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John LLB
John LLB, Solicitor
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 852
Experience:  8 years legal experience
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Need legal advice regarding a leak that happened in our flat

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Need legal advice regarding a leak that happened in our flat and damaged the neighbour ceiling. Our neighbour is now taking us to court for payment.

Hello, I’m a solicitor and I’m happy to help with your question today. There may be delays in responding as I am away helping other customers but I will get back to you as soon as I can. Please bear with me if I need to ask you some clarifying questions. Thank you.

Hello how can I help you with this today?

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
Hi John, thank you for getting back.
I need legal advice regarding a leak that happened last year. In April 2018 I refurbished my flat entirely, notifying all my neighbours. In July/Aug the same year we had 2 leaks. One was in our kitchen and the second in the bathroom. The kitchen leak was prior to installing the new fittings and was a negligence from our builders that were on site. Although they verbally agreed this was their mistake, we have never been able to put the liability on the contractors. The second leak in the bathroom was on and off for a couple of months. So all the leaks were caused during the renovation. Both leaks caused damages to our neighbours ceiling who then asked for full payment to repaint her ceiling (she did the pain job and just sent us the invoice). We accepted this was caused by us and immediately reached out to our house insurance for this cost to be covered. We notified our neighbour that we wanted to use our house insurance but she refused this option and kept asking for cash payment. We refused and then we tried to put the liability on our builders for negligence using our insurance solicitors however we haven't never been able to prove this. Our builders didn't want to accept responsibility (although they verbally admitted it) so we weren't able to claim through their insurance. All of this took months, using our insurance solicitors and we kept our neighbour informed. However during the process, she made a court case against us to claim the money. In the meantime, we discovered our neighbour didnt have a house insurance hence why she kept refusing this option and only asked for cash. A few months ago, we agreed to go through a mediator to find a solution but during the call our neighbour made it clear she wanted the full amount + interest, so not willing to negotiate.
Customer: replied 10 days ago.
She recently reached out to us and offered to remove the Court fees + interest. We offered in exchange to cut the cost in half and pay in cash immediately. She then threaten to use these recent email exchange to court and she is claiming ww haven't been able to find an amicable resolution.

Thank you for the information which has explained what’s happened. But please confirm what your question is? Are you asking if she is entitled to claim for all the money she is claiming? Please confirm the amount she is claiming.

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
she is claiming for 570GBP + interest + court fees
Customer: replied 10 days ago.
my question is: who is most likely to win the court appeal given the circumstance ?

Has she actually issued a claim against you in the county court?

Customer: replied 10 days ago.

Ok thanks. Please give me a moment and I’ll draft my response to you shortly.

Hello thanks for your patience.

Interest is only payable on judgement and this is assuming she is successful. You should have still used your insurers to raise payment for her, even if she doesn’t have insurance, this is because they will ensure the costs she is claiming for the damage is reasonable.

Needless to say, the liability claim should not be against you but the contractors who did the works. I note you have stated there is no proof and they didn’t want to accept responsibility but this is not necessarily the case as negligence in civil claims like this is assessed on the “balance of probabilities”. It is a low threshold for the burden of proof. Plus, from obtaining documents which showcases the works they did, you can see what was worked on, when, what materials were used etc and extrapolate from that how the damage was caused. Essentially, it is you who has a claim against the builders both in contract and negligence for the works being carried out below the standard and skill expected of a reasonable and prudent contractor.

But to address your question directly, and we can never call how a judge may see it as it all depends on what evidence is presented to support, but it is risky for her to take you to court as the at fault party and be successful. She would need to be able to identify the direct cause of the leak, and the test is was it reasonably foreseeable that this leak would occur. As you are aware you did not carry out the works, so it is the wrong party she is issuing against. Additionally, she has refused your offer to pay through insurance. Courts see litigation as a method of last resort and like to see parties take all reasonable steps to settle matters prior, if she accepted the insurance payout then court would not be necessary and this refusal can be used against her.

I cannot say for certain if she will be successful but from what you have stated I can’t see any legal grounds for her to bring a claim against you. It certainly isn’t negligence and it isn’t contractual either and the only grounds are it was your house and you instructed the builders. This is not enough and something you can defend.

To briefly explain the above; to be successful in a claim for negligence she has to prove that there was a duty of care, that duty of care has been breached, and that breach caused foreseeable loss and damage. Not disputing she suffered loss and damage but you did not owe her a duty of care as you did not carry out the works and if you aren’t to be held vicariously liable for the contractors actions. And you should seek to defend the matter on the grounds it’s the wrong party and have her claim struck out and costs sanction awarded against her for not following the pre action conduct.

I cannot say for certain without thorough investigation of all facts and documents from both parties but from what you have stated this is a claim that should be defended rigorously.

Does this answer your question? Let me know. Please also leave a rating for me. You can do this by clicking the stars at the top of the page. Thank you.

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
Thank you for this, it is helpful to know. I will need to share any document to her 14 days prior to court hearing and she will do the same. Is it possible for us to share the documents we intend to share with her?

Please don’t upload any documents or information you may intend to use during litigation, they are confidential and may be a breach of Data Protection. This site is public.

Happy to assist you anyway and wish you the best. Please do return if you need any further assistance. I would be grateful for your rating at your earliest convenience. Thank you.

John LLB and 3 other Property Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 10 days ago.
34;You should have still used your insurers to raise payment for her, even if she doesn’t have insurance, this is because they will ensure the costs she is claiming for the damage is reasonable." We did call our insurance for this but they told us that she needed to raise the claim through her insurance as the damages were in her flat and then her insurance would have contacted ours.

That’s fine, they can still deal with her directly but if she’s unwilling then that’s her prerogative but can raise the question as to her conduct if she really wanted to settle she would have. So it does beg the question as to her motives. But it could end up hurting her long term.

All the best.