Damage to my property caused by a negligent neighbour, and insurance company problems?
I live in the ground floor of a 2 storey mid-terraced house in West Lothian (that’s Scotland for all you non-UKers out there!) There is an extension with a flat roof to the back of my house, and 2 years ago, I noticed that there was some water staining to the ceiling. Knowing that flat roofs only have a limited lifespan, I paid a local builder £3000 to replace the roof with a new rubberised type which is meant to be more durable than the traditional felt.
A couple of weeks after completion, I had bubbled plasterwork in my hallway and water running down the walls. I called the builders back who discovered that the water ingress was due to my upstairs neighbour not maintaining her property. She had a part brick and part wood porch structure outside her front door which was in a shocking state – no guttering, holes in the roof and render falling off. The builders confirmed that the stone work and render was absolutely sodden, and rainwater was running down through the brickwork and into my property.
At this stage, I advised my neighbour of this, and she promised to get the problem rectified…and then did nothing. I chased and chased her for a year, getting nothing but a list of endless excuses and promises. I had to get Environmental Health involved as by this stage I had black, green and yellow mould growing on my walls, and about an inch of water on the floor everytime it rained. Environmental Health issued her with a Compulsory Order, giving her 6 weeks to rectify the problem. She ignored this, and Environmental Health did nothing when she breached the 6 week deadline. I decided to go down the legal route at this stage ( I know, I know, I should have done it way before then) and threatened the neighbour with legal action. This finally did the trick and she eventually hired a builder to knock down and replace the porch structure. He got as far as replacing the brick shed/cupboard part of it, and was due to come back and build on the uPVC porch part…but has disappeared without trace and with some of my neighbour’s money. However, by this stage, my property appeared to be dry – there didn’t seem to be any more water coming in, and the damp dissipated. At this stage, the insurance company (Halifax) agreed that their builders could begin the repairs on my house. They arrived today, removed the ceiling plasterboard…and discovered that the inside of my new roof is absolutely saturated, wet and black.
The foreman thinks that the insurance company will not cover the cost of this, as the other walls appear to be dry but the roof is wet, so he thinks the Halifax may try to claim that there is a different cause to the original water ingress, as this has now stopped/dried. I am horrified by this – it is blatantly still the same cause as before, and even if they try to insist it isn’t, surely I have proved that I have kept my property maintained (by, for instance, putting on a new £3k roof not even 2 years ago!)? Can they really refuse to pay out for this? (they didn’t pay out for the initial roof (I tried to claim retrospectively after discovering the cause of the damage was my neighbour’s negligence and not just wear and tear) as they hadn’t surveyed it prior to the work starting and therefore couldn’t be sure on the state of it beforehand, which was annoying but understandable).
As I stand at the moment, I could be faced with once again repairing/replacing a roof which is less than 2 years old, which has not been damaged due to my negligence, and which would probably be damaged again since my neighbour’s builder obviously hasn’t rectified the problem fully. Where do I stand on this (bearing in mind I am in Scotland and I think the law is slightly different here)? Is is likely that the insurance company will not pay out, and is there anyway I can compel my neighbour to get this sorted once and for all?