A case that The Property Ombudsman was asked to review came from a leaseholder who stated that the agent had failed to pro-actively manage the water leaks from the flat above.
This complaint was raised by the niece of an elderly gentleman living in a retirement complex. His upstairs neighbour had caused six water leaks through his ceiling (to date) by forgetting to turn off her bathroom taps. The complainant reported that her uncle was extremely distressed and barely dared to leave the house in case of a serious flood. His efforts to speak to the lady who lived above had been in vain as she either denied it or failed to see the seriousness of the problem. The complex manager had reportedly been made aware on each occasion, but they had not taken any action until the complainant became involved.
The agent said they had spoken to the resident in question and had arranged for flood sensor taps to be installed but essentially said they could do nothing further to assist beyond that. There had been one further leak since the taps were installed.
It was recognised that the agent was limited in their actions, however they had failed to deal with the reports from the complainant’s uncle for a considerable period of time (which they accepted). This was contrary to the recommendations of the Association Of Retirement Housing Managers Code, which states that managers should have written policy and procedures in place to safeguard older people and to deal with any allegations and complaints, and that managers should have policy and procedures in place to prevent and deal with anti-social behaviour.
Although they had eventually taken some steps to resolve the problem, the Ombudsman considered that it was unfair for them to state that they could not provide any further assistance. Clearly both the upstairs neighbour and the complainant’s uncle were vulnerable people who both needed ongoing support from the complex manager. It was noted that other flood prevention options were available (as noted, a further leak had taken place even after the sensor taps had been installed). It was recommended that they consider whether social services should be alerted so the neighbour could be assessed to see if she required support to continue living independently, that her next of kin should be alerted, and that the complainant and her uncle were entitled to expect some ongoing support and assistance where possible. Additionally, it was in the best interests of all residents to ensure that damage to the building was prevented.
The Agent agreed to provide regular updates to the complainant, and they spoke with the next of kin of the neighbour who had been unaware, and with this information decided she may not be safe living alone and the apartment should be sold. In this way, although the agent could not take action to evict the neighbour for breach of the lease, as the complainant had requested, the problem would eventually be resolved.
The complaint was supported due to the significant delay in the agent taking action, despite the number of leaks that had occurred, and the repeated upset caused to the complainant’s uncle by the damage and the worry of leaving his apartment unattended.
An award of £400 was made. This was set at a level to reflect the timescales involved and the vulnerability of the elderly uncle.