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Legal expenses cover driving a sharp rise in domestic property disputes
  • Jun 1, 2022
  • Latest News

Legal expenses cover in household insurance policies is driving a sharp rise in domestic property disputes, says building surveyor Tony Mancini.

He said householders are ‘no longer frightened of falling out’ with neighbours or contractors because their legal bills are increasingly being met by insurers.

Mr Mancini is a partner at national surveying and property management firm Scanlans and most of his work nowadays involves acting as an expert witness in property-related wrangles.

The firm has seen a 30 per cent spike over the past two years in this field, concerning disputes over home improvements such as extensions, new kitchens and bathrooms and landscaping, as well as matters involving party walls, boundaries and cavity wall insulation projects.

And Mr Mancini expects the surge in disputes to continue as a result of the pandemic, as people have invested in their homes rather than going on holiday abroad.

“We’re busier than ever with expert witness work and I can only see this increasing,” he said.

“People don’t seem to be frightened of falling out any more. More and more people have legal expenses cover with their household insurance policies, and they are not afraid to make a claim under it.

“Cases involve householders refusing to pay their builder, installer or contractor, but also where tradespeople have done the work and cannot get paid because of alleged defective workmanship.

“The insurers need to know whether there is any merit in the claim, and appoint solicitors to act on their behalf.

“As surveyors, we are instructed by the solicitors as expert witnesses and we produce an independent report on the matter in dispute.

“These range from household extensions, new kitchens and bathrooms, landscaping, boundaries, party wall issues and, increasingly, cavity wall insulation claims.”

Mr Mancini, who heads Scanlans’ building surveying team, “Cavity wall insulation claims are multiplying rapidly. They stem from the government’s commitment to improve the insulation standards in older housing stock. Homeowners were eligible for grants because of this desire to improve the country’s housing stock.

“Following on from this, there has been a flood of people signing no-win, no-fee agreements with solicitors to bring action against the installers, claiming faulty workmanship or damage to a property. Many of these installers are no longer trading, so the cases are being brought against their public liability insurers.”

Mr Mancini and his team are increasingly being called upon to check whether the installation was carried out properly and whether it caused any property damage.

He said many claims are unjustified and end up being discontinued, or going to trial and being thrown out. However, some do prove to be well-founded, and can result in significant damages being awarded.
Mr Mancini is one of three partners heading Scanlans. The others are Ian Magenis and Neil Inman. Between them the trio have clocked up nearly 80 years at Scanlans.

In 2021 Mr Mancini celebrated a quarter of a century at Scanlans. He joined the practice in 1996 as its first building surveyor and became a partner four years later.

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