There's a leak, but who's paying?

Our lawyer, Fiona McNulty advises how to determine who is liable for the repair costs when part of a building is affected by water damage
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Water leak cartoon
© Merrily Harpur
Question: I co-own the freehold of a Victorian house, split into two flats, which are the subject of long leases. The lower flat is mine and I live in it. The upper flat belongs to my co-freehold owner and she lets it out.

My flat has suffered severe water damage from penetrating damp, caused by her leaking overflow and damaged water tank. The problems have been going on for a number of years. She has refused to do anything, despite several requests by me. I changed insurers recently and they won't cover the damage. What can I do?

Answer: You need to look at the lease of your flat. This will identify which parts of the flat are your responsibility alone, as owner of the lower flat, and which parts of the building as a whole are the responsibility of the owners of the freehold.

In the light of that, you need to consider your co-owner's liability for the water escaping from the upper flat.

Depending on the wording of the lease, you may be responsible for a share of the repair costs in your capacity as co-owner of the freehold. Even if you are, as you requested her to take action and she has refused, you may be able to hold her fully liable. But you will need to take your lease to a solicitor specialising in property litigation for a comprehensive answer.

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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors

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