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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 69265
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I am the leaseholder of a flat in a four-story block of flats.

Customer Question

I am the leaseholder of a flat in a four-story block of flats. Over Easter three of the balconies collapsed and a fourth had to be demolished on safety grounds.
The block was built in the 1960’s and is of brick construction with concrete floors roof and cantilevered balconies.
A potential problem with the balconies was identified about 2 years ago and an engineer’s examination & report found that the balcony reinforcement had been placed in the centre of the balcony slab.
The building owner was in the process of modifying the balconies by adding support work to the balconies.
Examination of the fallen balconies also revealed that reinforcement had corroded significantly.
The building is still in the ownership of the original builder who is also responsible for the maintenance of the building.
We have been told that the costs of making good the damage to the building caused by the failure will be paid by the building insurer, who will also pay for loss of rent (Some flats are rented out). But a question exists over who will pay for the replacement balconies or work that will be required to the other balconies.
The building owner has also claimed that the balcony failure is due to wear and tare and that the cost of repairs will be down to the leaseholders.
Before the collapse the owner was proposing to charge the leaseholders for the additional support works recommended by the engineers report. He has already charged for the engineers report.

It is proving very difficult to obtain information from the building owner as he claims to be awaiting consultants reports.
Do we have a claim against the building owner and how should we proceed.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.

Thank you for your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this.

Is the freeholder responsible for repair and maintenance of the balconies?

Is the cost of those repairs recoverable from the service charge?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

The freeholder is responsible for all outside maintenance.

The cost of general repairs is recoverable from the service charge.

The freeholder who as I said was the original builder is trying to claim the cost of repairs under that lease clause.

My contention is that given the circumstances he has no right to do so.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
This is not wear and tear. However due to the age of the property, it is not a latent defect either.

If it was something that could have been prevented through maintenance there is a claim against the freeholder for breach of covenant to repair.

If however this is not something that could have been prevented through maintenance and therefore was not reasonably foreseeable, the freeholder is not in breach.

You are going to need some kind of experts report from a structural engineer/surveyor which confirms that the freeholder could have done something to prevent this and/or that if the freeholder had acted in a more timely manner with regard to propping up the structure, exaggerated costs could have been avoided.

I think you do have a claim against the building owner/freeholder however it is not going to be at all easy and provided 4 of you all flat owners are in exactly the same situation it will spread the legal cost and risk of litigating against the landlord freeholder.

You asked how do you proceed - the first thing to do is to get the structural engineers/surveyor's report I mentioned earlier ascertain whether this could have been avoided and to put together the costs for avoiding the damage (which you would all have been responsible for ultimately) and the cost now. It is the difference between those two costs which is the amount of the loss because the cost would have been much less had the freeholder acted in a more timely fashion.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 69265
Experience: Over 5 years in practice
Jo C. and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Para 2


I am an Architect/with experience in building failure investigation (Not litigation). Maintenance would not have helped as, 1). An engineers report clearly states Reo is not in the correct location.


2) It is my view that the concrete floor to the balcony was not waterproofed. At present I have no proof of this. But my feeling is that this was the principal reason for failure.


Would the above change your view re Latent Defect? if not can you please explain why?


This is important as it is my professional opinion that all balconies will require replacement. Thus who pays design fees?


Para 4

I understand that, propping was provided to one balcony but not the ones which fell, all were surrounded at G level with protective fencing & tenants were told not to use balconies. No other propping oe action was taken. This work was only done within the last 5 months.


Para 5

Block has 16 flats with 12 balconies. 3 balconies fell one taken down, 5th flat damaged by falling items.





Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
The rebar may be in the wrong place but he has been in the wrong place since 1960s and therefore it is not actionable. It is a latent defect but latent defects are only actionable for 15 years

You say that maintenance would not have helped but then you contradict that by saying that the concrete floor to the balcony was not waterproofed. It seems to be that you are saying that it is the lack of waterproofing which caused the bar to rust and the concrete to spall. That would indicate that maintenance may have helped.

I think it is a reasonable assumption that all the balconies will require replacement or reinforcement at best and the responsibility for those costs depends on what it says in the lease although it is likely to be the freeholder's responsibility to do the job but the leaseholder's responsibility to pay.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Jo one last clarification.

As I understand it the landlords building insurance is covering, the costs of all remedial works related to the fallen balconies.

But at present is not accepting a claim for replacing the balconies like for like.

If the failure is not down to wear & tear, should the balcony replacement/reinforcement be coverered under the insurance held by the landlord?

i.e. It is not a natural degradation of fabric? But an unnatural event?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Insurance will not normally cover replacement of any defective balconies unless the defect is caused by an insured risk. In that respect it is necessary to look at the policy in detail. If the damage has been caused by lack of waterproofing (which is maintenance) it would not be insured.
If it is indeed an unnatural or unforeseeable event then the insurance should cover it.
If you still think that it is something which should be covered by insurance then make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman who will look at the whole situation and mediate.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.



Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
No problem and all the best.

Remember that I am always available to help with your questions. Even if I am in Court I will usually pick up a question within 12 hours. For future information, please start your question with ‘For Jo C’. You can also bookmark my profile

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