Neighbor cause water damage to my condo - help!

jerseyjaneFebruary 7, 2005

I own a condo in New Jersey. The buildings have four units each, two high. I own the downstairs unit. The units are all privately owned and governed by a homeowners association. Though I own my unit as a primary residence, my upstairs neighbors are renters.

While I was out of town and a friend was condo-sitting, the upstairs neighbors' washing machine (or pipes or hoses) somehow overflowed to the degree that water leaked through my ceiling and created a 2 square foot area of damage to the ceiling - drywall peeling back and cracking, water stain, etc.

The friend staying there notified the upstairs neighbors and they said they'd take care of it - apparently, this meant just turning off the washing machine.

The association is not responsible for the inside of the buildings. My homeowners insurance will cover it - if the cost is above the deductable. According to them, however, the upstairs tenants and/or landlord/owner are responsible for the cost of my repairs.

The owner of that unit won't return my phone calls. The renters are, frankly, complete scumbags whom I've had problems with before - I've had to call the cops on them for noise, etc.

Any advice? Should I just call a lawyer?

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talley_sue_nyc

the landlord of the upstairs unit is the one to deal with.

He'll get his money from his tenants, and whether he does or not is his problem.

You might ask your condo association if there's any sort of "lein" they can put on his unit -- if you get a small-claims judgment against him, can they hold up the sale of his condo at your request? Maybe not. In a co-op, you might be able to.

My vote: a registered letter to start, and then fix it at your expense and send him the bill, registered mail. Take him to small claims court if he doesn't follow through.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2005 at 1:20PM
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lazy_gardens

Tell him you would regret having to find out who HIS insurance company is, and contact them about collecting the damages.

His mortgage and insurance company might not know he's renting the condo.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2005 at 10:19PM
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talley_sue_nyc

I will also say, you do not want someone else to arrange to have this fixed. You want them to PAY, but YOU want to be in charge of the workmen, etc.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2005 at 3:02PM
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romy2004

I feel like I posted this message. This happened to us two weeks ago. Only we live in a co-op. A water pipe broke in the kitchen from the apartment above us causing water to flow into our newly renovated home. Our kitchen is vitually destroyed - we are sick about it because we saved and saved and worked so hard to get it the way we wanted it. There is water damage in almost every room of our apartment. In fact, everybody in our line got water damage - we just got it the worst because we are right under the affected unit. What really makes us upset is that the management company who owns and rents out this apartment was aware of the pipe being faulty and did nothiing to prevent this. In fact, we are constantly on edge worrying what will happen next because these people do not do preventative maintenance - they rather wait until the damage is done and then fix the problem. We have been in toch with our insurance company and have insisted that they contact theirs. They have not been very cooperative. We need major repairs and of course, they want to send in the super to do the minimal amount possible. We, of course, will not go along with this as the work on our place was done by a licensed contractor, and we want our home to be restored to the way that it was before the leak.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2005 at 8:35AM
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talley_sue_nyc

what pipe being faulty? In the walls? Then it's the co-op corporation's fault, and the corporation's insurance should be covering this.

You're a tenant-owner, yes? Since you spent money on improving the kitchen? Time to get together w/ your fellow shareholders and discuss.

If it's the corporation's pipe, the corporation's board ought to be able to deal with this--even *if* you have hired a management company to administer the co-op's business.

If it's a pipe INSIDE the apartment (from the wall to the sink, or the wall to the dishwasher, or something), then the co-op corporation can force the owner of those shares to pay, or can seize the apartment if they don't.

In all of these situations, you would have legal grounds to sue the corporation (of course, that's you as well, footing those legal bills, since you're a shareholder). You might start mentioning these things.

I have no experience w/ large co-ops with hard-to-reach boards of directors, and management companies. My own co-op corporation is small, and every apartment owner is appointed a director (not necessarily an officer, but a director).

    Bookmark   February 11, 2005 at 5:34PM
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romy2004

Each co-op apartment owner has it's own director? Wish I could
say the same here. This building is managed by the company that owns the apartment above us. The whole building is not entirely tenant-owned - probably about 50% is. The other half is owned by the management company and rented out. The unit, where the water originated, is one of these. The pipe was a hot water one that goes from the sink into the wall - clearly visible. It is the management's responsibility.

