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My cellar is flooded, but as the damage mounts there’s no resolution in the pipeline

Wellington boots on a flooded floor.
Water, water, everywhere … but who is to blame for all the stress? Photograph: Alamy

My cellar has been flooding since early August last year when I discovered it was knee-deep in water. There had been heavy rain, and a structural engineer told me it was probably natural groundwater seepage. I hired a pump but it happened again and I pumped it out a second time.

In October, I contacted Thames Water, and an engineer visited. He assured me my pipes were intact but there was a leak in the main supply pipe which he would arrange to be repaired. Two Floodcall engineers were sent to pump out my cellar, and they installed a dehumidifier.

The stench the flooding had caused lessened but, three weeks later, it returned and when I opened the door, clouds of mosquitoes flew out. Flooding had obviously continued unabated.

The cellar was pumped out again by Floodcall (for the fourth time) and I was assured the leak had been repaired.

When I next checked, the cellar was flooded to 20cm deep. Rendering has now fallen off, bricks are eroded and there is a crack to first-floor level.

I wrote to a Thames Water director in November. I was told a risk management company would deal with everything and would be in touch, but they have not. There have been quite a few other phone calls and messages to the company, but still the water flows in. My own pipe has been checked a third time and has no leak, so I am not responsible.

It now turns out there are two other leaks nearby, but in “private” supply pipes – ie, on private property. Thames Water is apparently not responsible, but under the terms of the Data Protection Act it does not have to tell me where the leaks are.

I pumped out the cellar again – for the sixth time – just before Christmas, but the water has risen again. I feel utterly helpless.

MY, London

We can imagine the stress – not to mention worries about damage to your property, which you own. But (without wishing to scaremonger) you also have the worry of health risks such as Legionnaires’ disease.

Thames Water told us that, while it admits these types of investigation can be complex when the leak involves private pipes, you did not contact them directly until mid-October – presumably because you thought the problem was linked to rainfall. It admits it had a leak in its pipe, which it says was fixed in November but, as this didn’t stop the flooding, it clearly wasn’t the cause.

Its “leak detection team” then found leaks on the two private supply pipes in December, one of which was fixed by the property owner, and the second where it has just made contact with the owner. It stresses it cannot work on private pipes on private property without the owner’s consent. It tells us: “We sympathise with MY’s situation, which is due to a leak on a private water pipe which is not part of our network. We have traced the leak to a nearby property and, after many calls and visits, we’ve established who owns it and who is therefore responsible.

“If the property owner cannot arrange their own repairs, we’ll carry out the work for them if they give us permission. Either way, it’s really important this is resolved quickly so MY can get her home and life back to normal, and we’ll continue to keep her updated on the progress of her case.”

As the leak isn’t the company’s responsibility, it says it will not offer compensation. But you should be covered by your buildings insurance policy .

Perhaps water regulator Ofwat should look at the wider implications for innocent householders.

We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email us at consumer.champions@theguardian.com or write to Consumer Champions, Money, the Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include a daytime phone number. Submission and publication of all letters is subject to our terms and conditions

This article titled "My cellar is flooded, but as the damage mounts there’s no resolution in the pipeline" was written by Rebecca Smithers, for theguardian.com on Monday 8 January 2018 07.00am

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