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Flood damage to personal belongings due to blocked storm water pipe

By Beverly Fuller on Wed, 06 Feb 2019 at 07:17

We live in a complex in Bryanston. In the 5 years we have lived here, we have had 6 floods. Two have been devastating, and one of these was Sunday 27 Jan 2019 during a massive cloudburst.
The history of the matter is that initially the Trustees said that it wasn't their problem, and we had to convince them that it is in fact their problem, because the water in our courtyard was not draining, and was in fact coming back up the pipe that drains it, filling up our courtyard, coming in through the kitchen, and flooding the house. They finally accepted that the area was common property (even though it is an exclusive use area). They started with small measures to address the problem and agreed to move the downpipe further away. This did not solve the problem. After two years of arguing and getting various plumbers to come and give advice, we took the advice of a plumber that we needed a bigger pipe to take away the courtyard water. We got a quote and they refused to pay the R15k. Time went on, and nearly 9 months later we nagged them again that they had better do something about the new pipe before the summer rains. This was August 2018. They requested quotes again. The amount had gone up to R21k. They refused to pay and wanted justification as to why the increase in R6k in just one year. Eventually after much pushing from our side, they agreed to pay, and they selected from two plumbers the one to do the laying of the new pipe. This project involved digging up my neighbour's walkway entrance, and they were kind and cooperative. The new pipe was laid and we all sat back thinking that this would solve the problem when the next heavy rains came. The test was on Sunday 27 January 2019, and it was a mere seconds of rain water coming down before the water was pouring in our kitchen door. This was the worst flood we have ever had. Our entire house was 20cm deep in water. We cried and screamed, and realised we had no control over the sheer force and volume of the water. It was like watching your house go up in flames and knowing there is nothing you can do to control the fire. It was a devastating scene. The mud, leaves, debris we collected were astounding. The storm happened at 9pm and we were exhausted, but in the end, we went to bed, physically and emotionally spent, having just touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of cleaning, at 4am. This past week has been one enormous battle for us. We have been extremely angry this has happened, and we sent a letter to the Trustees indicating that serious measures and actions now need to be taken to address why we are the victims of such flooding, repeatedly, and it is clear that the steps that have been taken (albeit with reluctance on their parts), have not been adequate. In past instances, they have done nothing the day after a flood. The sun rises and they forget about the whole incident and don't care about our plight. here days later, they called the same plumper who laid the new pipe, and he looked in the storm water drain underneath the driveway (this is on common property, some 10 metres away from our house)and saw that the one 200mm storm water pipe was blocked. The following day, they removed three rocks and plenty mud that had been blocking that pipe. They now assure me that we won't flood again.
The gist of all this is: we are saying that they have been negligent because the storm water pipe was never checked. As a result of that blockage, the water fills up in the sump, and backs up our pipe to our courtyard, thereby bringing all the water into our home from all the house up the road, as well as the neighbouring complex, so you can imagine the water quantity.
The trustees are saying that they are not responsible for our personal losses (which amount to R50k, and we must use our own household insurance for that).
We have asked for the BC's insurance policy wording and under the public liability section it states that they are to cover the cost of damages to our personal belongings if they have been negligent in maintaining the common property. We are saying that by never checking if the pipe was blocked, they have been negligent. Whose fault is this? Them or the plumber? We insist they have been negligent.
This is not a case of a burst geyser, where the policy is clear that their insurance will fix structural damage but we are responsible for losses or damages to household contents. This is a storm water drain in the driveway, that was blocked, and which caused our home to flood. Are the negligent or aren't they? Please help us out here. Thanks. Bev

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RE: Flood damage to personal belongings due to blocked storm water pipe

Murray Bennett replied on Fri, 08 Feb 2019 at 10:17

I suggest you obtain legal advice. In my opinion the trustees, although slow to react, were relying on the plumbers appointed August 2018 to get to and solve out the problem. The trustees didn't know about the blockage and take no action which would be negligence.

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