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Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 28235
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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We’ve had a leak from our upstairs neighbour’s apartment

Customer Question

We’ve had a leak from our upstairs neighbour’s apartment that has now come back 3 times in the same spot. It appears suddenly every 9-12 months with a large stain on our ceiling, but then seems to stop leaking. Each time, my upstairs neighbour gets his plumber to look at it, but they don’t seem to be able to understand the cause of the leak. He just ends up doing some grouting/resealing and telling it is fixed. As this has now been happening three times, I am not convinced the leak is fixed and worried it will just come back again. How do I get my neighbour to do some more thorough analysis to understand the root cause and actually fix the issue? Or at least make him accountable to ensure it doesn’t come back?
Submitted: 12 days ago.
Category: Property Law
Expert:  Joshua replied 12 days ago.

Hello and thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practising lawyer in England with over 15 years’ experience. Please be aware that although I will endeavour to reply to you promptly, I am also in full time private practice and so I may not be available to respond immediately and it may also take me a few minutes to prepare a reply. The site will notify you as soon as I respond. I look forward to working with you to answer your question fully.

I am very sorry to read of the above and I imagine what a difficult position it must be. I will certainly try to clarify your options.

May I ask if you I have entered into any written correspondence such as emails et cetera with your upstairs neighbour on the point so that you could if necessary evidence that the league has happened several times before please?

Customer: replied 12 days ago.
we have emailed on each occasion about the leak. we have also pointed out that it reappeared in the same spot and as such have asked him to try to fix it properly this time. unfortunately, it seems they keep going back to the same type of "fix" (i.e. they cant find anything [else?] and just do some regrouting and redecorating). However, given the amount of water and how sudden it appears, it seems unlikely to be a grouting problem.
Expert:  Joshua replied 12 days ago.

thank you. the circumstances you describe give rise to a potential claim in something known as "Tort". I'm not certain if you have come across this word or not but even if not, you will know what it is in that it is the law that underpins claims such as personal injury claims, car accidents and so on. Essentially, wherever there is a situation where there is no contract between parties but damage has been caused, any claim in the circumstances would typically be founded in Tort.

In order to succeed with the claim in tort, you need to be able to show that another party owes you a duty of care, that the party fell short in that duty (were negligent) and that as a consequence of that negligence, you suffered damage to yourself or your property.

To translate that into the practical circumstances you find yourself in, you both occupy neighbouring flats and as such, you owe a duty of care to each other both in tort and under the terms of your respective lease agreements. Accordingly the first requirement is satisfied.

As regards ***** ***** there would be no claim available against neighbour where there is been a leak on the first instance of that leak in the assumption that the owner had no prior knowledge of the issue. In other words, it is simply an accident or at least the is no negligence on the part of the neighbour. however, on the subsequent occurrence of the same leak, negligence is much more straightforward to imply because an argument can be raised at the proper work required to repair the leak occurred on the first occasion was not carried out whether this be deliberately or more likely because they have not paid to have the necessary investigation carried out. A third instance makes it easier still to imply negligence for the same reasons.

accordingly, in the circumstances you describe, you would have the basis for what would likely be relatively strong claim for negligence on the part of the neighbour and therefore costs in respect of the damage the leak has caused. If your maintain a legal cover with your insurer, it may be that your contents insurer would be able to assist you in this respect. Otherwise you can bring a claim yourself if necessary.

Obviously, I am not suggesting that you launch straight into legal proceedings with neighbour is clearly there is the question of neighbourly relations to consider, but clearly in some way, the leak needs to be addressed and so you may at least need to consider gently surely raising the issue that the damage to your property is getting worse there will be a point where you will need to consider your options in this respect and perhaps ask if they have insurance for third party liability.

ultimately, though I am certain you would wish to escalate slowly in this respect, your default position is to issue proceedings in the County Court using the following link:

You will need evidence of the damage you refer to and an estimate of repair costs which may require you to ask a contractor who is a plumber and decorator or subcontractors to provide you with a simple report and quotation in this respect.

Customer: replied 12 days ago.
Thanks for your response. Please note though that my neighbour has repaired my (visible) damage previously by redecorating and repainting the stains on my ceiling. He is now proposing to do the same again and believes this would end his efforts in this case as the item is "resolved". How can I ask him to do some more investigations to actually resolve the issue? Or alternatively, ensure I have a very strong case of negligence if it happens again? How can I best word this in an email?
Expert:  Joshua replied 12 days ago.

I'm pleased to note that the name has generally been cooperative. it almost goes without saying however that should the leak occur again the matter clearly is not resolved and his liability will arise on each and every occasion that the leak occurs in the same way with negligence being progressively more and more easy to show on each successive occasion.

On the basis of the neighbours generally been cooperative, so far as you are making progress, it would generally pay dividend to continue a collaborative approach. It strikes me what you could say is that whilst we certainly hope the matter is resolved, you were concerned that given the lease has now occurred three times, but unless his contractor or plumber has conclusively now found the source of the leak, there is little confidence to think that the issue will not re-occur again in the future causing further damage which could of course potentially eventually cause structural damage if for example the leak causes what to wooden beams and supports and so on and rather than spend time and money continuously redecorating an ongoing problem, it would be sensible and beneficial both of you to get to the bottom of the cause of the leak. This may necessitate a more specialist contractor to be retained if the present contractor is being unsuccessful and possibly a camera survey of the pipes and other advanced testing methods.

Expert:  Joshua replied 12 days ago.

I hope the above answers all your questions. If there is anything else I can help with please reply back to me otherwise thank you very much for visiting JustAnswer and I hope we will see you again in the future.