Flood Damage – who is responsible for the clean up?04/07/2012
Fundamental to this decision is the source and cause of the flooding which will always be key in deciding who is responsible:
1. Where a flood has natural causes, such as last week’s events, no one is responsible.
Owners of properties should therefore arrange their own building and contents insurance and ensure that the same provides appropriate levels of cover.
If the property is occupied, the lease will set out the areas and items to be insured by the landlord or the tenant respectively. Cover should include flood damage to the property and to the building where the lease is of part and for loss of rent (usually for a period of three years) and service charges as well as for the re-building costs.
If no insurance cover is available (i.e. the property is located within an area with a bad history of flooding) the tenant should try to pass any responsibility for damage by an uninsured risk to the landlord and should look to expressly include such obligations within the lease.
2. It is also important to remember that flooding is not always a natural event. Water pipes burst, sewers and drains become blocked and leaks from neighbouring properties can all cause damage to your property.
In these circumstances, water companies are responsible for the water mains and communication pipes up to and including the stop-tap at the boundary of a property.
In 2011, water companies also took ownership of many previously privately owned sewers and drains. Claims by freeholders, landlords and tenants for leaking pipes and blocked sewers and drains could therefore be the responsibility of the water companies.
3. In addition to this, leaks from neighbouring properties can amount to a nuisance and any loss and/or damage suffered as a result could lead to action being taken against the neighbouring property owner from which the leak occurred.
This can be enforceable by an action for damages if the property owner will not pay and/or contribute voluntarily to any remedial costs in the first instance. If agreement cannot be reached with the property owner as to responsibility for the remedial works, an injunction could be sought to prevent the nuisance from continuing. Claims under your own insurance are advisable where possible in the first instance and your insurer may then look to pursue a claim against your neighbour.
Whilst it is very difficult to prevent flooding and in particular to be prepared for events such as those that occurred last week, knowing the details of your insurance policy and the source of the flooding could be of assistance when deciding who is responsible for any clean up costs.