From autumn 2015, the UK Met office and Irish Met office have been running a pilot project to name wind storms.
Between November 2015 and March 2016, the British Isles have been blasted by Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva, Frank, Gertrude, Henry, Imogen, Jake and Katie.
By using a single authoritative system for the naming of storms, the hope is that we will all be able to communicate more clearly about the approach of severe weather.
This will, in turn, put us in a better position to protect ourselves, our property and our businesses.
Stormy weather increases the risks to people and property
Chimney pots and slates get loosened and blown down.
Many houses in Moray have no front garden and anything falling off a roof will land either on the pavement or in the roadway.
What if something falls off a neighbour’s house and damages you or your property? Can you make a claim against your neighbour?
There is no automatic right to claim
Over this last winter, we have had several enquiries from people who have had their cars damaged by slates which have fallen from a neighbour’s roof.
Many people who approach us start with the assumption that, just because damage has been caused by something which came from a neighbour’s property, it must be possible to claim against the neighbour – or their insurance – successfully. Unfortunately, it is not that straightforward.
The general rule is that there is no absolute requirement to maintain your property in a safe condition. There can be no liability without negligence.
So, for example, if your car is damaged by a slate which has been blown off the roof of a nearby house, you will not be able to make any claim against the owner of the house unless you can show that they have been negligent – in other words, that they have shown a lack of reasonable care.
The homeowner must be able to foresee that a lack of care on their part is likely to cause injury or damage to another person or their property. If slates are falling off their roof and they are not aware it is happening, it will be very difficult to show negligence.
The importance of reporting any incidents
It’s important to report a ‘fallen slate incident’ to a neighbouring owner, even if it did not cause any damage to you or your property, on this occasion.
We find that, in practice, that sort of incident is only rarely reported to the neighbour. But it can be important in terms of building up evidence that the neighbouring owner had knowledge of the problem affecting his property and thereby making any later falling slate incidents foreseeable by the neighbour (which helps prove negligence).
We have had examples of a ‘near miss’ incident with a slate one week (which was not reported to the neighbour) and then the following week a slate causing damage to the vehicle of the person making the enquiry. These are hopeless cases.
The ownership of the neighbouring property is important
If your neighbour is a tenant of the property, it is unlikely that they will have responsibility for maintaining the fabric of the building.
Any report about items falling from a building should be made to the owner of the property rather than the tenant.
Self-help: a better option?
Of course, anything involving a potential claim against a neighbour is bound to be awkward simply from the point of view of not wanting to fall out with your neighbour if you can possibly avoid it. This is a very important consideration!
In practical terms, you might be better to focus your efforts on self-help protection than on the potential for making a claim against your neighbour in negligence.
Whilst you perhaps don’t want to go to the extent of wearing a crash helmet at all times (or full body armour), if your car tends to be parked in a driveway at the side of your house, you might want to consider erecting a carport or a garage or raising the height of your boundary wall if that will prevent items from a neighbouring roof falling onto your property.
The main point of this article about claims for damage caused by falling slates is to emphasise that there is no automatic right to claim against a neighbour if something has fallen off their roof and damaged you or your property.
You need to prove negligence and this would probably require knowledge on the neighbour’s part, for example, that their roof was in a bad condition and frequently shedding slates.
In most cases, it will not be possible to show negligence on the part of the neighbouring proprietor and you will be left to make good your own losses, either from your own pocket or from insurance, if you have it.
How we can help
All initial enquiries are without charge and without obligation.