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Neighbour's flat improvements; who is liable?

(10 Posts)
stretto Thu 27-Nov-14 01:06:04

I would be grateful for some advice as we are going round in circles.

Apologies, this is long.

We own a flat (leasehold) in a managed apartment block.
A couple of months ago we found we had no hot water or central heating. It transpired that the previously empty neighbouring flat had new tenants, and the owner installed a new boiler before they moved in.

We didn't know this, and asked our handyman to come and look at our boiler. He guessed that the position of our neighbour's new boiler was preventing combustion from happening in our boiler. We got in touch with the block manager, who swiftly got in touch with the company which looks after the neighbouring flat on behalf of its owner.

They sent a gas engineer round, who spent about a minute looking at our boiler, and 10 minutes at the neighbour's one. He said everything was fine. We told him what our handyman had suggested re combustion, but the gas man didn't take it seriously. His attitude was dismissive. Anyway, we thought everything was fine so we didn't worry too much.

Later that evening we found we were again without hot water. The only reason it had been fine earlier was because the neighbour's boiler had been off, hence combustion could happen in ours.

Our handyman said we would have to get a GasSafe engineer to come round and make a diagnosis. It took about a week, then another week or so before he sent the report, which confirmed what our handyman had said all along.

So, the neighbour's property management company duly sent their gas engineer round, and he fixed it properly this time.

They seemed to accept that we would not have to pay for any of this, and it was assumed they would pay our handyman's callout fees, and that of the Gas Safe engineer.

They then said they could not accept liability, and neither could their client, the owner of the flat. However they were negotiating with the gas engineer who had done the installation which caused the problems. They expected him to meet the bill.

Their gas man subsequently said he would only pay 50% of the costs. We disputed this, and have now been told that their gas man is now blaming the block manager for giving incorrect guidelines. I emailed him a few days ago, but he has not replied at all.

Our handyman (who always knows his stuff, and diagnosed this correctly from the beginning) says it was block manager's guidelines are not to blame, and that the gas engineer should have done a better job.

I feel terrible if he ends up not getting paid. But we can't afford to pick up a £400 bill for all the call-outs, and for the gas report.

Who is liable? I'd have thought that the owner of the neighbouring flat would ultimately carry the can, and that it would be up to him to negotiate with his tradesmen.

Thank you for reading such a long post!

wowfudge Thu 27-Nov-14 04:43:41

I am guessing that the other flat owner, having paid for a new boiler fitted by the letting agents' contracted gas engineer, is now balking at paying out for getting the error rectified and paying your costs on top of that. The first month's rent for the flat will have gone to the agent for getting the new tenant in to the flat, having had a period with no one in there, so no income generated yet.

I don't believe you are liable for any of this and you shouldn't be being involved by any of the other parties: it's between the other owner, his agent and the block manager.

If I were you I would make an appointment at the local CAB office and get some assistance drafting a letter to the other owner via his agent setting out the position and what you expect to happen by what date.

You may be looking at trying to recover your costs via the small claims procedure if they drag their heels, but hopefully it won't come to that. Don't forget you also had no heating/hot water for however long until this was sorted out - a timely reminder that so far you haven't tried to claim anything from them for that might help galvanise them into action.

It isn't for you to mediate between the other parties. All you need is for your costs to be paid and they then sort it out amongst themselves.

Whoever is at fault - whether that is the neighbour's/agent's gas engineer or the block manager - should be adequately insured for this kind of thing when it comes down to it.

charlestonchaplin Thu 27-Nov-14 04:47:59

When you engaged the handyman and the Gas Safe engineer did you explain to them that it would be up to the neighbours (or their managing agents) to pay them? I can't see many tradesmen being happy to go ahead with work on such an uncertain basis. But if you just asked them to come around and do some work for you, your contract is with them and it is you who must pay them in the first instance.

You should have obtained an agreement in writing that they would meet the cost of the Gas Safe engineer if his report blamed their boiler, but in any case I think they are liable to you for the costs you will have to pay, but you may have to go to court (small claims) to get what you are owed if you ask nicely, then firmly but they still don't pay up.

Fudgalisious Thu 27-Nov-14 06:15:04

I would have thought that you should pay your handyman and then claim back that cost from the other owner.

wowfudge Thu 27-Nov-14 09:50:10

I concur with the other posters: you pay your handyman and the gas safe engineer you called out, but reclaim your costs from the owner of the other flat.

stretto Thu 27-Nov-14 15:56:09

Thank you, these comments are all very helpful.
I have emailed several of the parties concerned this morning, but nobody has replied. I feel as though they have all filed it in the box marked Unimportant, but to us, and our handyman it is very important, especially before Christmas, and the impending tax deadline. (BTW our handyman is a wonderful and trusted worker, and he knows we always pay him promptly, and that this situation is different.)
It's frustrating, as the owner of the next-door flat is clearly wealthy, having paid more than £700k for the flat. He is earning £2000 a month in rental income, and the tenants have been in since late summer, so the flat is clearly earning money by now. I guess that's how the wealthy get wealthy, more often than not!

wowfudge Thu 27-Nov-14 16:14:00

Did you give a period of time for those people you emailed to respond to you? If you get no joy by way of their responses, it's time for a letter - sent Special Delivery - threatening to take them to the small claims court and giving them X days to pay your costs incurred by their muck up.

stretto Thu 27-Nov-14 20:59:03

And further to previous message, still no response from anyone.
I have arranged to get some legal advice tomorrow....

stretto Fri 05-Dec-14 11:19:49

Thanks for the advice to set a deadline. It worked!
On the day of the deadline nothing seemed to be happening though, so I emailed the head office, and within an hour it had been sorted. We even rreceived an apolgy!
Thanks again for helpful advice.

wowfudge Fri 05-Dec-14 11:30:01

They have paid your costs incurred then? That's great news. Sometimes you need to metaphorically twist arms with the threat of legal action and a deadline.

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