The Board of Directors is not only comprised of tenant-owners. Since, as I mentioned, half of the apartments are rented out, three people from this company sit on the board. Frankly, attending one of these board meetings is a complete waste of time. Anytime, anything of significance is brought up, we are shot down by these three people. And even among the other four, I would say that there is only one person who actually cares what is going on. The other three are more concerned about being board members - a prestige thing. Unless there is a complete mutiny by us, none of these people are going to step down. Even the meetings are closed, excepting one a year, and as I said earlier, a complete waste of time. No one seems interested in shaking up this board, in fact, the rare time when a director was replaced, it was totally fixed, a friend of one of the members. We had no idea that an election was going to take place until the end of the meeting.

I appreciate your advice. Believe me, we are not going to let this thing lie.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2005 at 2:40AM
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talley_sue_nyc

Unless there is a complete mutiny by us,

there ya go--a solution at hand!

See, there's a handicap in my building--if the board wouldn't pay to fix my apartment, I could sue. But I'd be suing myself, and suing the other people, who would then have no incentive to ever work with me again on anything.

You can sue with pretty much a free hand. Management doesn't work with you anyway!

And as for not knowing about the directorship vote--I bet that's a violation of the by-laws, and actionable. If you wanted to take action.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2005 at 12:21PM
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KeyNY

I would go ahead and file an insurance claim.

I live in a co-op. Last year my elderly upstairs neighbor turned on her faucet and left the apartment. I had water pouring through my ceiling in the kitchen and living room. While my neighbor was very nice and probably would have paid for the damage eventually, she had some form of senile dementia and it was a difficult situation. I filed an insurance claim and my insurance paid minus the deductible. A few months later I received a check for the deductibleÂthe insurance company had received a full payment from my neighbor and refunded my deductible.

Of course, the repairs to my kitchen turned into a full gut and remodel, so ultimately it was a pretty pricey leak.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 4:50PM
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folgers32

Help,

The unit above mine had a toilet leak which caused significant damage to my unit. All the carpet has to be replaced and I had to pay to have blowers and de humidifiers put in to prevent mold. I do NOT have insurance :( Does the guy upstairs have any liability or responsibility to pay for my damages? Is this a lost cause? I live in FL if this makes a difference. The owner of the above unit is not cooperating. Can I go after him in small claims court or is it a lost cause? PLEASE HELP!!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2006 at 11:42AM
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klmarker

OK -- one more with a new twist.
I recently bought a condo from HUD after it went through foreclosure. There was visible water damage in the laundry area under where the AC unit sits. Its heat source is the hot water. I assumed it was from a leak related to the system and included the cost of repairs in our bid.

Today, after I ripped out the damaged drywall, I realixed the water came from upstairs. I can't tell how long ago the leak/overflow occurred, but it's obvious it's from the unit upstairs. I'm having to replace flooring, drywall, and trim due to the damage.

Considering the damage was already there when I bought the unit and I don't know how long ago it happened, do I still have a legitimate case to approach the owner upstairs for help paying for the repairs?

thanks in advance,

Ken

    Bookmark   February 25, 2006 at 8:45PM
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mysfyt

YES - upstairs tennants or owners are responsible for any damage they cause a downstairs resident.

I own an upstairs condo and when my toilet broke, the guy that owns the downstairs unit came up and told me. He also demanded that I pay to have his bathroom ceiling repaired. I went down and took photos, then called my insurance co. Since my deduct. was $500, they said it was best not to submit a claim and just pay out of my pocket to avoid cancellation of policy. So I told the guy I'd cover it, but it'd have to be affordable, as I was in a tight financial situation. He no sooner tore the whole ceiling apart and started fixing it. Never allowed me to call in my own contractor or anything. Then he handed me a bill for $440 and billed me $50 per hour for his time to TAPE the ceiling's drywall (billed me 4 hours just for that!!!)

Where I'm going with this, and how it can help you: I had to pay him the bill, because if I didn't he could have put a lien on my condo. Since I was responsible for my toilet (not the property mgmt co,) I had to make good on repairing the problem for him. He could have taken me to small claims court, BUT... he wouldn't necessarily have to do so in order to put a lien. Since he's a contractor (which he never told me,) and runs a business, he could have easily gone to the town hall and filed a lien without my knowledge.

