Questions of Cash: December 2014

Q. I have a severe water leak coming in from two sides of an upstairs room in my terraced house, through the roof area.  This is despite the house being re-roofed a few months ago.  I fear the leak is coming in via the roofs of one, or both, of my neighbours’ houses.  One of them is in a severely bad state of repair and the other is not properly waterproofed at the chimney.  I need professional advice on where the water is coming from, whose responsibility it is to conduct the repairs and how to force the owners to do this.  I also need help to get the semi-derelict neighbouring house put into a decent state so that it does not cause damage to my house – there is a smell coming from there, probably from blocked drains, while dumped rubbish in the back garden may have attracted vermin.  Would a surveyor be able to help me with all this?  A friend suggested that if the damage is covered by my insurance policy I should engage a loss assessor. What do they do?  AN, Manchester.

A. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) suggests that you contact a building surveyor, also known as a structural surveyor, to examine your property. A spokeswoman for RICS says: “This comes with the caveat that a building surveyor can only inspect and advise on the property of the client from who he/she has been commissioned. In this instance, the surveyor will only be able to legally inspect the internal and exterior of the property of his/her client and if it emerges that the source of the problem is found to stem from the attached property, then the building surveyor can only propose a method which does not violate boundaries to resolve the damage – and/or seek legal advice regarding access to the property, if the owner is unknown. There are legal complexities relating to damage caused by attached properties and the responsibilities of property owners in rectifying damage. RICS also has a dispute resolution service for boundary-related matters and offers a free 30 minutes consultation via the phone number 02476 868 555, which is open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, Monday to Friday. Your reader can use the RICS ‘Find a Surveyor’ service,, which is a UK-wide database of RICS-registered surveyors and can be found by specialism.”

Loss assessors represent people making a claim against an insurer, for example on a home insurance policy. Henry Dony, president of the Institute of Public Loss Assessors, says: “The first thing to do is to ascertain exactly from where the water is coming into the house.  There may be more than one source of ingress and a structural surveyor needs to be instructed by the homeowner.  Once she knows from where the water is coming in, the enquirer might have a valid claim under her policy for damage caused to parts of her home.  With regard to the alleged causing of a nuisance by one or both of her neighbours, this might be a matter that needs to be dealt with by a solicitor. Under [the reader’s] policy she may have legal benefits cover and this might enable her to get the nuisance abated.  Once she knows exactly what is causing the problem, she should speak to her insurers.”

Alex Balcombe of Harris Balcombe loss assessors added: “Ingress of water is always a tricky area with insurers, especially when roofs and gutters have not been maintained, which is almost always a condition of building insurance. If the writer of your letter intends to make an insurance claim then a loss assessor is exactly who they should speak to. Fees are normally a percentage of the claim.”

Q. I purchased a new car from Allen Ford in Romford, taking out a ‘Personal Car Service Plan’. This fixed the costs of my car services. In October, I queried the amount of funds left in the plan. I was unable to reconcile the figure and was told to contact TWG Services, which administers the plan. TWG said that I had been charged £32.31 to authorise and process an invoice for my car being serviced. I took out the plan to cover five services, so that means I will pay £161.55 just to have the invoices processed. Any potential benefit of being in the plan would be lost in these charges. I have been offered a refund of just £47.17. AN, London.

A. TWG Services did not respond to our repeated communications. However, either because of our efforts or those of yourself, you tell us that you have now had a full refund of your payments, less the car service costs.

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