Who pays for damage to my mum’s property from neighbour’s solar panel?
Property Clinic: Detailed assessment by an engineer should be carried out
The neighbour has made no effort to help my mother with clearing any of the glass from her driveway or grass.
In recent bad weather, the solar panel on the roof of my mother’s neighbour’s house exploded and shattered glass and debris on top of my mother’s roof. My mother, who is elderly and lives alone, heard a loud crash, but it was several days before the cause of the problem was discovered.
Her neighbour had a repair man in to replace the solar panel, who called to advise her that some of her roof tiles had been damaged by the exploding solar panel and there was glass all over her roof and in the gutters; it was also in the driveway and garden.
Her neighbour subsequently called to say that although he would be claiming off his insurance to fix his solar panel, it would be up to my mother to claim off her house insurance to cover the damage to her property. Other than the solar panel, there was very little damage to his roof and my mother’s roof took the impact of the flying debris.
He made no effort to help my mother with clearing any of the glass from her driveway or grass.
She reported this to her insurer, who sent out a roofer to assess the damage, which is more substantial than originally thought, as it appears one of the rafters is also damaged and she is lucky that the roof didn’t cave in. The damage to the roof also caused a leak into a bathroom.
What are her rights here? Is it true that her neighbour is not liable for the damage to her house as he is claiming? The houses are both detached and were built in the west of Ireland in the 1970s.
The responsibility for the damage to your mother’s house caused by the shattered glass and debris that landed on its roof as a result of the solar panel on her neighbour’s home being damaged by bad weather rests primarily with the owner of that house, namely your mother’s neighbour.
A detailed assessment by a competent engineer of your mother’s property should be carried out. This assessment should set out the damage caused to the roof of your mother’s house, the cost of repairs, the amount of time the remedial works will take to be carried out together with the costs of clearing glass and debris from all of your mother’s property.
If there is any genuine damage caused to the interior of your mother’s house, this should be clearly specified and the nature of same set out in the report together with the cost of the remedial works needed.
When the assessment of the cost of the work to be carried out to your mother’s house has been prepared, it can be sent to the neighbour for consideration and review. Perhaps the insurer of the neighbour’s house will cover the cost of the repairs and the remedial works to your mother’s house?
Your mother’s neighbour is personally responsible for the damage caused to her house by the solar panel that became disengaged from the roof on his house.
From a practical viewpoint, it would probably be best for your mother to make a claim through her own property insurance policy. This can be done through the broker or agent or indeed through the insurance company directly.
If there is any loss to your mother by not getting a full reimbursement of all of the costs for the repairs and damage to her property, then the balance can be claimed from the neighbour.
Your mother should first check with her own insurance company as to whether her policy covers (i) the damage caused, (ii) will there be any deductions (referred to as an excess) from any money that she has to pay for the repairs and, if so, how much of a deduction.
It may also be that your mother’s insurance company will deal with the claim against her neighbour to recover any losses that it, the insurance company, might incur as a result of having to pay for the remedial works to your mother’s house.
Finally, your mother should not be at any loss. If there is to be any reduction in the amount of money that she needs to have her property reinstated and cleaned, it should be claimed from the neighbour either personally or through his insurance company, if he has one.
Patrick O’Connor, P O’Connor & Son, Solicitors, Swinford, Co Mayo, poconsol.ie