Jump to content

Major disaster


Recommended Posts


I am in desperate need of help and advice. I apologise for the long post but bear with me.

I have had a majordisaster at my property caused by the carelessness of the staff of Thames Water.Last year I had a very bad experience with a tenant so decided not to rent outmy property any more. It was the requirement of the buildings insurance that Ishut off all the utilities while the property was vacant for more than 90 days.I turned off the gas from the gas meter, and the electric supply from the mainsswitch next to the electric meter. The water stop valve was located on thepavement and according to Thames Water, my responsibility to maintain my pipesstarts from there. I THEREFORE SHUT OFF THE WATER SUPPLY BY TURNING OFF THESTOP VALVE. The distance from that valve to the kitchen is about 40 feet. Inthe kitchen there is an 80 years old rusty stop cock located in an awkwardcorner. This stop cock is unreliable and fails to stop the flow of watercompletely.

As I was not surehow long the house would remain empty, I decided to apply for a water meter so that I would not have to payfor water while the property was vacant.

I checked the house on a regular basis and everything was fine. As I myself hadturned off the supplies, I never consideredit necessary to check if these were still off.

A new water meterwas installed in August 2011 by Thames Water, without informing me or askingfor my presence. Two months later they issued a bill showing NIL use of water.

Everything was fine until February this year, during the very cold snap ofweather. A pipe froze and subsequently burst in the loft and water continued topour down through the house at full mains pressure. This must have continuedfor at least 9/10 days, until a neighbour noticed water coming from under thefront door! We rushed down to find the house was totally destroyed. All theceilings throughout the house had come down. Electric wiring, the centralheating boiler and all the contents were soaked beyond belief. Water was stillflooding down through the ceilings and we could not understand

why, as the water had been turned off. Then we found that the water board, whileinstalling the water meter had left the supply on after the changeover. Themains supply was therefore active. The damage was immense and beyond my

financial ability to repair.

We contacted our insurance company, and after lengthy discussions and theinvolvement of a loss adjuster, they are now

taking the stance that as the property was empty beyond the 90 days they are not liable.

We made a complaint to the water board. It seems inconceivable that they cancome and change a water meter at an empty property where the supply wasswitched off and then leave the supply on. There was NO use of water betweenthe time the meter was changed in August, till the first bill in October,proving the house was empty. We were not in attendance at the time of thechange. What would have happened if the house was undergoing some plumbing workand the pipe work was not connected to anything? If the supply was off then it should have beenleft off. They say that it is their normal practice to leave the supply on whenthey install a meter.

The water board have now also denied liability, stating that we should haveused the internal stop cock to shut off the water. We have stated that thisstop cock was very old, and difficult to turn and unreliable, and to ensurethat the water was safely shut off we used the outside stop cock. According totheir own Terms and Conditions there is no legal obligation for a homeowner to havea tried and tested internal stop cock and the water is much more easily turnedoff at the outside main because the homeowner's responsibility starts fromthere. However there is no offer of any compensation, and we have foundourselves in a terrible situation

Just imagine ifthe gas board did the same and left their supply active without checking if anappliance inside was "ON". The entire neighbourhood would have been destroyed!

We have also been in touch with the consumer association who have been no helpto us at all. In fact they seem to be unwilling to get involved and are takingthe view that there is nothing they can do.

Can anyone out there please suggest where we go from here? Is there another Government/Consumerbody that this matter can be referred to? I really need some advice as I don'tknow where to go from here. Are there solicitors/surveyors who can take up thiscase on no win no fee basis?

Please HELP????



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well its always easy with the benefit of hindsight to suggest what should or should not have happened. Although i'm sympathetic I don't believe you have a chance in hell of finding any organisation who will fight & win you compensation. You made a number of bad decisions that resulted in the damage the main ones being.......

* You should have turned off the inside stop cock. If it was old and ineffective you should have had it replaced.......an ideal time to do that would have been whilst the one outside was already turned off.

