Landlord liability for water leak in tenement building with DSS tenant?

by Readers Question

15:59 PM, 25th July 2017
About A year ago

Landlord liability for water leak in tenement building with DSS tenant?

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Landlord liability for water leak in tenement building with DSS tenant?

I have owned a first floor flat in an Aberdeen tenement building for 10 years with no problems but this year we had two leaks within a week both affecting the two properties below ours and the communal areas.

The first leak was caused by the washing machine and the second by a tap left on by the tenant.

The tenant at the time was the first ever DSS tenant in this flat and he had been upsetting neighbours for months by his drinking and several visits from emergency services.

My insurers advised that I could not be held liable for damages to the properties below and the owners would have to claim on their own insurance and that we would have to club together and pay the damages to the communal area.

As a gesture of goodwill we paid for the recarpeting of the communal area and all owners clubbed together for the repainting costs which were minimal per flat.

However, the owners of both flats on the ground floor are now claiming that as this was a DSS tenant I am liable for any damages caused. They tell me Aberdeen City Council and the Citizens Advice Bureau have confirmed this.

They are therefore asking me to pay the excesses on their insurance claims which total something in the region of £1500 and are threatening Small Claims Court Action if I don’t pay up.

This flat has never before been the source of any trouble and has been well managed by my excellent local agent. With both the leaks the agent acted immediately and liaised fully with the neighbours throughout and has also had the tenant evicted for his antisocial behavior.

I have asked my insurers for legal advice but would welcome any thoughts / advice from any of you lovely people please.

Many thanks.

Mandy



Comments

David Aneurin

15:32 PM, 27th July 2017
About A year ago

Question - Is the block covered by insurance. If so any claim should be through the block insurance which would only involve one excess.
I think any damage from the washing machine would be your responsibility but leaving a tap on would be the tenants, but still claimable through an insurance policy.
Do you have contents or landlords insurance?

Emsie TheWizz

17:31 PM, 27th July 2017
About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by "David Aneurin" at "27/07/2017 - 15:32":

Hi David,
Thanks for your reply. No there is no block insurance, I had always had the impression my buildings insurance covered me for my 1/6th of the block. There's no factor and no management company.

My insurance is landlords insurance but my insurers (Plum via CIA) told me that I (and therefore they) could not be held liable for the communal areas or the other owners' issues. They told me the other owners would simply have to claim on their own insurance and if they chose to have big excesses that was their problem.

I'm particularly thrown by the neighbours passionately arguing that as he was a DSS tenant I am liable for any damage caused by him and if that is the case then it is certainly something that would be of concern to other landlords I'm sure.

Grateful for any light you can throw on this / any thoughts at all please. Many thanks.

Colin Brammeld

17:36 PM, 27th July 2017
About A year ago

Hi Mandy
You have a couple of issues here.
1.Get the names and positions of the people at Aberdeen Council and CAB you neighbours spoke with, they are both wrong and are incompetent. You are aiming to get these people and their departments retrained.
To even suggest you have extra responsibility because the tenant is on benefits is so wrong on many levels and shows the lack of knowledge by the council/CAB. Or your neighbours are telling porkies to scare you.
2. The Tenement Act 2004 (Scotland) is very clear on responsibilities and so are Scottish insurance companies. You as a landlord are only responsible if you are negligent ie the washing machine repeated flooded downstairs because you didnt repair it promptly or correctly. Both incidents of escape of water were accidents and not related. You took actions to stop the escape of water..
Under the above Act all flatted properties by law must have insurance to cover their own property and communal parts of the building. All repairs should have been done under insurance policy. Again poor advice from the insurance company.
It is unfortunate the flats below have suffered water damage and owners had inconvenience but it is not your responsibility to cover the cost. Dont let anybody bully you as many see private landlords as an easy touch who dont know the legislation.
In my portfolio I have had several stupid owners above my properties flooding them out, and like wise couple of mine have flooded out properties below. All were accidents and its just a way of life. Any excess is paid by the owner of the policy and not by you, any one who tells you different is wrong.
Be wary of what solicitors you speak with as many have never heard of or understand the above Act. I used it legally to turn of an owner occupiers water for 3 years due to their negligence, I was threatened by 5 solicitors, Scottish Water and Fife Council until I stated the the responsibilities of the owner occupier.
Your excellent local agent should know this Act inside out especially as from next year all agents will have to be registered and complete training. Any threats of Small Claims action is empty, you were not negligent in allowing the escape of water.

Colin

Emsie TheWizz

18:45 PM, 27th July 2017
About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by "Colin Brammeld" at "27/07/2017 - 17:36":

Thank you so very much Colin, that is very helpful advice. I will certainly feel in a stronger position to argue my case now. What you say is exactly what I thought but as you said people speak with such confidence even when they're talking rubbish and they do see landlords as an easy touch so I was beginning to wonder whether perhaps I was misguided.

Thanks again and very best wishes, Mandy


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