A Finsbury Park resident seeking compensation for damage caused to his home by severe flooding in 2019 has spoken of his frustration that his case is still unresolved.
Around 250 homes were damaged when a century-old Thames Water trunk main, used to move 50 to 60 million litres of water a day between reservoirs, split along its length. The incident left thousands in the surrounding area without running water.
Thames has voiced its contrition for flooding incidents in Hackney, making a £10,000 goodwill donation to the council for the Lea Bridge flood of 2018, and assuring those impacted by the Finsbury Park flood that it would be responsible for fixing all the damage.
However, Lucas Zorzo argues that Thames’ outward stance has not matched the tone the company has taken in private.
He says operations director Steve Spencer publicly encouraged him to get in touch to relay residents’ “remaining challenges”, only for the company’s solicitors to tell him days later to refrain from making any further direct contact with anyone at Thames.
Zorzo said: “We’re at the point of solicitors now, and it’s myself versus Thames Water, which is obviously a little bit daunting. I’m just keen to resolve it.
“This is months on, there are still moisture issues causing damage to the flat, and my concern is they have denied all responsibility that they instructed the contractor and are now unwilling to resolve that claim.”
Zorzo’s case is understood to be one of a number still unresolved 18 months after the flood.
He had work done to repair plaster damage and damp in his property, only for the work to cause further damage.
While Thames paid the contractor just under £4,000, it is understood that the company is refusing to accept liability for the shoddy work, arguing that the contractor had been appointed by Zorzo’s managing agent, making it their and the contractor’s responsibility.
The company has argued against entering into mediation with Zorzo, saying through its solicitor that it would be a waste of time and suggested it is an issue to be settled in court.
Zorzo added: “On the contractor, if that had been something that went through our own insurance company, we would manage that process. So if the work wasn’t carried out to the correct standard we would not pay them. [Thames] has basically settled the bill, which again is very frustrating.
“They say there were existing issues before the flooding incident, but I have never had any problems or issues for the last 15 years. What the key thing is is that I did have a lot of damp-proofing work done, and the instruction by the claims handler has voided all the warranty.
“If it was one of my contractors that had been instructed to do that, that would be up to me, but Thames take no responsibility for the contractors’ shoddy work. It’s an ongoing headache.”
The tenants of Zorzo’s property have now moved out, citing both the flood and the continuing inconvenience of the issues remaining unresolved, meaning he is continuing to lose income waiting for the works to be completed. He has now complained to the Financial Ombudsman over the complaints handling process.
According to Thames, three households remain in alternative accommodation following the flood. Overall, there were 292 insurance claims relating to the burst main, including vehicles, of which 139 have been entirely settled.
Of the 292 claims, 123 have been agreed but remain open, while 30 remain under discussion.
Brownswood ward councillor Clare Potter, who has taken up Zorzo’s case with Thames and has previously advocated for residents ‘severely impacted’ by the floods, said: “It is distressing that Lucas and others are still living with the impact of the floods on Queens Drive and I will continue to fight on residents behalf and make representations to Thames Water until each situation is resolved.”
Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville added: “Following the Finsbury Park flooding, Thames Water assured us in writing and in meetings, including with myself, Islington Council and local MPs, that residents would be supported and fully compensated for the disruption and necessary repair works to their homes.
“To hear that over a year later, issues remain, is deeply concerning and working with the ward councillors and scrutiny, we will continue to pressure Thames Water to support every resident affected.”
A spokesperson for Thames said: “We’re continuing to work hard to support customers affected by the burst in 2019. In this case the managing agent for the property appointed the contractor and we covered the costs of the repairs.
“We’re disappointed to hear the work wasn’t carried out to the standard the resident expected and hope the managing agent will resolve the issues with their chosen contractor.”