Small claims action against managing agents?

Small claims action against managing agents?

0:03 AM, 10th May 2023, About 12 months ago 12

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Hello, in one of my tenanted properties, there was a flat-to-flat water leak (from my flat) – there are 80 flats in total. The managing agents were advised by the flat below mine and it was classified as an urgent water leak. A specialist company was instructed but at no time did they contact me, as the landlord, to obtain access to my flat.

Furthermore, two days later when the building janitor came along to the flat on the instructions of the managing agents, he did not repair the damaged pipework correctly. This was identified by my accredited plumber that came along a few days later.

The delay and poor workmanship have resulted in water ingress below my bath tiles and lounge flooring that has had to be replaced entirely at a cost of £5k. There is no insurance cover for this (Excess is £15k).

I wanted to go through the Fast Track court process (known also as small claims) and was assuming that the claim would be against the managing agents. They are advising that the claim would be against the RTM company which was formed several years ago, to have control over who the managing agents were.

Ignoring the strength/validity of my claim, please could someone advise which entity should the claim be against?

FYI, the janitor is employed by the RTM company but paid for by the managing agents from service charges.

Thank you,

Nigel


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Comments

bean

11:17 AM, 10th May 2023, About 12 months ago

You say that the leak was flat to flat.
This is not conclusive of the leak coming from say a communal pipe running through the block.
It would appear that should the leak pipe form part of your demise then you are liable (insurance claim).
Access to your flat was granted (tenant) and a repair authorised? For an emergency contacting you would not be necessary.
I have never known a court give a claimant legal advise. This is problematic to say the least as a court is not a party to proceedings. There is only the freeholder as another party in this matter.It would appear that the RTM is the only liable party here.Best thing you can do is pay a fee and get the advice of counsel (Barrister).

Judith Wordsworth

14:26 PM, 10th May 2023, About 12 months ago

"the building janitor came along to the flat on the instructions of the managing agents, he did not repair the damaged pipework correctly."

Does the building janitor have insurance to carryout works in the building? Either in his own name or as an employee under RTM/Managing Agents buildings insurance?

Check the Insurance Policy.

SCP

15:21 PM, 10th May 2023, About 12 months ago

Re: "the building janitor came along to the flat on the instructions of the managing agents, he did not repair the damaged pipework correctly."

Then, sue in the first instance the janitor.
See what happens.
Your pre-trial correspondence should be addressed to him, and wait for his response.

Seething Landlord

10:52 AM, 11th May 2023, About 12 months ago

It sounds as though the root cause of the damage was the leak from pipework for which you are responsible, so at best you could only hope to recover an amount related to the additional damage caused by somebody else's breach of a duty that they owed you. The onus will be on you to prove every element of your case and there is no guarantee that you will succeed.

You might want to have a look at the lease to see what it says about the obligation to insure the property. Sometimes the excess is payable out of communal funds on the basis that the policy covers the whole building on behalf of all the leaseholders rather than covering their individual interests separately.

Kizzie

11:21 AM, 12th May 2023, About 12 months ago

In my opinion the RTM company should get a written report from the plumber to define where the leak took place that is was it caused by the flat owner or their tenant in the flat or from pipe work in common parts.Flat owners should include water leaks in their contents insurance. If pipework in common parts then claim under block insurance taken out by RTM, policy cover must be exact to the lease wording. This is a job for directors of the RTM co.

SCP

11:39 AM, 12th May 2023, About 12 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Kizzie at 12/05/2023 - 11:21
Good idea.
Will they do it?
That is why I said threaten to sue the janitor!
Await their reply and take it from there.
It is quite common to have a large excess in the policy.
The insurer does not want water- related claims.
Would it be fair to increase the service charge and pay the excess from the service charge?

Kizzie

17:42 PM, 12th May 2023, About 12 months ago

You said there’s a RTM co. In which you all share the freehold interest. The janitor is an employee. Who pays his wages? What is his job description. It is up to his employers if he breached his contract in some way. Does your lease allow the RTM to employ staff? Otherwise he is the employee of the MA.
Block insurance is legally compulsory and very strange if it doesn’t cover water leaks. The landlords maintenance contributions can only be spent on what it says in the lease and it will include contributions to block insurance premiums. I assume there was consultation with leaseholders under section 20 LTA 1985 before the agreement with the
Insurers.
The plumber who undertook repair will expect to be asked for a report for insurance purposes.

Seething Landlord

18:02 PM, 12th May 2023, About 12 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Kizzie at 12/05/2023 - 17:45I seem to recall that a S20 consultation is only required for long-term agreements which are to last for more than 12 months so would not be necessary for an annual insurance contract, regardless of the cost.

Graham Bowcock

9:36 AM, 13th May 2023, About 12 months ago

As a leaseholder your contractual relationship is with the management company, not the managing agent and not the janitor (caretaker??).

The suggestion to sue the janitor is odd as you have not employed them and are, presumably, not party to their instructions.

The managing agent will not owe you a personal liability, they will account to the management company that pays them.

As a long term managing agent, I get questions about the speed of works, but it's down to the instructions we have from the client (the management company). We don't have an open cheque book and often need authority to progress matters.

The simple answer is don't get side tracked by different people being involved, just deal with the management company. They should hold appropriate insurance.

SCP

17:02 PM, 13th May 2023, About 12 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Graham Bowcock at 13/05/2023 - 09:36
Hi all
I was not going to reply.
However, one comment is that my suggestion to sue the janitor is "odd".
Presumably, all the other suggestions are, logically, "non-odd."
It is said quite clearly: "...your contractual relationship is with the management company..."
Precisely!!!
Has the penny dropped?
You are not suing in contract, but in negligence, which is a tort.
If there is negligence, then it is that of the janitor (caretaker).
If you want to sue, then at least as a preliminary step write to the poor janitor.
See what happens.
I am aware that "water damage" is an insurable risk, and most policies will cover this risk.
Many insurable risks carry an excess, such as subsidence.
Many blocks have a horrendous claims history regarding water damage.
If you want a reasonable premium, then often there is a large excess.
It is not clear whether the leak emanated from the communal part or from Nigel's flat or some other flat.

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