Insurance woes

Is it possible to insure someone else’s property? Our house insurance doesn’t cover the damage caused by our water pipe to the downstairs flat. They only cover our house. So I rang AXA, our insurer, to look into purchasing a policy for her flat so we’re covered next time should this happen again but they won’t sell it to us. Why not? What do other people do in this situation?

AXA have said our neighbour needs to claim on her own insurance but she has said she doesn’t want to do this since it wasn’t her fault. We’ve only just moved in and since we have to live nearΒ her we’ll just have to pay out of our own pockets. I’ve resigned myself to not getting a new bicycle now. But I don’t want this to ever, ever happen again. How can we purchase insurance for a property we don’t own? Any Brits know how this works? I wish we hadn’t bought a house.

40 Comments

    1. We asked AXA about liability cover, which is included in our policy, but they say this is just for injury to people. I’ll try ringing some other insurance companies to see whether they’ll sell us something.

      1. I was wrong about this it seems. Our liability cover does cover property as well but it only applies in cases where we’ve been negligent – like if you leave a bath running. Because we had the leak fixed right away and it was not caused by our negligence we’re not liable. So it looks like we’d have had better luck had we failed to fix it right away and let it flood her home πŸ™‚

  1. If standard insurer practice in Scotland is that her insurance should cover it, then that’s what should happen. IOW her insurer should be expecting it and for some reason she just doesn’t understand that. Perhaps she just doesn’t understand that, or could it be that she doesn’t have insurance? Maybe check with the prior owners for any relevant experience they might have had.

  2. Sheesh, Rachel.

    I am no expert but there should be something like third party insurance for homes as well.

    I hope you will find a solution to this situation soon.

  3. Could you & your neighbour have a joint policy? My understanding (based on family with terraced housing) is that it can be set up like a body corporate would have (for apartments etc). I can’t remember the wording, but it’s probably something along the lines of ‘property in common’ & covers things like joint driveways, multi-dwelling pipework etc.

    Best of luck!

    1. I think that’s a possibility. I just rang HomeProtect and they have a policy which would allow me to insure the whole building in my name. They won’t give me a quote until the damage has been repaired though so I shudder to think how much it is. Probably cheaper than replacing someone’s kitchen ceiling though.

      1. Of course, you could take that to your neighbour and offer them the opportunity of a policy that would cover the whole property. If they refuse, get them to sign something saying that they accept that you’re not liable for damage to their property. Of course, you’re the one who has to live with them as a neighbour, so maybe it isn’t the best strategy πŸ™‚

      2. I think I’d rather just get the policy without having anything to do with her. She’s lived there for 30 years. I’m hopeful she’ll move on soon.

  4. If the woman can claim on insurance, she should. Fault has nothing to do with it. If her insurers think they’re not liable, they can try it on your insurers. If she’s worried about having to pay excess, maybe you can offer to pay this for her. She has no right to expect you to pay.

    As a general rule, it’s not possible to insure another person’s property. If people could do this, they’d be going around insuring buildings and then burning them down or causing property damage and claiming the insurance. A nice money spinner. πŸ™‚

  5. There are two types of liability insurance you need to think about when insuring your home: Property Owners and Public. The first will usually catch personal injury caused at or by reason of your property. There’s no reason why it can’t be extended to property damage but if it isn’t then that’s that. The other is more general and covers injury and property damage and may be linked to a business or property or something else entirely. We have it to cover the dog – if he ran out in front of a car for instance – as well as the sort of claim you are looking at. I haven’t looked but I think our contents insurance has the PL cover. maybe worth checking if you have it.
    The neighbour can claim if she has home insurance. That she doesn’t want to is her choice but if you didn’t pay for the damage she would then(rather than sue you). However this doesn’t really help you because the insurer is then subrogated to her position – ie they could sue you for the damage in her name – they step into her shoes.
    BTW and you may know this so sorry if I’m teaching my grandma to suck eggs, Scottish law is utterly and totally different to England and Wales, and Northern Ireland is different again and has always been so (notwithstanding 300 years of Union) no such thing as British Law. My knowledge is English law so the above may not work exactly in Scotland but the basic principles of insurance will be the same I’m pretty sure.

