Upstairs refuse to claim on their insurance for damage?

Upstairs refuse to claim on their insurance for damage?

11:24 AM, 24th February 2020, About 3 years ago 38

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I own and rent out the downstairs of 2 leasehold flats located in Woodford Green, Essex. The owner of each flat insures their part of the building separately as per the conditions of the leases.

The water tank servicing the downstairs flat is located in the loft connected to the upstairs flat. It was recently established (? there are some doubts around this but for the purpose of this query I’ll use the word ‘established’) that a leak from this water tank caused damage to both the upstairs and downstairs flats.

As the repairs to my downstairs flat were minimal I chose to pay for these myself. The upstairs neighbours, however, are refusing to claim on their insurance to repair the damage upstairs, citing increased premiums and the excess payment as the reason. As my insurer will not pay for the damage to the upstairs flat, they have insisted that I pay the repair bill for upstairs out of my own pocket.

I myself am of the opinion that their insurance is there for such an unforeseen incident, particularly as we share the same roof to which my access is very limited indeed. Utilising my neighbours’ logic, by extension, were a faulty gas cooker in my downstairs property to cause a gas explosion which destroyed both flats, they would not consider themselves legally responsible to claim on their insurance for the rebuilding of their flat, but rather would expect me to pay for this out of my own pocket. This is obviously a very unsatisfactory state of affairs and not what I would imagine should happen in a real life scenario nor what the law or insurance industry would have intended.

In view of the above, if I refuse to pay for the damage to the upstairs flat and the upstairs neighbours took me to court as they are threatening to do, would they be likely to succeed, or would the court be likely to see my point of view, ie. that it would be standard market practice for them to claim on their insurers as their insurance in this case is there to protect against unforeseen incidents of which this is one. I hope (and imagine) that there would be some precedent in relation to this situation. (The neighbour claims to have spoken to his solicitor in this regard and is now claiming that I have been ‘negligent’. I have, however, absolutely no idea how I may have breached my duty of care as I have owned the property since 1990 with no issues with regard to the tank and have extremely limited access to it as it is located in my neighbours’ loft). I am also concerned of course, that if I did settle all of the neighbours’ bills there would be nothing to then stop them also claiming on their insurance for the damage, ie. ‘double dipping’

I am considering offering the neighbour a token amount to cover their excess and any increase in premium for the first year after the claim purely as a goodwill gesture but am not sure if this is wise as it could be construed as admission of liability.

Any advice would be very much appreciated.

Thanks,
Paul



Comments

Edwin Cowper

14:45 PM, 29th February 2020, About 2 years ago

You have flagged up an insurance matter which I would have flagged up when I was a lawyer acting for purchases of leasehold property: The block should always be insured as a whole. That ensures that there is cover for all properties (if someone does not insure they almost certainly will be unable pay any damages) In individual lease covenants it is often difficult or impossible to find out whether there is cover or not.
Also the insurance may not cover the whole of the property. For example, in ground floor leases does it cover the foundations? In top floor does it cover the roof space and roof?
Far better to have whole building insurance with tenants to reimburse the premium. Far safer.
Also issue in individual leases of enforcing a claim, If there is insurance, the other owner cannot force the tenant to make a claim.
Repairing covenant - this should be the landlords for structure, and re-imburse. Otherwise how can repair be enforced, except by possibly indemnifying the landlord to claim against another tenant?
I advised clients against buying if there was no satisfactory insurance and/or no satisfactory repair covenant.
In one investment block in Manchester I had to advise my multiple clients not to buy flats for those and other reasons, and they had to take the block off the market and redraft all the documents
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Gracie View Profile

14:57 PM, 29th February 2020, About 2 years ago

If he sent his plumber up there fiddling with your property (tank)without your permission, sounds like you could pass blame to him for the worse leak which occurred after the slow leak. Get a good lawyer to fight this & be done with him.

Pauly

13:17 PM, 3rd March 2020, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Edwin Cowper at 29/02/2020 - 14:45
Hi Edwin and thanks for your comments, all of which I agree with. Unfortunately, as an inexperienced 25 year old back in 1990 I did not have the knowledge which I have now and hence had no choice but to trust my conveyancer to iron out any issues which there may have been with the leases. It would appear now that they did the job for which they were paid rather less than adequately.
In the same situation now I certainly would not have purchased the flat......

Cheers,
Paul

Pauly

13:21 PM, 3rd March 2020, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Gracie at 29/02/2020 - 14:57
Thanks Gracie
It would seem likely that I would have a case in this regard.....

Cheers,
Paul

Puzzler

14:37 PM, 3rd March 2020, About 2 years ago

It is quite common for separate insurance especially in Scotland where is no leasehold/freehold and in England where there is a shared freehold but no limited company (so usually small blocks, I have one of four flats). It is not ideal and it is better to club together to arrange block insurance but there is no mechanism to compel this, although there should be

Puzzler

14:45 PM, 3rd March 2020, About 2 years ago

P.S. Wait till you hear something official either from his insurance company or a solicitor (or I guess through an online claim company). Then you can ask our questions again as they will see that to have a case they will need to be answered.
An accident is not negligence, I am now wondering if they in fact have insurance...

Pauly

14:31 PM, 4th March 2020, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Puzzler at 03/03/2020 - 14:45
Thanks Puzzler.
I also own 1 of 4 flats and agree that block insurance would make far more sense.
I shall certainly take the advice proffered in your second comment should it come to that. It may indeed be that case that the upstairs flat has no insurance......

Cheers,
Paul

Seething Landlord

18:48 PM, 4th March 2020, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Pauly at 04/03/2020 - 14:31
I do not understand why you have not simply handed this over to your insurers to deal with as they see fit. Whether or not your neighbour has insurance is irrelevant to the issues in this case.

David Lawrenson

8:58 AM, 5th March 2020, About 2 years ago

Agree, with Seething Landlord.
As per my earlier post, make sure you get through to the right people at your insurers.

Pauly

12:37 PM, 5th March 2020, About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Seething Landlord at 04/03/2020 - 18:48
Hello Seething Landlord.
I followed your advice and contacted my insurers on 29th February making it clear that I was claiming under the property owner's liability section of my policy. Although I received a standard acknowledgement, I have yet to receive a formal reply from them. I shall chase them up again now and let you know what transpires....

Thanks,
Paul

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