* You should have left heating on during the winter to ensure you didn't get a burst pipe........most insurers insist on it OR you turn off water and drain the whole system. Water left on or turned off without heating during the wintermonths IS likely to result in a burst pipe.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest DAN electrical

In agreement with Richlist here, the company will say you should have turned off the internal stop cock, if it wasn't working properly it should have been replaced it's your valve not theres. The valve and meter they installed was working correctly, it's not the water boards fault either that a pipe burst in your property.

I see your point about the gasboard, however this was the water board.

Which area are you in? We can offer you a very competetive quote to effect the repairs. (01535)607306

I know the horse has bolted now and it's a bit late to close the gate, however like said drain the system, or fit a frost stat.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Looking at your situation from a plumbing point of view..........

I can guarantee from experience that the vast majority of households have a internal stop-cock that will not shut off or even turn. Most taps have never been exercised from the date they have been installed. I always replace the stop-cocks when undertaking property renovations for that very reason.

Experienced plumbers when changing internal stop-cocks will isolate from the road first BUT will only try a tentative tweak of the long handled shut-off tool on the stop-cock because they know they will be liable for a broken road stop-cock and calling out the water company to repair and that is expensive. The water company will attend within 14 days to isolate road side or 2 hours for emergency call out.

The time to replace your internal stop-cock was at tthe time of water meter replacement or just before you shut down the internal water supply.

Water companies will always leave the supply connected and it is the householders responsibility to ensure the internal tap is run to clear air blockages etc.

And finally I would say to you and you won't like this one bit, your chances of compensation for damage caused will be zero. Take legal advice from here but I am willing to bet you will receive the same answer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What a mess. Starting with the water company, if you are going to recover damages you will need to show either a breach of contract or they were negligent. The contarct point is pretty straight foward, look at the agreement you had with the company and see what is said about the decommissioning and re-commissioning of the supply. If you are going down the road of negligence you will have to show you were owed a duty of care (easy) that they breached that duty of care (hard) and you suffered damage as a direct result (very easy). You will need to confirm their policy on fitting meters when the occupier is not at home and what steps were taken to ensure the installation was in good and proper working order.

In relation to the your insurance, you will be aware that a contract for insurance is of the utmost good faith, in order words you are under a duty to report/disclose any issue which might affect insurable losses. In your case you need to check what your policy actually says does it say that you have no insurance if the property is empty after 90 days or does it say you need to tell us after 90 days or take certain steps after 90 days. There will be an ombudsman scheme covering your insurance company and you will be able to refer the matter to them. On this point does your household insurance cover litigation costs if so then your potential claim against the water company may be covered.

Hope the above was useful.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can guarantee from experience that the vast majority of households have a internal stop-cock that will not shut off or even turn. Most taps have never been exercised from the date they have been installed. I always replace the stop-cocks when undertaking property renovations for that very reason.

Anyone tried one of these devices......seems to solve the jammed tap issue ?


Link to comment
Share on other sites

A new water meter was installed in August 2011 by Thames Water, without informing me or asking for my presence. Two months later they issued a bill showing NIL use of water.

I too come under Thames Water.

Thames Water will not fit a water meter until they have sent the TW surveyor round to your property and ensured you can have a water meter fitted. You will have been left a green copy form of the requirement as to suitability etc. As the customer you will have signed the green form and TW surveyor would have signed also. Did these events happen after you asked TW to fit a water meter?

TW probably would have left the water on unless instructed to not do so on their work sheet because they need to function test the water flow meter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can sympathise from experience - a burst pipe, especially in loft, can take less than 4 days to cause catastrophic damage to ceilngs, floors, walls, and of course contents.

RL: "heating on during the winter to ensure you didn't get a burst pipe.."

Unfortunately No, this doesn't "ensure". Even with heating on, an insulated loft may be only a couple of degrees above ambient and thus can fall below zero. Leaving the trap removed helps - Insurers now recommend this. Also leaving a tap dripping, apparently.

