Unfortunately water leaks are very common in buildings containing flats. When your upstairs neighbours use washing machines, showers, radiators etc. leaks can occur. First establish the cause of the leak and what immediate action is required to stop it. The first action to take is to contact the residents of the flat above and ask them to turn off their water at the stop cock and check for leaks behind the toilet, under the bath, around the shower, washing machines, boilers and radiators. If the leak does not slow or stop after this action, please report the leak into our helpdesk by raising a ticket or emailing concierge@oconnorbowdenrebloom.co.uk. This is not always a straightforward matter because the building is likely to contain many pipes and appliances. Also it is possible for water to travel through the structure of the building before emerging in an individual flat. It is a good idea to look at the buildings insurance policy to see if there is cover for tracing the source of a leak.

Once the source of the leak has been identified, you can move on to establishing responsibility for the inevitable costs involved and necessary repairs. Typically, individual leaseholders are responsible for pipes and other apparatus exclusively serving their flat even if they are not within the area of the flat. Any communal pipes or apparatus (eg. water tanks) serving more than one flat will be the responsibility of the landlord, management company or ourselves as managing agents. It is very important to examine the relevant leases carefully because provisions can vary.

There is also a question of negligence or nuisance when establishing legal responsibility. In the case of a bath left running responsibility may be due to the occupier’s negligent act or omission, but in most cases it is not so straightforward. You should inform the party or parties most likely to be responsible for the water ingress as soon as possible. If appropriate steps are not taken by the party responsible to rectify a problem once they become aware of it additional liability is likely to follow. You should also take steps to mitigate your own loss, eg. drying out carpets and moving objects. Keep evidence of any expenditure incurred as a result of the leak. In many cases, the leaseholder from whose flat the water has originated is liable and you should notify them as soon as you are aware of the leak. It is a good idea to report water leaks to the buildings and contents insurers as soon as possible in case a claim needs to be made. Water leaks are commonly covered by insurance, but there is likely to be an excess payable. The excess on buildings insurance will either be recoverable from the party responsible for the leak or all leaseholders through the service charge depending on whether it is a “fault based claim” and on the wording of the lease. An example of a “fault based claim” is someone who allowed their bath or shower to overflow, or failed to maintain the waterproof seal around the bath or shower.

Where a leak damages the communal area, structure of the building (eg. staining of the exterior from an overflow pipe), the negligent party will be liable for the full cost of the repair. It is therefore important that you maintain all appliances within your flat to minimise the risk of leaks occurring. Our advice is that you also commission an annual check of the condition of the pipes and seals. If a leak to the communal area from your flat is notified to you by the landlord, management company or managing agent and you fail to stop the leak in the time required, you may incur an additional fine to cover the notification costs and the cost taken to mitigate further damage to the property.

Building insurance will not cover for damage to furnishings, clothes, equipment etc. in your flat or any loss of earnings as a result of the leak. To cover such costs you should look to take out your own separate insurance.

When informing our helpdesk of a water leak, please make sure you include the following information:

  • Address of the flat you believe is the cause of the leak, or the location in the communal area (eg. roof).

  • Date and time the leak was first noticed.

  • Details of the action you have taken to stop / minimise the source of the leak eg. date and time you notified the resident / owner of the flat in question.

  • Include a video of the damage caused by the leak and talking directly into the camera, clearly state ‘This video is taken on [state date] and is a true and accurate assessment of the water damage caused from a water leak, the source of which appears to be [state source eg. ceiling above which is flat number].’

If you undertake any repair work without written instruction from the landlord, management company or managing agent, you do so at your own risk as the cost of the work may not be recovered from the party liable for the cost or the insurance underwriter if a claim is made.