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Water leaking from the flat above: Who is liable for paying damages?

Water damage in flats

Leaks are a common problem in shared flats, particularly in large residential blocks where water can easily trickle down from one floor or balcony to another. One resident’s dripping kitchen or bathroom appliance can become another’s ugly water stain and damaged ceiling plaster.

Water damage in flats is a serious matter. If left unchecked water damage can progress, ultimately resulting in serious structural problems to a property. This necessitates expensive repairs, causing disruption not only to the residents of that property but also to many others in the building. This is far from an ideal situation – but what can be done about it?

Who is liable for water damage costs?

In the majority of cases the leaseholder is responsible for maintaining the structure and pipe work within flats, and therefore it is their responsibility to pay any costs associated in the event of a leak and ensuing damage

It is ultimately a landlord’s job to protect the flats of their tenants from water penetration, so the onus is on them to solve the issue as promptly as possible. This also means that they are liable for failing to do so.

When a leaseholder refuses to take appropriate action to fix the leaks the tenant can take legal action by enforcing the terms of the lease. Usually a lease will contain disrepair and nuisance clauses.  these are then either enforceable by the management company / freeholder or other leaseholders.

What to do if the flat above is leaking

Ideally a leak should be dealt with as soon as it appears. This will help to nip any small problems in the bud before they become larger, create a disruption and require far more time and money to solve. 

If the resident of a leasehold flat finds that water is seeping through their ceiling from the flat above theirs, it is their responsibility to take all reasonable steps at their disposal to stop the leak and prevent the damage increasing. They should alert the resident of the flat above that water is trickling down.

The next step is to alert the landlord or managing agent of the residential block. The complaint about the water should be registered in writing. The leaseholder should also make a comprehensive inventory of any possessions that have been damaged by the leak. 

The landlord or managing agent should assist in the sourcing of the leak and finding proof, then providing a solution to the problem. A landlord will usually have the legal right to seek access into a flat for the purpose of establishing the source of the leak. If a landlord refuses to carry out repairs, the leaseholder has the right to seek an ‘Order for Specific Performance” from the County Council. 

The damage to a flat will usually be covered by either the Block Building Insurance or the Leaseholders own contents insurance. Both insurers should be alerted to the problem and they may offer further advice.


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