Escape of Water Leaks in Flats

Water leak from upstairs flatAs a leading landlord insurance provider, we commonly receive questions about different claim scenarios.  The question that is asked more than any other is about how water leaks are handled when a downstairs flat is damaged by an escape of water from the flat above.  Ashburnham Insurance have therefore provided the following 3 step guide to try to simplify this scenario – it can also be applied broadly to most other property related claims.

1. Stop The Cause (i.e. Repair the Leak)

When a leak occurs, the first thing that needs to be done is to stop the said leak.  The owner of the flat where the source of the leak is needs to have this repaired at their own cost.  This in itself could possibly be claimed for on the relevant insurance policy assuming the leak did not occur due to wear and tear (i.e. a pipe that had deteriorated over many years) in which case the owner would be expected to pay for this themselves as it is a maintenance issue.

2. Repair The Water Damage (i.e. Make the Insurance Claim)

The second part is to deal with the water damage itself.  The downstairs flat owner would make a claim on their buildings insurance for damage to their flat and the occupier/tenant (if different to the owner) may wish to claim on their contents insurance for any damage to their possessions.  These claims may carry an excess that needs to be paid.  The excess is to be paid by the damaged flat owner/occupier as they are the ones making a claim.  They may be reluctant to claim on their own policy and even more so on paying an excess but it is important to remember that insurance is there to protect against unforeseen incidents of which this is one.  They may feel they are not responsible but if this was a storm that damaged the house it would also not be their fault but the same claim process would need to be followed.

3. Deal With The Blame

This step doesn’t really need to be here but it is normally top of the list of priorities for flat owners when dealing with escape of water leaks in flats.  If you follow the two steps above, you can leave the blame for the insurer to sort out.  In this case, the upstairs flat owner would need to be proved legally negligent in their actions to be held responsible for the costs.  In most cases, the leak is just an unfortunate accident or unplanned incident in which case no one can be held legally responsible.  If the insurer of the damaged flat can obtain proof of negligence and believes they can recover the costs from the flat above then they will endeavour to do so but you will find this is very rarely the case.  Even if they did, the upstairs flat would hopefully have a buildings/contents insurance in place which may well include liability cover for such instances.  Quite often with flats, there is one buildings policy covering the whole block so this claim would not happen anyway as the insurer would be recovering their losses from themselves on the same policy!

A flip side to this is if the leak occurred due to bad workmanship by a tradesman (i.e. a plumber recently replaced a pipe but it was not fitted properly).  If it can be proved that the leak originated from the tradesman’s poor work then a claim can be made against them.  Once again, the damaged flat would claim on their own insurance and leave it for their insurers to recover costs from the tradesman who was responsible (a side note – always ensure any tradesman you use has public liability insurance in place).

It is likely that as a top floor flat owner in this scenario you will become very unpopular with your downstairs neighbour.  This is unfortunately the way that this situation is handled.  Sometimes the upstairs owner/tenant may offer, as a gesture of goodwill, to contribute towards the damaged flat owner’s/tenant’s insurance excess which in theory should be the only thing they are left out-of-pocket with.  This may help keep the neighbourly peace but is by no means required.  We would actually advise against it as in some circumstances this can be deemed as an admittance of fault on your behalf for the incident.

Please note that the information on this page is provided as a guideline for a majority of claims.  Due to the unlimited number of different scenarios, this guide will not apply to every claim/incident.  If you would like advice on your individual scenario then please contact us.