    1. I had another look at our policy and it does say this under “property owners liability”

      damage to property not belonging to or in the
      custody or control of you or your family or
      domestic staff

      We have phoned them three times now and asked about this though and they keep saying no. Perhaps I’ll try again.

      1. Ok, we’ve asked AXA for clarification about this and why it doesn’t apply. It’s because the damage was caused by our “occupation” of the property. i.e. emptying water down drains. If it had been a burst pipe or something then they’d cover it. Seems a bit sneaky to me. We paid extra on our policy for legal assistance if necessary but quite frankly, I’d rather pay for repairs and put it behind me than create trouble with our neighbour.

  6. Maybe too much trouble, but you could look into the responsibility of the people who sold you the house.
    We’ve had this in our block where a water cylinder started to leak shortly after they place was sold and the new owners got the previous one to pay for the replacement (or at least contribute, I am not sure).

    1. The previous owners have actually been really great but I’m pretty sure that once ownership changes, so does responsibility for things like this and I’m happy with that. The previous owners know about this as we get on really well with them and were discussing it with them when we initially couldn’t find the source of the leak. They even let us use their home care cover (different to insurance but covers things like central heating and plumbing emergencies) which was still in place and paid to fix the leak itself. We plan to continue the home care policy as it seems really good and expires at the end of this month. But this doesn’t cover damaged caused by the leak.

  7. Ooh I think your insurance company are being sneaky. Those conditions really sound like they should pay, but cleverly worded enough that they can get out of it if they need to. I also think she should claim on her own insurance, which is what I would do, but I can also see that this would hike up her premium.

  8. Sneaky. Really sneaky. I have never trusted insurance companies. Sounds to me like your insurance company is responsible. I feel for you. This should be a happy time for you and your family. Keep us all posted.

  9. The clause means that as the “property owner” you are liable for any damages to property that is not your own.

    Before the plastering is done, have someone check for any problems that might occur in the future. That would be your best insurance. Then get yourself a broader cover.

    If your neighbor did claim on insurance then the insurers would likely seek reimbursement from you anyway.

    You might have had a claim against the former owners if they had not declared the problem with the property. You might have a claim against a surveyor, if a surveyors report did not mention the risk.

    You might have a claim against the plumber if he/she pulled down the ceiling without permission. The better approach would have been to pull up your floorboards. It also depends on who employed and instructed the plumber.

    Sorry this went wrong for you but it could have been worse. Persistent hidden water damage can be very expensive. I’m sure this is just a glitch and will turn out alright in the end. πŸ™‚

    1. Our policy does include liability insurance – http://www.axainsurance.com/home/policy-wording/policywording_153.pdf.

      The problem seems to be that we were not negligent in that we fixed the leak ASAP. It was not really an option to go through our floor as there’s a layer of board, then timber floorboards, and then another layer of lathe and plaster. They would have spent a whole day maybe two with a circular saw just trying to find the leak because the drip in her ceiling was on one side of the room while the source of the leak was on the other (sloping ceiling) and so they would have started in the wrong place. Then beneath those three layers is her ceiling and just above that was the source of the leak. There was also a large pool of water on her ceiling which needed to be drained.

      Our insurer, AXA, seems adamant that she’s supposed to claim on her own insurance policy. I’ve asked AXA, no begged them is more like it, to sell us something so we’re covered for her place next time but they say there is nothing they can sell. This is not how it works, they say. AXA have even offered to pay all our legal costs should she sue us for not fixing it and they say we would win because we haven’t been negligent. But we’re obviously not going to do that.

      I found this page about leaks and flats on the web:
      http://www.ashburnham-insurance.co.uk/claims/escape-of-water-leaks-in-flats/

      The downstairs flat owner would make a claim on their buildings insurance for damage to their flat and the occupier/tenant (if different to the owner) may wish to claim on their contents insurance for any damage to their possessions.

      and further down:

      In this case, the upstairs flat owner would need to be proved legally negligent in their actions to be held responsible for the costs.

