Husband and wife barristers ‘face £400k legal bill over inch wide water stain in neighbour’s flat’


A barrister couple say they are facing a £400,000 legal bill in a court battle with their 73-year-old neighbour over an inch-wide water stain on her ceiling. 

Lawyers Anthony Orchard QC and wife Jacqueline said the row with neighbour Helen Orkin over the stain – which is ‘just a few centimetres wide’ – has raged for years.

Ms Orkin is suing the couple for £2,200 in damages and wants them to fork out between £15,000 to £30,000 to fix the leak in the flats in Hampstead, London. 

But Mr and Mrs Orchard – who run a legal consultancy firm together – say Ms Orkin should share the cost of fixing it, and claim case could rack up £400,000 in legal bills.

In 2002, the couple moved into their flat – worth an estimated £758,000 – on the exclusive Hampstead street, where houses cost over £3million. 

Lawyers Anthony Orchard QC and wife Jacqueline (pictured) said a row with neighbour Helen Orkin over the stain - which is 'just a few centimetres wide' - has raged for years

Mr Orchard specialises in criminal law

Lawyers Anthony Orchard QC (right) and wife Jacqueline (left) said a row with neighbour Helen Orkin over the stain – which is ‘just a few centimetres wide’ – has raged for years

Mr Orchard specialises in criminal law, defending high-profile cases including Mick Phillpott who killed his six children in a house fire in 2012. He was paid nearly £57,000 for defending him.   

Their downstairs neighbour Ms Orkin – who already lived at the flat when the couple moved in – said water dripping from the terrace of the Orchards’ flat onto her ceiling was making her life a misery.

Ms Orkin is suing the barrister couple, demanding damages of £2,200 to repair her ceiling and an order that they are responsible for stopping the cause of the leak. 

But the two lawyers are vigorously defending the case, claiming the pensioner should share the cost of making the terrace watertight.

Jacqueline Orchard, representing herself and her husband, told Judge Heather Baucher that the claim being brought against them by their elderly neighbour is ‘pointless’ and is costing a fortune.

Ms Orkin is suing the barrister couple for £2,200 in damages and wants them to fork out between £15,000 to £30,000 to fix the leak in the flats (pictured) in Hampstead, London

Ms Orkin is suing the barrister couple for £2,200 in damages and wants them to fork out between £15,000 to £30,000 to fix the leak in the flats (pictured) in Hampstead, London

Asking the judge to strike out Ms Orkin’s claim, she said: ‘This is a claim for £2,200 for a damp patch on a ceiling. 

‘The total costs between the parties are likely to be £300,000 if not more, and all Ms Orkin is seeking is in effect £2,200.

‘In reality, it’s a damp patch of a few centimetres in diameter that on a few occasions has resulted in a few drops of water on the carpet.

‘It’s an intermittent problem that occurs only in extreme weather conditions, such as when snow melts or when there is a named storm.

‘The remedy she seeks is her ceiling repainted and whatever the underlying problem is to be dealt with.

‘In terms of the actual physical damage, it’s at the lower end of the scale….there is not a serious issue to be tried here,’ she said, dubbing the action against her and her husband ‘wasteful litigation.’

She said what Ms Orkin wants is a £2,200 repair to her ceiling, plus work to fix the leak, which Mrs Orchard says will cost £15,000 to £30,000.

‘The repairs here are not expensive,’ she said. ‘There was no need for the claim to be brought.’

And she went on to insist that she and her husband are not solely responsible for the cost of carrying out the work to make their terrace watertight.

She told the judge the cost of the repairs should be borne by a management company jointly controlled by all three leaseholders of the flats at the property.

‘This is a shared building and all residents must pay their way,’ she said.

‘It matters not where the water is coming through. This is a natural hazard.

‘It is the responsibility of all three of us leaseholders to effect repair. It’s a shared responsibility to keep it waterproof.

‘Those who seek to share the benefit should also share the burden on principle of reasonableness among neighbours,’ she said.

Jonathan Ross, representing Ms Orkin, told the judge that the inconvenience the leak is causing to the pensioner goes way beyond what the Orchards claim.

‘When it rains hard it leaks through to Ms Orkin’s bedroom. It leaked yesterday. My client is nearly 80 years old,’ he said.

‘There is a serious issue to be tried. There is continual water penetration. Sometimes water leaks three times a month into the main bedroom,’ he added.

Refuting the argument that the claim is not serious, he said: ‘My client wants to have a flat she can peaceably enjoy. Damages is secondary.’

He told the judge that covenants contained in the leases on the three flats make each tenant ‘responsible for their own demise’ whilst the management company is responsible for repairs to the common parts.

He added that an independent surveyor had investigated and concluded in his report that the source of the leak is the Orchards’ terrace.

‘It is not the management company’s responsibility to do the work […] the responsibility is the Orchards’,’ he said.

‘We have spent legal costs arguing this way beyond the actual cost of the remedial work.

‘It is not Ms Orkin that is responsible [for] the costs being incurred – it is the guerrilla tactics of the Orchards.

‘Their tactic is to frustrate and delay the process so the works don’t have to be done at their cost.

‘This is the only way my client had to seek to get the matter remedied.

‘Everything that Mrs Orchard has said we deny,’ he concluded.

Mrs Orchard – insisting the pensioners claim should be struck out – replied: ‘It’s not about who owns which little part of the building, it’s about shared responsibility.

‘It’s pointless litigation in the sense of the amount of money which is being spent on this.’

Judge Baucher refused the Orchards’ strike-out application, saying: ‘Mrs Orchard says this is a mere staining on the ceiling and the costs are out of all proportion, in a bracket between £200,000 and £400,000.

‘Ms Orkin says she has suffered water ingression which she finds very distressing and hoped she would not have to endure another winter with water ingress.

‘A court should not simply strike out a matter because the litigation is going to be expensive. The right and proper course is for this case to proceed to a hearing,’ she concluded.

The case has now adjourned until a later date. 



Source link

Spread the love

Written by bourbiza

Police bust ‘£1m county lines drugs ring after dealers dressed up as care home staff’

Ex-Sugar Hut boss Mick Norcross, 57, was found hanged in basement