Extreme weather is becoming more common, both globally and in the UK. In 2023, the UK was hit by four storms: Agnes, Babet, Ciaran and Debi. All of which wreaked havoc in some form of another, from transport disruption to flooding, power outages, and even landslides.
In the wake of a storm, many property owners may be left wondering who is responsible for the damage and how they go about making a claim. In this article, we’ll explore who is responsible for storm damage to property both residential and commercial, such as damage to walls and fences, what problems you might face, and how to solve them.
Who is liable for storm damage to fences and walls?
Fences and walls are often one of the first casualties in a storm. Unsurprisingly, they’re also a common reason for disputes between neighbours. Add both of these things together and it could lead to an entirely different storm brewing, if you’ll pardon the pun!
In the case of storm damage leading to a fence falling down ora wall getting broken, who is responsible for it typically depends on the circumstances and ownership.
If the fence is within the boundaries of your property, you are generally responsible for its maintenance and repair. If the fence is on the boundary between two properties, often neighbours share responsibility for maintenance and repair of the fence. This means both property owners would be liable for the costs associated with storm damage.
However, when it comes down to the ‘Which Fence Is Mine?’ debate, it’s important to check your property deeds or talk to your neighbours to determine the exact boundaries and shared responsibilities for the fence or wall.
Who is liable for damage caused by a falling tree?
If a tree is on your property and it falls down in a storm onto yours or your neighbours property, you are generally responsible any damage. Similarly, if the tree is on your neighbour’s property and it falls on to your property, they are typically responsible for the damage caused.
If you have insurance, your policy may cover damages to your property caused by a falling tree. But bear in mind that home insurance only covers the property holder’s property.
Therefore, a neighbour cannot claim through your home insurance for damage caused to their property from a falling tree, and you can’t claim through their home insurance.
In the event that a neighbours tree is responsible for damage caused to a property, the homeowner should claim through their own insurance and negotiate with the responsible party to pay the excess.
Claiming for storm damage through your home insurance
If you’re looking to claim for storm damage through your home insurance, here’s a general guide on the process, including how to prove the damage:
Contact your insurance provider: Notify your insurance company as soon as possible. Provide them with your policy details and a description of the damage incurred during the storm.
Document the damage: Take clear photographs or videos of all the damage. Capture the affected area from different angles, and make sure the images clearly show the extent of the damage to support your claim.
Keep records of communication: This includes emails, phone calls, and any written correspondence. Ask and write down the names of people you speak to, and the dates of the conversations.
Get supporting documents: To support your claim, you may need original receipts for damaged items, quotes for repairs, and invoices if emergency repairs are needed. Keep and make copies of all of these in case you need them in the future.
Draft a detailed description of the storm and its impact: Include the date and time of the storm, specific damages incurred, and any immediate actions you took to reduce further damage.
Consider professional assessments: If the damage to your property is extensive, consider getting a qualified surveyor or contractor to provide a detailed report on the extent of the damage and estimated costs of repair.
Cooperate with insurance adjusters: Your insurance company may send an adjuster to assess the damage. It’s important to cooperate fully during this process and provide them with documentation and information they request.
Review your policy: Make sure you understand the coverage limits of your policy, exclusions, and excess.
When is a storm not a storm?
Insurance policies often define what constitutes a storm. To qualify for storm damage coverage, the weather event must meet specific criteria. Homeowners must know the policy's definition of a storm and be able to demonstrate that the weather event in question meets these criteria. The insurance provider will assess whether a storm caused the damage, so clearly understanding your policy's terms is essential.
Understanding the conditions and requirements for making an insurance claim for storm damage is vital. Homeowners should be proactive in documenting the storm and its effects on their property and be prepared to provide evidence to substantiate their claims. Collaboration with insurance professionals can also ensure a smoother claims process and increase the chances of a successful outcome.
Storm damage to commercial properties
Commercial properties face a unique set of challenges regarding storm damage. A powerful storm can cause various issues, including damage to the property itself, equipment or stock, and disruptions to business operations.
According to the USGS data, global warming will affect storm intensity and increase the likelihood of future droughts. In such situations, business owners often grapple with questions about responsibility and liability.
When a storm damages a commercial property, the first question is who is responsible for repairs. Is it the property owner, or does the tenant need to foot the bill? The answer depends on the terms outlined in the lease agreement.
Landlord's liability for storm damage to commercial properties
If the commercial property is leased, the landlord is typically responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of the building.
This includes repairs to the roof, walls, and other structural elements that may have contributed to the storm damage.
Tenant's responsibility for storm damage to commercial properties
The responsibility of the tenant often extends to their own fixtures, fittings, stock, and equipment within the leased space. If the storm directly affects these items, the tenant may be liable for the repair or replacement costs.
Both landlords and tenants should check their insurance policies. The commercial property insurance held by the landlord may cover structural damage, while tenants may have insurance to protect their stock and equipment.
If the storm damage occurred due to negligence on the part of either the landlord or tenant in terms of maintenance responsibilities, liability may shift accordingly.
Practical steps for commercial tenants dealing with storm damage
As a commercial tenant, it's crucial to know your options when dealing with storm damage:
Make Repairs and Charge the Landlord: If your lease says repairs are the landlord's responsibility, you can make them and bill the landlord. Keep records and follow procedures.
Court Action: If your landlord is unresponsive or denies responsibility for repairs, legal action may be necessary to safeguard your rights and ensure a safe business environment.
Claim for Damages: If damage has caused financial losses, file a claim against the responsible party, whether it's your landlord or another entity.
When dealing with storm damage to a commercial property, it's essential to understand your lease agreement and legal rights. Consult a commercial property solicitor to protect your interests effectively.
In the face of storm damage, whether to residential or commercial properties, understanding liability and taking the proper steps can make a significant difference. Homeowners and business owners must recognise their responsibilities and rights, be it in terms of repairs, insurance claims, or disputes with neighbours or landlords. In the event that you aren't sure on your rights and responsibilities, it is wise to seek the help of a property solicitor.
If you need any help and advice relating to property, please get in touch with our legal assessment team, who will assess your case and provide clear next steps, along with a fixed fee quote for the services of our expert UK solicitors.