If they are not returning your phonecalls and not repairing the damage, then any court would award you for their negligence. ALSO - SEND THEM A CERTIFIED OR REGISTERED LETTER! Keep excellent records and ALWAYS leave answering machine messages which include your phone # (but DO NOT become harassing or call multiple times each day.) If you go into court with a list of every time you contacted them and show that they signed for letters and still failed to contact you, you'll do well. You can probably even go after them for additional expenses, like the court fee, missed time from work for repairs and for court, etc.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2006 at 5:07PM
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tarakaki

Hi,

I own an apt in a condo and just recently rented it out. Last week,the guy below me told me that there's leaking in his unit from my unit. I called a plumber to come in to fix the bathroom in my unit. Today, I got a call from the owner downstairs telling me i have to pay $12000 in damage to their floor. She told me that the damage is to a small area but her contractor said that they can't find a matching color for the flooring so they will have to redo the whole floor. Is that right? Do I have to pay for the entire flooring? or just the damage area regardless of whether it matches or not. I don't think it's my responsibility to pay for the whole flooring just becaue it doesn't match. Please help me on this. What do I do? I'm panicking here. I don't want to go through a lawyer. I offered to go downstairs to take pictures of the damage and see. Please advise me what I need to do from here.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 11:48PM
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Mark_adsf_ae

I'm in a condo on the first floor, and my wood flooring has water damage. The assessed damage was a result of water seeping throug the slab. My insurance company does not cover this, they needed a leaking/busted pipe to blame. The condo association says it's on my dime. Shouldn't there be waterproofing or something to prevent this?
An ideas? Thanks, Mark

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 1:58AM
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elicohen50_hotmail_com

I own a condo with many plumbing problems, bathroom and kitchen. My insurance company approved 4 claims. I thought I had the problems resolved. apparantly not.
The new shower pans are still leaking in the bathrooms. there are leaks in the vanities and toilets. I filed another claim for both shower pans. This time the claims were denied. The cause of the leak was not covered. Now the dish washer backed up into the hallway and cause flooding 3 floors down. What showuld i do? I have lost my mind. i need help. bless you. I am afraid of lawsuits. I have been threatened several times by several tenants and management. I need help!!!!!!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 12:39PM
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dave613

Thanks for the info. I am wondering whether I can fix this first then claim insurance or need to call insurance claim first and have them inspect and assigned a contract to fix?

Thanks

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 5:11PM
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jane__ny

Always call insurance first. Don't do a thing until they see the damage.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2011 at 9:49PM
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JeaniB

My husbnd is in same situation, more or less, as tarakari, which I'm pasting below. We haven't seen any response to tarakari's question. The tenant next to my husband's condo unit is angling to get him to replace her entire floor because we can't find laminate flooring to match the 4 ft x 4 ft area damaged 2 months ago by seepage from a bathtub drain leak in my husband's condo unit thru the common wall. Now the neighbor claims the damage is "spreading"--two months later??
RE: Neighbor cause water damage to my condo - help!

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Posted by tarakaki (My Page) on Wed, Oct 31, 07 at 23:48
Hi,
I own an apt in a condo and just recently rented it out. Last week,the guy below me told me that there's leaking in his unit from my unit. I called a plumber to come in to fix the bathroom in my unit. Today, I got a call from the owner downstairs telling me i have to pay $12000 in damage to their floor. She told me that the damage is to a small area but her contractor said that they can't find a matching color for the flooring so they will have to redo the whole floor. Is that right? Do I have to pay for the entire flooring? or just the damage area regardless of whether it matches or not. I don't think it's my responsibility to pay for the whole flooring just becaue it doesn't match. Please help me on this. What do I do? I'm panicking here. I don't want to go through a lawyer. I offered to go downstairs to take pictures of the damage and see. Please advise me what I need to do from here.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 10:01PM
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graywings123

For starters, call your insurance company.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 10:26AM
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MargaretPMcCord

Hello all..

Those who are upstairs are liable in any damages that your unit has if they have been the cause of the damage.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 1:59AM
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MargaretPMcCord

Hello all..

Those who are upstairs are liable in any damages that your unit has if they have been the cause of the damage.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 2:00AM
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