16:32 PM, 19th December 2016, About 7 years ago 7
I have a 5th floor flat which for a number of years has had a leak, the leak only happens when the wind is in a certain direction and the rain I a certain size, and even then will sometimes leak like a tap and other times a drip.
When I originally noticed the problem the developer (and at the time the freeholder) was still on site, and claimed to have fixed, I suspect with some sort of mastic using the lifting gear on site.
Fast forward 5 years and the leak came back, developer has left site and I am left with an issue. I contact the freeholder for advice and he advises me to claim on the guarantee, telling me it’s a faulty cavity tray that needs replacing.
I start the process and get a report done as requested, I am then told that it is not in depth enough so may for a further report. In the process losing my tenants.
The reports come through and the insurance tell me that it is a communal issue as it’s and external wall therefore the excess on the policy goes from £1000 to £60,000 (£1000 for each flat). I send the report to the developer/Freeholder who passes to his layer, they argue that it is not a communal issue but an individual issue, the guarantee company take on the claim and employ a company to resolve the issue.
The fix is applied after several visits, via a builder self-weighting and abseiling out of the window above. I’m told this is some sort of specialist brick mastic, but guaranteed for life. New tenants move in and all is good.
Couple of years later and the leak reappears, the tenants complain and I try to get it fixed, however the building guarantee, now tell me that it is a communal issue, and will not repair it again. I contact the freeholder and ask for it to be repaired. No joy. I chase for a couple of weeks, then receive advice that the freeholder has sold the free hold.
I contact the new freeholder via the new management company, they claim they are in the process of reconciling the accounts and listing all the issues they need to resolve. I accept this and keep chasing on a regular basis.
I’m told investigations take place to identify this leak and a number of other leaks throughout the building, the management company say the landlord is wanting to meet with leaseholders to discuss the issues he has encountered.
I continue to chase for months on email, then eventually get a letter with less than a weeks’ notice inviting me to a meeting 125 miles from where I live. Unfortunately due to a holiday I am unable to make the meeting. I’m sent some notes, but discover that my leak issue was not dealt with.
Eventually the plaster falls away the tenants tape cardboard over the hole and serves notice. The estate agent tells me the property is unmarketable in its current state. I realise that I will then become liable for paying not only the mortgage, but service charge, ground rent, council tax in addition to additional insurance for it being left empty with no rental income to cover this.
I contact the management company to find out how long it will be before the leak is fixed and if they will cover the lost income, which will allow me to offset the costs. They refuse, I ask for them to cover the costs I am incurring due to their leak, they refuse. Finally I ask if they will pay for a temporary repair (e.g. making good the plaster) which will allow me to get a new tenant in, cover all the costs while they drag their feet with the repair, again they refuse.
I continue to get the temporary repair fixed myself, and get the property rented out, this only costs me 1 months lost rent plus the cost of the plasterer and decorator. Wrong I know but I have now had the property rented out for four months without any sign of the leak, which no doubt will come back, but I have at least covered the cost of the repair.
I believe the Freeholder should be reimbursing me for these costs along with any additional costs I may incur trying to get the problem fixed, by completing this temporary repair I have reduced the cost I would like to recover (which no doubt will be split between all owners).
Can anyone recommend a solicitor that has experience in this sort of thing? Should I be claiming against the management company, the old freeholder, new free holder, the building insurance, the new build insurance, or the company that completed the repair a few years ago?
Any advice welcome
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18:00 PM, 19th December 2016, About 7 years ago
Edward it all depends on what the repairing responsibilities are in the lease. If it says the windows are covered then it's the freeholder via the service charge. But generally anything that isn't communal is not a freeholders responsibility. If the component only serves your flat - such as your front door- then it falls to you. The guarantee people are trying to bat it because they are responsible under the NHBC 10 year guarantee. I don't think your window is communal. None of the flats in the RTMs I run are.
8:39 AM, 24th December 2016, About 7 years ago
Where's the water coming in? If at the top of the window then likely brickwork will have to be removed to investigate the cavity tray (communal). If at the sides or bottom likely to be the window installation that is at fault, sometimes cills are drilled for fixings when they should be left untouched so that they can act as trays for the water running down the window, this is likely to be your responsibility under most leases.
17:00 PM, 24th December 2016, About 7 years ago
Many thanks for response so far. So I'm responsible for the window under the lease, but its actually leaking through the resess above the window and I think entering the building through the brick work much hire up. If this is the case I think there is a communal fault (leaking bricks) and individual fault (cavity tray not redirecting the water). I understand the insurance want to get out of the payment, I suppose what I'm trying to ask is how do I force either the insurance or freeholder into doing something? It should be covered either way, it's just if the work exceeds the excess and which excess. My liability should be £1000 which I'm happy to pay to just get the repair started, if it is a communal fault then I want to pass to freeholder. How do I force the issue?
18:40 PM, 24th December 2016, About 7 years ago
Forcing the Freeholder to repair will need to be done by way of an Order for breach of covenant by either the First Tier Property Tribunal or a County Court. This is a complex area and I suggest speaking with lease.org for advice. Be careful with solicitors who charge by the hour for such work (£250-£400) so you rapidly run up costs.
19:13 PM, 24th December 2016, About 7 years ago
You are going to have to be assertive to get the F/H to take the problem seriously, typically a scaffold tower (no good trying to carry out significant repairs by abseiling) would cost around £2K plus work to expose and carry out repairs say £3K (both plus VAT) and you can see why you are struggling to get the F/H interested. Block insurance unlikely to cover this so it is over to the NHBC and in the event they won't cover the repair it will be a communal liability with the added problem of potentially having to issue Section 20 Notices to other lessees for their contribution.
22:41 PM, 24th December 2016, About 7 years ago
Thanks, actually had a quote previously for replacing the cavity tray £18k! Freeholder wouldn't give permission for scaffolding to be anchored to the wall though.
So the advice is to force the freeholder into completing the works. I guess this then gives them the fight with the new build insurance.
I'll chat to lease.org, which will hopefully reduce costs.
9:50 AM, 28th May 2020, About 3 years ago
Edward, how did this story end? I am looking into purchasing a 3rd floor flat with what reads like a very similar problem and your post is helping me work out whose problem it might need to be to fix.