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Roof caused water damage to my apartment. Who pays?

Winters  Property Management has over twenty years experience in the management of residential and commercial property. All our property managers are licensed by the Property Regulator and as a business, we are members of both the Society of Chartered Surveyors and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. Our expertise is often called upon by owners to advise them on difficult situations. The following piece is a query which was sent to The Irish Times Property Clinic and which our MD was asked to respond too.

I am the owner of an apartment block which I have rented out through an Estate Management Company. The apartment is on the top floor and has suffered water damage from the roof on two occasions in the last few months.  The redecoration of my apartment necessitated by the damage caused by water ingress from the roof has cost me in excess of euro 1000.00. 

I enquired about claiming this amount from the Management Company Insurance policy but discovered that there is an excess of euro 1000.00 on the insurance policy.  Because the water damage was caused by a failure of the Management Company to maintain the roof to a standard so as not to cause damage to my property, I feel that I should be reimbursed ( from the Management Company’s funds) for the cost of the redecoration. To date, my request has fallen on deaf ears. I would be interested to hear your opinion on this matter, please.

Thanks for your query, you don’t go into specific details but water ingress is one of the commonest issues in apartment blocks be it from roofs or even neighbouring apartments. It’s often very difficult to identify the source due particularly on Flat roofs as water can travel once it gets under the roof fabric. Owners Management Companies (OMCs) and their operation are covered by the Multi-Unit Developments Act which was introduced in 2011. The legislation put in place additional obligations (on top of the Companies Act) on OMC Boards of Directors relating to consulting with owners and reporting on all aspects of the OMC’s role including use of funds.

As a property owner, you are a member of the OMC and should have a say in how the common areas owned by the OMC are maintained and managed and as a result in how funds are expended. This means that you have to approve the decisions of the Directors and can ask questions about the services, usually at the AGM. When you purchased your property, the legal documents you received should have set out the services the OMC has to provide. Examples of common services are block insurance (including public liability); cleaning of common areas; maintenance/management of the car park; repair of roofs and gutters.

These services are usually budgeted for on an annual basis and the budget should be approved by owners at an AGM. Service charges are then levied on all owners, however, these are to pay for the approved budget only so the OMC will not have spare cash to meet your request.  

The annual service charge will also include a contribution towards a long-term sinking fund. The 2011Act introduced a legal requirement for OMCs to establish and maintain a sinking fund and the amount to be paid is also agreed at the AGM as part of the budget approval process.

However, while this may seem like a solution the Act also guides the use of a sinking fund; refurbishment, improvement or once-off maintenance, or advice from a qualified person in relation to these types of work.

As a general guide, some of the most common uses of a sinking fund are repair, refurbishment or replacement of common area elements such as:

  • Building structure
  • Windows and walls
  • Roof and roof finishes
  • Floor structure
  • Plumbing and water services
  • Heating and ventilating
  • Lifts and escalators
  • Mechanical and electrical services and infrastructure.

Without knowing the full circumstances, your OMC’s approach to this matter is going to be influenced by these factors. In addition, you may not be the only owner affected by the leak and by coming together through the OMC and submitting a bulk claim the impact of the excess may be limited, subject to the policy. Alternately, if you are renting out a property then you should have a specific landlord insurance policy in place and subject to the type of policy you may have cover in this instance.

As seen in The Irish Times, this article was written in response to a tenants query regarding knowing your rights when it comes to apartment living. This advice is given by Enda Mc Guanemanaging director of Winters Property Management, a chartered property manager and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland