insurance, shared between the 3 flats, as we have a share of freehold. We manage the property ourselves.

The main problem is the owner of the flat above mine, does not seem to be interested in helping. My theory is that the leak is coming from the shower unit, as the bathroom of the flat above is directly above my bedroom. The leak usually comes through in the morning, before work and is generally about 4 litres of clear water. The owner of the flat above, for some inexplicable reason has denied using his shower when confronted and not let us into his flat during a leak.

The leak first presented itself in late 2012 and we claimed against the insurance. The owner of the flat above claimed to have had the problem fixed and submitted a bill of £168 to the insurer. This seemed very low to me. I was then told to proceed with repair and decoration. This was completed in August of this year. Unfortunately earlier this month, the leak appeared again and the new ceiling has been ruined.

The owner of the flat above me refused to pay the excess in 2012, saying it was my problem. After a lot of tooing and froing I was able to get him to contribute £125, towards the £350 excess.

I really want to know who is responsible and what legal measures I can take? I am quite desperate to get this all sorted out, as my tenant is suffering from the problem and could well move out or take other measures to withhold rent etc.

I do not totally trust the owner of the flat above as he seems to withhold information and is generally uncooperative and defensive. He now insists the problem is mine and my responsibility. He has told me I need to investigate the leak from my side of the ceiling. The insurers have agreed to pay for a trace and access from my side of the ceiling, but will only pay for repairs if the leak is found to be linked to the first original leak. If they say it is a new leak, the excess is now £2,500!

I live and work in Mexico, so access to the property is difficult for me.

Any advise is greatly appreciated.


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Neil Patterson

11:02 AM, 10th September 2014, About 9 years ago

Hi George,

You seem to have a good solution with the insurers willing to investigate the leak. Even if they do not pay for the repairs this is a good start so you at least know for sure where it is coming from.

This may be a silly question, but have you spoken to the Freehold management company as this may have happened before and they recognise the problem plus my first port of call would be the Freeholders block insurance policy rather than my own insurers.

While I was googling "tracing a leak" I found pictures of dyes builders use to see where the water is coming from. However using this method from the upstairs shower, if that is where it is coming from, would mean you get a blue ceiling which sounds like a bad idea, but I am by no means any kind of expert other than as a keyboard jockey!

We have had many readers questions on this subject, but the tricky situation here is that you don't know for certain where it is coming from yet and the owner of the flat above has had work done and does not now think it is his/her problem. Investigation and talking to the Freeholder/management company seems the way forward to me, but we do have readers experienced in these types of issues 🙂


11:51 AM, 10th September 2014, About 9 years ago

I had exact same problem. I had the builders in to pull my ceiling down to find the leak was coming from the shower in the flat above, it was coming from a pipe behind there tiles. The insurance paid for my ceiling to be pulled down and then replaced and plastered and painted etc..under the trace and find and the insurance also paid for tracing the repair upstairs because the pipes that were leaking were hidden ie removal and replacing the tiles. End result was the guy upstairs just paid for about 1 hours labour for the plumber to fix the pipes and then the excess was split 50/50 between me and upstairs. It was done through the block insurance Our excess was only £250 though. I will say though the whole process was a nightmare and took about 9 months to resolve!

Adrian Jones

14:00 PM, 10th September 2014, About 9 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Neil Patterson" at "10/09/2014 - 11:02":

Neil, It sounds like the 3 flat owners are the freeholders.

George, have you informed the uncoperative flat owner that the excess is £2,500 which he might be liable for if the leak is down to him. Might make more amiable.

On the subject of excess, how can they raise the excess to £2,500 for a new claim. I can understand a hike in next years premium but you would be free to take your business elsewhere.Out of interest does anyone at what point the pipework becomes the flat owner's responsibilty eg if the leak is underneath the flat upstairs but above the ceiling in the flat below.

Michael Barnes

14:02 PM, 10th September 2014, About 9 years ago

Is this a purpose-built block of flats or a house convesion?

If it is a house conversion, then I can understand how taking down your ceiling could help, but if it is purpose-built, then I would expect concrete between floors and not much being found out.

Regarding who is liable, I would say that it is the owner of the leak. It would sound like it is the owner of the flat above or is the free-holder (depending on if it is something in the flat or part of the 'fabric of the building').
Get legal advice, but I would consider a small claims court action to recover the money.


15:13 PM, 10th September 2014, About 9 years ago

Hi George, I am a retired builder and if you are sure there is a shower above the bedroom that is more than likely the source of the problem. If you are not sure of the layout you will have to compare floor plans to confirm.

Showers leak because the pipework is hidden in or behind a wall where it cannot be seen, or because of a bad seal around the shower tray, so lifting floor boards may not reveal the source of the leak.

I would put in writing to the owner of the flat above that as this causes damage, and unfair to my tenant I will have the wet section of ceiling removed for an inspection. If it is found the problem is caused by his shower he would have to pay (or claim on his insurance) for the builder to repair the ceiling and fix his shower problem.

A good builder would remove the section of ceiling and make good for £400-£500. A lot better than a 2.5k excess.

Take photos a evidence and do not replace the section of ceiling until the work to the shower is done and there is no more evidence of a leak.

If there is no pipe work over your ceiling the leak can only be from the flat above. If there is a pipe but it is dry, the problem is the shower.


19:11 PM, 10th September 2014, About 9 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Michael Barnes" at "10/09/2014 - 14:02":

I had concrete floors above my ceiling, there are joins between the concrete blocks which is where the water finds itself and drips through.

Joe Bloggs

10:24 AM, 11th September 2014, About 9 years ago

it is almost certainly from the seals around the bath/shower tray or loose ceramic wall tiling. less likely leak on waste. try and gain access formally, evidence/ document refusal/s and then sue in small claims court including compensation to your tenant.

Michael Barnes

14:51 PM, 13th September 2014, About 9 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Rob " at "10/09/2014 - 19:11":

I didn't intend suggesting that water would not leak through if it were concrete, but that it would not give much idea of what was causing the leak if it is indeed from the flat above.

If it is joists with the 'upstairs' floor boards visible, then you should get a good idea of where the water is coming from.

I know from experience that water comes through concrete floors: it has happened to me in two flats.

Jireh Homes

14:03 PM, 14th September 2014, About 9 years ago

Whilst not disagreeing with any of the comments above, if the flat is a "modern" construction with concrete floors the leak could be originating from another upper flat and tracking horizontally into a lower flat.

Yvonne B.

0:10 AM, 15th September 2014, About 9 years ago


I would forget the insurance for the time being and ask a builder to have a look first, take the ceiling down, etc.
Make sure all flat owners are going to be in so that the builder can take the guy from the flat above into your flat to show him the problem, maybe run his shower and go downstairs to watch where it comes from.
If it's an easy fix the builder could do it there and then and agree a price with the guy upstairs.
I know this sounds weird but are you the ground floor with 2 flats above?

We had a serious leak into a ground floor flat once but it wasn't from the flat above - it was from the flat above them! The water had traveled through a stud partition wall on the first floor flat and they hadn't got a speck of water anywhere but the ground floor flat was flooded!
It might be worth checking if the top floor flat is taking a shower at that time in the morning if their shower is above the middle floor shower room, water can come down the partition wall and be hid by the tiles in the middle flat. Don't rule it out till it's been checked.
If the cause of the leak is the same as before you can just call the insurance out, otherwise it's cheaper and quicker to sort it out yourselves.


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