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‘Over-Heated’ Flat Buyer Seeks Six-Figure Damages

ApartmentDevelopers have been ordered to pay £30,000 into the High Court as a condition of being permitted to defend a claim brought by the buyer of a £1.45 million luxury flat who says that she has been unable to move in for two years because it is seriously over-heated. The requirement of a payment into court was justified in circumstances where primary liability had been conceded by the developers who had in certain respects failed to comply with pre-action protocols.

The buyer of the central London flat, who purchased it ‘off-plan’ in 2010, claims that the temperatures within it often rose to 30 degrees centigrade and that its wooden floors have warped beyond repair in the heat. The apparent source of the heat is hot water pipes running underneath the flat and, despite extensive remedial works, the buyer, who has a medical condition and walks with crutches, argues that the ‘serious and continuing’ over-heating still makes it impossible for her to move in.

She is suing the developers for alleged breaches of contract and under the Defective Premises Act 1972. Her lawyers argue that, apart from her inconvenience and distress at having been kept out of her home for an extended period, relocating the hot water pipes will cost at least £150,000. Although temperatures in the flat had recently fallen below maximum recommended levels, the buyer says that could well be due to the cold winter weather outside and she fears that the heat will return with a vengeance with the arrival of spring

In October 2012, the buyer was granted an injunction against the developers, requiring them to cooperate fully with her lawyers’ investigations into the cause of the over-heating and the effectiveness, or otherwise, of remedial works. The judge who granted that order said that he was ‘full of sympathy’ for the buyer and told her: “You could not have had a worse experience with this”.

The developers had ‘accepted liability for the defective state of affairs which led to the over-heating’ but were contesting the amount of compensation due to the buyer. However, after a preliminary hearing, the court ruled that the overriding objective of fairness demanded that the developers be debarred from defending the buyer’s claim unless they paid £30,000 into court within 14 days.