Ex-council flat corroded pipes serving 14 floors leaking?

by Readers Question

15:15 PM, 12th April 2020
About 3 months ago

Ex-council flat corroded pipes serving 14 floors leaking?

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Ex-council flat corroded pipes serving 14 floors leaking?

I bought the ex-council flat for rental in 2006. Recently it was reported to us by the Lettings Agent that the copper pipe leading from the main stack into our flat is leaking. The stack is for all the blocks and there are 14 floors. On further investigation the copper pipe was completely corroded to the touch and there is asbestos present, covering the main stack.

From the water tank on the roof feeding the whole block the pipe running down by the stack, into the kitchen is also leaking.

I have spoken to the Council, but they claimed it’s not their responsibility. The service charge insurance claims they are only responsible for water damages to the flat.

Help please, is it the leaseholders responsibility as the Council claims or anything to do with the stack is the Council’s responsibilities?

Many thanks

Rudolph



Comments

Neil Patterson

15:18 PM, 12th April 2020
About 3 months ago

Hi Rudolph,
If it is a building wide maintenance issue then surely it is the responsibility of the freeholder and the management company and you should find out who both are. It may or may not still be the council?

Darren Peters

10:12 AM, 13th April 2020
About 3 months ago

A good rule of thumb, there's usually a stopcock(s) on the pipe(s) leading to your flat. Usually just inside or just outside your flat. Your flat's side of the stopcock is (usually) your responsibility and the other side is the Freeholder's because you don't have access to the stopcock further upstream to isolate the other side of your stopcock.

To put it another way, do you (your plumber) have access to a stopcock to isolate the damaged pipe in order to repair? Ie in your case is there a stopcock on the pipe coming off the main stack and if so which side of the stopcock is the damage; the stack side or your side?

If there is no stopcock between the main stack and your pipe the the only way to repair would be to access the next stopcock further upstream which will probably be locked in a cupboard and which would also isolate the other flats. You aren't supposed to touch that without council coordination.

Most councils have a repairs department and it may be worth ringing and getting transferred around until you get someone who knows your block. Having first investigated and photographed so you can accurately describe the problem you can helpfully offer to send photos to that person's e-mail. Talking in a manner of, 'how do you and I work together to get this fixed' to the person who can do the fixing yields much better results than some general council person whose job description is deny, defer, disclaim.

The good news is that on a high rise, most of the occupiers will be council tenants so there will be a repairs team that knows the block well.

Even if the council repairs guy puts the problem onto you, at least they should explain how the water will be isolated to allow the repair. You can also ask them what sort of isolating tap they want your plumber to fit so that you don't have to bother them again.

please let us know the outcome

Robert Mellors

13:09 PM, 13th April 2020
About 3 months ago

I have a second floor flat in a private block, and when the block was built the developers did not shield the copper pipes and simply sunk them into the concrete structure of the block. Now, all pipes are corroded and leaking, but they are set into the concrete floor of my flat. Multiple leaks over the past 4 years or so, each time the flat below (that suffers the water coming through their ceiling) blames my tenant, the block management company blames me, and I blame the block management company/freeholder for selling a flat with a known structural defect.
Eventually the block management company send their plumber to do a repair (involves digging up areas of the concrete floor of my flat), the pipework is patched, and then we wait for it all to happen again! Block management company send me an invoice, I send it back to them saying it is their pipework in their block so they have to pay for the repair. I also point out that they know of the issue, it is affecting others parts of the block as well, and they failed to declare the issue at the date of sale. I don't pay the invoice.
After several years of this, they eventually came and diverted all the pipework so that it was internal to the flat rather than set into the concrete floor of the flat. Hopefully that is the problem solved.

Ian Narbeth

10:28 AM, 14th April 2020
About 3 months ago

Hi Rudolph
It is necessary to review the terms of your lease. The stack and pipes may be referred to as "conduits" or "conducting media" or a similar term. Generally, in a well-drafted lease the tenant (you) is responsible for those conduits "exclusively serving" his flat. The freeholder should be responsible for conduits that are for common use.
The damage does not appear to be an insurance matter but a maintenance matter.
However, it is important to see what obligations the freeholder has assumed in the lease. Some leases impose obligations on the freeholder to repair, maintain etc. but others simply allow the freeholder to recover through the service charge the cost of works if the freeholder chooses to do them.
Presumably other leaseholders are facing the same problem as you and so there may be other options if the freeholders don't step in and do the work.


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