9 December 2016 by

In the news: Upper Street in Islington flooded by burst Thames Water pipe

Our regular E-news articles usually comment on the latest national legal developments, but in the last week there has been a development that is closer to home for us, namely the severe flooding caused by a burst Thames Water mains pipe on Upper Street that made national headline news.  Last Monday, over a 100 local residents on and around Upper Street close by to our offices were forced to leave their homes, and numerous businesses have had to close their doors whilst the clear up operation continues.

The consequences of such serious water damage will mean home owners unable to return to their properties for months, and for residential tenants it will mean having to find alternative accommodation.  For businesses, there will be the damage to their property, equipment and stock, and loss of rent or cash flow revenue which may have serious consequences for the life of that business.

Those affected home owners and businesses will already be in contact with their insurers who in turn will have appointed loss adjusters to investigate the flood damage, determine what damage is covered by the relevant clauses of the insurance policies, and establish who is liable for the damage.  Because loss adjusters work for the insurance companies, many of those affected may choose to appoint their own independent loss assessors to assess the damage and assist the insured parties in their dealings with their insurance company’s loss adjusters to make sure they get the correct level of compensation.  If disputes arise between insured parties and their insurers over the levels of the compensation, then it may be sensible to take independent legal advice.

It is important that residential landlords understand their obligations.  All residential landlords have statutory responsibilities to keep in repair their properties and all of the installations for water, electricity, gas and sanitation.  Landlords will also be responsible for redecorating and carrying out repairs to put the property back into a habitable condition.  However, landlords are not obligated to provide or pay for their tenants’ alternative accommodation during the repair works, but instead can negotiate a rent reduction or rebate with their tenants.

If disputes should arise between landlords and their tenants (be they residential or commercial) over the contractual responsibilities of the parties under the lease terms such as cessation of rent if the property becomes uninhabitable or unfit for occupation, or over the insurance covenants in the leases, then in those circumstances it may become necessary to take legal advice.

What about the water company involved?  They have both statutory liabilities under the Water Industry Act 1991 as well as common law duties to prevent the escape of water from their pipes.  In due course, the insurers will be considering their own legal recourse against the water company involved in subrogated recovery actions to recover their outlay to their insured clients.  Moreover, the water company involved may face claims for damages from local residents and businesses if not all the damage they have suffered, such as losses for business interruption, are covered under their insurance policies.  Such claims for damages against the water company or other involved parties will comprise of a number of heads of claim for breaches of statutory duties and common law claims based in negligence and nuisance.

It is to be hoped that those local residents on Upper Street and the affected roads behind are able to return to their homes as soon as possible and that those businesses that have had to shut their doors will re-open without too much delay.

If you wish to discuss any issues relating to this article, then please contact one of our solicitors in the Property Disputes team here

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