In the article I’m going to tell you about Neighbours, Disputes and Insurance: the Facts. Much of the UK civil court system is clogged up with cases involving warring neighbours. Some are fighting over a square yard at the back of the house that they each swear blind should belong to them. Others have taken to sabotaging each other’s trees and even pets because they claim that their neighbour is not doing all they can to stop their trees/pets being a nuisance.
Coming home from work or anywhere else should be a pleasurable experience but if the sight of your home immediately brings to mind arguments with a neighbour then it will ruin the peace that your home should bring.
Whilst some people are unfortunate enough to have genuinely unpleasant neighbours who go out of their way to make life difficult, fortunately the vast majority of us manage to get along in the knowledge that you all have to live close by.
But what happens if you or your neighbour accidentally damages one another’s property? Say your tree falls down and lands on their car, or your DIY results in your neighbour’s electricity or phone line being disconnected, causing them inconvenience and perhaps financial loss through lost frozen food. Or if you live in an apartment and your pipes freeze and burst, flooding your neighbour’s flat. What should you do?
Many people are reluctant to apologise in case it in some way incriminates them and makes it seem like they’re accepting liability. For example, in the case of a car accident, you might assume that the accident was your fault but there might be factors beyond your knowledge (like whether the other driver was drunk or not) that make the accident actually more like a shared-liability situation.
In a case where a storm has blown down your tree, surely that couldn’t be your fault, and your household insurance would cover the damage anyway, so how could an apology hurt? But beware. If that tree had fallen down because it wasn’t maintained properly, or if tiles from your roof damaged your neighbour’s property because your roof wasn’t properly maintained, then your neighbours might well have good reason to be cross, especially since your home insurance probably wouldn’t pay for the damage.
In those circumstances, if you’ve apologised then you could be seen to have accepted liability (though if you haven’t apologised, your neighbours are more likely to sue anyway…) and a court would probably find in your neighbour’s favour.
For the sake of neighbourly relations, it is worth having home insurance in place to pay for damage to their property that couldn’t have been avoided; and it’s worth offering to pay for the damage if your insurance won’t cover it. Doing that will save a lot of legal fees and heartache.