With winter upon us and parts of the UK faced with devastating floods, Coodes Partner and Head of Personal Disputes Colin Hunter describes how his team is handling a growing number of weather-related cases.
“In recent years, we’ve seen the catastrophic effect that extreme weather can have on individuals and communities. In the South West, we’ve had more than our fair share, with the 2012 flooding in Lostwithiel, the tragic landslide in Looe in 2013 and, of course, the devastating flash flood in Boscastle 11 years ago, to name just a few.
“In Coodes’ Personal Disputes team, we have seen how cases relating to weather are on the rise, particularly between November and March. I have noticed that while 15 to 20 years ago we were dealing with the odd case that was linked to weather, we are now handling an increasing number of disputes arising from flooding and high winds. There is definitely a trend emerging and it is prevalent enough for us to sit up and take note.
“Most of these cases fall under the category of ‘property litigation’ – in other words, damage to houses or businesses that have been caused by extreme weather, such as severe rainfall or high winds. We are now regularly called in to advise homeowners, insurers and people who have been affected by a weather related event from a neighbouring property, usually on issues ranging from land slides and subsidence, to flooding and wind damage.
“While some of the cases are straightforward, others can be complex and often need technical input to determine whether the property from which the problem arose was being managed properly.
“Despite widespread recognition that we are facing more unsettled weather, most people seem to be taken by surprise when their property is damaged: the general reaction is incredulity.
“Damage caused by weather is rarely ‘just one of those things’. The fact is that fault is often found at the heart of these cases. In many of cases in which we have been involved, the adverse impact could have been reduced or avoided altogether if the neighbouring property from which the problem emanated, whether be it a flood or a land slide, had been better maintained. The key is for all property owners to be vigilant: inspect exposed structures for wind damage, check drainage to ensure it is clear and well-maintained, check for evidence of ground movement and maintain any flood defences.
“The immediate results of not taking responsibility can be catastrophic. Longer term, there are serious issues for homeowners, who may struggle to insure or sell a property that has been the subject of one of these disputes or damaged by subsidence, land slide or flooding.
For further advice and assistance, contact Colin Hunter at Coodes Solicitors: 01726 874700 or email@example.com