      The reality is that she does not want to use her insurance (we would pay the excess of course) and I guess this is because she’s worried her premiums will go up which is understandable. But since this might happen again I want to make sure we’re insured next time and so I either need to insure the entire building and I’m worried this will be expensive, or I’ll need to take out the policy in her name and ask for her date of birth. She’s unlikely to give me that.

      1. It sounds as if your insurers, and perhaps insurers in general, have a prescribed route embedded in the policy which you must follow before you can clam. If your neighbour refuses to make a claim then your neighbour should accept responsibility for that decision regardless of cause.

        To be practical, keeping the peace with your neighbour might be the best approach. But, on a once only good-will basis (in writing). Otherwise you may set a precedent which would leave you liable in future and make an insurer wary of providing third party cover.

        I don’t think you need the expense of whole building cover, just a policy that will protect you if a neigbour or their insurer sues you for recompense. It sounds as if your policy would but not if you voluntary agree when the prescibed route is for your neighbour to claim. Insurers do not want the insured volunteering to accept liability.

        If your neighbour has no insurance that is your neighbours responsibility.

        In short: Don’t set a precedent, make sure your neigbour knows what would be required in future and have insrance that covers you if your neighbour were to try suing.

        Legally, I don;t think you are responsible. You neighbour should make a claim with her insurers. If she chooses to make a claim against you in a court, the court would probably take the view that she should have applied to her insurers first and sue them. Just make sure that your insurance covers you against a legal claim.

        When it comes down to it, it is your neighbour who is obstructing fair process. I’m sorry, It’s all a bit messy but it is your neighbour who is making it so.

        Hopefully, you can set a template for the future and thus feel secure. If that means setting some boundaries it will be worth it to establish that sense of security. At the moment, you hold the reins and wise to make use of them. πŸ™‚

      2. Thanks, Graham. We’re just going to cough up and pay for it. Hopefully this is a rare enough occurrence that we’ll just pay it each time. It’s probably cheaper than taking out whole building insurance. I’m also going to arrange for a plumber to come and check the pipes before they put back her ceiling and glue them together if necessary so this never, ever happens again. It has affected my emotional attachment to this house. I don’t like it now and wish we hadn’t bought it. Hopefully this will wear off with time.

        There’s also a bathroom on the floor just above her place and now I’m concerned about leaks coming from there.

        But the main thing is that we have a home, unlike millions of Syrian refugees who I would not wish to trade places with. Our kids are also healthy and happy and at a great school so I’m conscious that I have nothing at all to complain about. We can also afford to replace her ceiling. We’re not going to starve.

      3. A very positive view. πŸ™‚ But don’t consign yourself to continued responsibility, you don’t have to.

        Two other comments added. The only one of real worth being check with the CAB. I’m just an amateur. πŸ™‚

      4. On second thoughts this is not legal advice just experiential. What you really need is advice on Scottish legal process.

        *** The best starter is the Scottish Citizens Advice Bureau in Aberdeen.
        http://www.cas.org.uk/about-us
        … then search Aberdeen.
        The CAB are generally very good and well versed in neighbour disputes.
        Be just a little wary of other free law centers who are sometimes just touting for business

      5. haha, thanks. I don’t want to get into a legal dispute. That sounds even more stressful. Our insurer, AXA, have offered to cover us for all legal expenses too. We took out the optional extra for legal cover.

      6. One thing we think we may do, is take out an insurance policy with the same company the lady downstairs is with. Then in the event of this happening again we can say to them that they have the policy for downstairs too.

  10. I was thinking that, if your neighbour claimed on her insurance and the insurers believed they were nItot liable, they would then fight your insurers. You could then leave it up to the two insurers to fight it out. If you and the neighbour are both insured, it makes sense that one of the insurers has to accept liability unless Scottish law is completely crazy. πŸ™‚

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