A COUPLE are suing their former neighbours for more than £300,000 after alleging that a broken drain left part of their property riddled with damp over a period of eight years.
Harshad Vijay and Charlotte Ilsa Khakhria claim that damp began to permeate a ground-floor flat of their property in St Aubin’s High Street in late 2008.
The couple claim, in civil papers lodged with the Royal Court, that the damp was accompanied by a smell of sewage which spread to the entrance hall and an adjourning flat.
They allege that the source of the problem was a drain serving the home of their neighbours, Andrew and Katherine Sibcy.
The Khakhrias allege that between 2009 and 2012 they repeatedly spoke to Mr and Mrs Sibcy about the issue and claim that they were told the matter was in the hands of their insurers.
In their formal response to the claims, Mr and Mrs Sibcy say that they were not made aware between 2007 and April 2013 of any ‘water ingress’ by Mr and Mrs Khakhria. The defendants say that they were notified of the ingress on 12 April 2013 by loss adjusters for the plaintiffs. Mr and Mrs Sibcy say that they notified their insurers the same day. They claim that the Khakhrias never mentioned sewage ingress until a leak was detected in 2014.
The Sibcys say that at all material times the matter was in the hands of their insurers, and that they were entitled to rely on the advice of drainage experts Drain It, who, they say, produced reports in 2013 and 2014 saying that the drains were ‘in good condition’.
According to the plaintiffs’ papers, in May 2012 Mr Sibcy told his neighbours that there would be no reimbursement from the insurers and the Sibcys did not accept there had been damage to the property. The Sibcys say that the request for reimbursement referred to a separate ‘flood’ incident in 2006.
During the two years after May 2012, loss adjusters for both parties’ insurers unsuccessfully attempted to resolve the issue.
In 2013 and the following year, Mr and Mrs Sibcy instructed Drain It Ltd to inspect the drain. According to the Khakhrias, both reports produced by the firm cited an ‘obvious weakness’ in part of the drainage system. The Sibcys’ response says that the reports in fact said that ‘the soil vent pipe connections… were the only obvious weakness of the drain system, but suspect not to be a cause of water egress and consequent damp’.
The reports were based on a CCTV inspection of the drains and not, as the Khakhrias claim they should have been, a leak-test using dyed water which would have shown the route taken by any leaking fluid.
According to Mr and Mrs Khakhria’s papers, in May 2014 Mr and Mrs Sibcy ‘finally yielded’ and agreed to a leak test, which ultimately resulted in dyed water in the sump in the kitchen of the Khakhrias’ flat and soaking through the carpet in the lounge of the property.
In the papers, the couple claim that ‘sewage worms’ were found in the water and that the property had been subject to sewage contamination for ‘well in excess of five years’.
The couple claim that Mr and Mrs Sibcy’s insurers continued to deny that the drain was the cause of the damp and smell, but the drain was repaired a short time later. The Khakhrias claim that the damp took a further two years to dissipate.
The couple are seeking special damages for loss of rental earnings from the affected flat and the adjoining flat (£297,045), an increase in their insurance premiums (£10,000) and uninsured losses (£1,415). They are also seeking ‘general’ damages for the ‘stress and inconvenience in having to live in a home so badly affected by sewage smells’, and claim that the defendants behaved unreasonably by allegedly stopping and staring at Mrs Khakhria in the street or ‘tapping their foreheads’ to indicate ‘she was mad’.
In their formal response, Mr and Mrs Sibcy, who have since moved home, admit that there was damp in the flat by January 2013 and that it was caused, or contributed by, the leak in their drain discovered in May 2014. They deny that any damp which the Khakhrias may prove was present between 2008 and 2013 was caused by their drain.
They further deny that there was ‘sewage ingress or sewage smells’ in their neighbours’ property before 2014, and allege that the Khakhrias made no mention of sewage smells until May 2014.
The couple also cite alleged inconsistencies in the Khakhrias’ claims, including that Mr Khakhria tweeted the director of his insurance company in May 2014, stating that his property had had ‘sewage ingress for two years’, rather than since 2008, as now alleged.
They further allege that Mr Khakhria used part of the flat as an office/TV room until at least 2010, and that the bedroom and bathroom were used by guests until the summer of 2012. They say that in 2013 the Khakhrias’ children could be heard playing on a drum kit in the flat and that the adjoining flat was used as a play/music room by the Khakhrias’ children between 2008 and 2014.
Mr and Mrs Sibcy say that at all material times they acted on advice from their insurers and followed the advice of drainage experts.