Subsidence claim hampered by neighbour’s refusal to cooperate

The owner of a semi-detached house claimed for subsidence damage that affected the whole building including her neighbour’s. But when the owner of the other half refused to cooperate with remedial work, she called on us to find an alternative fix.

Subsidence claim hampered by neighbour’s refusal to cooperate

What happened

Bernadette, who lived in a semi-detached house, put in a claim for structural damage. Her insurer confirmed that subsidence was the cause of the damage and that it affected the entire property, not just her half.

Bernadette's insurer didn’t cover the other half, owned by Jerome and, unfortunately, she was unable to persuade him to discuss the situation with her.

After getting expert advice, the insurer decided to proceed with work to the foundations of both parts of the property, a common solution to these cases. If the insurer treated only half of the house, then any future movement between the two parts might result in a recurrence of the damage to Bernadette's property. Future movement might also create new damage to her property, or damage her neighbour's property, leaving open the possibility that he would then hold her responsible.

The insurer spent a number of months trying to persuade Jerome to cooperate with the planned works, even threatening him with legal action. Frustrated by the lack of progress, Bernadette complained to her insurer, then to us.

How we helped

We studied the evidence. This was a difficult situation. Persuading Jerome to cooperate would create a solution that was both structurally sound and likely to maintain neighbourly relations. But there seemed little likelihood of this happening.

Bernadette was contractually entitled to have the damage to her property repaired properly. The insurer insisted that its proposed course of action was the only viable one. However, the expert evidence that we obtained confirmed there was an alternative approach that wouldn’t require access to Jerome’s property and would stabilise the building in a way that would probably prevent further damage.

Putting things right

This alternative approach was technically much more difficult than the insurer's solution, and much more expensive. However, we told the insurer that, in the circumstances, it was the only reasonable and realistic way to settle the matter.