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Housing Disrepair: A Fourteen Year Leak – Case Study Four.

by Jane Willacey

We were instructed at the start of November 2020 by Dr C from Southeast London who had been experiencing ongoing leaks within her leasehold flat since 2006. We took her case on under a ’No Win No Fee’ agreement.

Our client purchased her leasehold property in the summer of 2006. Within just a few months leaks began to appear from both the ceiling and walls in her living room, hallway and main bedroom. Our client contacted the freeholder who responded by sending a contractor to check the roof and guttering. The contractor reported that the leak in the living room was being caused by water running from the box guttering and along the top of the windows, he couldn’t find the cause of the leaks in the hallway and bedroom.

Although the freeholder was aware of the issues and of the cause of one of the leaks this was not fixed and no further investigation to find the cause of the other leaks occurred. Our client contacted the freeholder multiple times via telephone and email over the next few years to no avail.

In June of 2011 a new leak appeared in the living room, this was in a separate area to the leaks that had been constantly reported since 2006, this again was reported to the freeholder who eventually sent a contractor to check the roof. The contractor reported that there was a substantial issue with the rear wall and some months later a team of workmen attended the property, they made repairs to a 90-degree bend in a relocated drainage pipe and cleared the gutters but this unfortunately didn’t solve our client’s problem and the leaks carried on for a further eight years

At the end of 2019 our client noticed a crack forming on one of the walls in her living room, this was reported to the freeholder on a weekly basis along with the ongoing leak reports but again our client received no response from the freeholder. The crack had grown significantly larger by the summer of 2020. Our client inspected the corresponding exterior wall herself to find that it was damp with a large amount of moss growth. After numerous more emails and calls our client did eventually receive a response from the freeholder who informed our client that the issue was reported to the repairs team however no investigation or attempts at repair took place.

The freeholder made very little attempt over fourteen years to adequately investigate or repair the external damage which was the root cause of the internal disrepair therefore we took our clients instruction and gathered evidence of the fourteen years of correspondence between our clients and the freeholder plus copies of the original lease and appointed an expert surveyor to assess the property and report his findings.

Our expert surveyor reported that some of the main issues were but not limited to  bulging and damage to ceilings, plasterwork, skirting boards and flooring caused by numerous untreated historical leaks, a large structural crack in the living room caused by the degrading of the substrate due to excess water in this area plus damp exterior walls with a large amount of moss growth, all of which were related to the roof and guttering which was in severe structural disrepair

We sent a detailed letter of claim to the freeholder setting out that they were in breach of express and implied terms of tenancy and/or breach of their statutory and common law duties by not adhering to the clauses outlined in the leasehold regarding the freeholder’s responsibility for the maintenance and repairs of the structural integrity of the building.

Neither the freeholder nor their solicitor acknowledged our letter of claim and after chasing them countless times for a response we went ahead and issued court proceedings. Some weeks later and well into the procedure for issuing we finally got a response from the freeholders’ solicitors who let us know that they had instructed their own surveyor to assess the property. The survey went ahead as planned and the other party’s expert agreed with our expert surveyor on all counts of disrepair.

We made an offer to the freeholder to settle out of court but our offer was rejected therefore we continued to prepare for a trial. A matter of weeks before the trial date the freeholders’ solicitors came back to us with an initial offer, we refused the initial offer but after a few more days of negotiations our client accepted a part 36 offer of £19,500 in damages with all repairs and legal fees covered by the other side

Our client’s had up until the point of instruction lived in a state of disrepair for fourteen years and whilst getting their home returned to the state it should have been in was the priority the compensation that our client received for fourteen years of stress and frustration came a close second.

For more information on how compensation is generally calculated, read our article on this subject: