Happy New Year, Happy New Leaks

New year new leaks. When MIH closed for the Christmas break we must admit to some trepidation of what would happen in the event of an emergency.

With the best will in the world even with the best preparation and brilliant contractors, it is hard to raise them during the festive season, particularly when you receive calls late in the afternoon for obvious reasons.

Our concerns were swiftly allayed with any calls received relating to how to make payment of the service charge- calls that a managing agent always wants to get!

A call of the unexpected.

Perhaps more of a concern and totally unexpected was the call we received on Tuesday from our new flagship property.

An “olive” had been incorrectly installed when capping off a pipe on the down service in an individual flat. The result, a complete water tank load had emptied through a fifth-floor flat damaging approximately 8 flats and the common parts.

To give an idea of the volume of water, the leak where the flat originated from was literally underwater with flip flops floating on the surface. It looked a bit like a scene from Jaws without the shark.

It really was not a great day to come back to or a great first day of management and as has been said to me by several involved, was somewhat of a “baptism of fire” in this case.

So, faced with flats with varying damage including a flat underwater what does a Managing Agent do?

The priority of course is to get the water stopped immediately and we were really lucky to have a quick-thinking building manager who took prompt action by turning off the stop cocks.

This coupled with prompt attendance meant that we didn’t have a case of “Noah’s ark” on hand and that we could start the clean up quickly and try to mitigate the inconvenience to the occupiers and limit the damage to the flats.

The aftermath of the flood and the restoration can be just as stressful as being in a flat where water is leaking on your head.

Once the water was stopped we arranged for clean up crews to attend to the flat. The last two and a half days have involved visits to see the damage, meet and instruct the various contractors and clean-up crews, submitting the insurance claim, getting a loss adjuster appointed immediately, and arranging access to the flats so that the remedial works can be undertaken as soon as possible.

Managing expectations

Amidst this whirlwind, and one of the hardest parts of our job is dealing with the occupiers who are having to get their heads around being a victim of water ingress and managing their expectations.

Nothing can quite prepare anyone for the sight of a torrent of water flooding through your home and ruining your possessions. This coupled with the after-effects: the repairs that are required, the need to obtain estimates for repair, the possibility of having to move out when works are carried out, arranging your accommodation and realising what is and isn’t covered by insurance is extremely overwhelming. Particularly when we have to advise that carpets and curtains aren’t covered under the building insurance and claims will have to be submitted via a contents insurance policy.

Getting contents insurance

For anyone who has been through this experience, having to deal with losing items of sentimental value that are often irreplaceable is very difficult. This coupled with finding out that everyday items that are damaged through no fault of your own are not covered by the building’s insurance – please refer to my blog on five types of insurance for a generic description of what is included in a building insurance policy – is often the last straw.

This is particularly difficult to accept when contents insurance hasn’t been taken out and at MIH and without trying to preach we always advise Owners, Lessees and Tenants alike that they should take out contents cover.

Although you may be confident that you will never need it, you never know when water ingress can occur. In any event, you cannot rely on the owner of the flat above or for that matter the management company, if the leak is from a communal installation to replace these as there is no legal obligation to do so.

From hectic to cool and calm

Although it has been a hectic return to work we are pleased to have been able to assist with this claim getting it dealt with efficiently and swiftly, and perhaps as one owner has advised providing comfort to them by being on hand to assist.

The claim is far from concluded but I am pleased to advise that all flats are drying out, the electrics have been made safe and bar one flat where the owner needs to repair their boiler, all occupants are in their flats. It is our role now to make sure the claim progresses as quickly as possible and that where we can alleviate the inconvenience we will.

We cannot ever stop leaks, although we can and do carry out preventative measures on the communal installations and offer best practice advice to all owners as to what they should do in their flat. We can however try and ensure that the consequences of the leak becomes as painless as possible for you. Our final thought we end this blog with is ALWAYS TAKE OUT CONTENTS INSURANCE.