To shut the water off, fitting a new reliable stop cock is quite important. You don't need to remove or even check the old stiff one. My plumber added a new one on the house side of the old one - he probably didn't even touch the one in road. RL's Surestop stopcock looks a good idea.

Recovering damages? I assume it's around five figures. Follow Law's advice, and thoroughly check all your small print for Water and Insurance, discuss with solicitor and may be a barrister as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Recovering damages? I assume it's around five figures. Follow Law's advice, and thoroughly check all your small print for Water and Insurance, discuss with solicitor and may be a barrister as well.

I can save you a few quid on that fact;

Thames Water accept NO responsibilty from the domestic side of the water meter and and pipework on private property including internal domestic property.......which is why they offer an insurance backed policy to cover any water escape event.

Key fact here is that unless previously arranged by the insurance company and an additional premium paid for 90 days (or more) unoccupied property and drained down heating and water systems is the normal timescale.

We all are well aware that insurance companies will not pay out if they can find a reason not to. (personal experience!) and a stop-cock letting water by will be good enough for them not to pay out as would lack of insulation or inadequate pipe insulation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

If you want a decorator and the house is dry' pm me and we can sort something out, 7years bricklaying experience 4 plastering and 10 houses restored i kick ass with a roller to, the only thing i lack skills in is gas and grammer,

for security, safety reasons and the wasted time traveling no matter how bad the property is i stay on the site or in the garden until completion this halves the time it takes to complete. either way you do it, getting it done asap so the house can start paying for itself again' even if it means getting a loan, then deal with trying to claim it all back after is what i would do.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

I have sympathy for tbnks8

LAW has it spot on in his reply.

I have successfully claimed compensation from a water statutory undertaker (Anglian Water Services Ltd) on behalf of a client in not too dissimilar circumstances.

In summary. external stop cock isolated by plumber working in top floor flat of a building. water supply pipes in the flat left disconnected when plumber leaves the property and makes a trip to obtain materials for the job.

Occupant of another flat notices that their water supply is not working, contacts Water company. Water company rep attends and turns on external stop cock. Water supply restored to the lower floor flat. seems all in order, job done, heads home. Top floor un occupied property (remember plumber is off site) pipes of course leak and escape of water damage through out the building.

The external stop cock had it seems isolated the water supply to more than one of the flats in the building (may well have been a single property house before it was converted to separate flats).

However, the water company via their insurance loss adjustors were eventually persuaded liability arose on the part of their rep in failiing to adequately check o even check at all before disengaging the isolation point. The point being if it is off, don't just turn it back on with no regard to why it might have been off in the first place.

Granted in the above matter the damages claim was a sum of only approximately £15,500 (which they settled 100%), the problem came to light the same day, water company re attended and saw everything for themselves, and each case will turn on it's own facts.

However one point I would make is that an initial denial of liability, even if firmly made at the time and a refusal to pay compensation need not necessarily be the end of matter nor any claim against Thames Water doomed to failure. Such a claim might not necessarily be an open and shut case, but I would not consider to be doomed to failure.

Hope this is of assistance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Whilst the Water Company have a duty of care SO DOES the owner/ person responsible for turning the water off ESPECIALLY if the act of turning off the water deprives another property owner of water. It would have been a simple job to label or mark the external tap AND to talk with the other property owners/ residents BEFORE turning the water off.

Normal practice would be to blank off or fit check valves on open pipework.......not leave it open for the worst to happen.

I'm annoyed you have been paid out as that cost is shared by the rest of the Water Companies customers.

It seems we are increasingly, living in a world where when something bad happens people look around to see who else can share or take the blame.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well if someone is to blame shouldnt the innocent party be paid.

If a party is innocent, I agree they should receive compensation. But, based on what 'MichaelH' tells us the word innocent is not one I would use to describe him or his situation........for the reasons I've already posted.

Water Companies also have a duty of care to their customers and to their shareholders and based on the facts supplied I don't agree that he should have been paid in full......they obviously took a different view.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...