Ceiling Collapse
October 3, 2004 4:10 PM   Subscribe

Part of my apartment's bedroom ceiling collapsed. Can I get compensation from the management company or should I be glad that they're coming to work on it tomorrow?

Oops, the More Inside:

Long story short-ish, I live on the top floor of a crummy student apartment in Texas. My ceiling sprang a minor leak last weekend. I informed management and they were out the next day to fix the roof. This weekend brought heavy rains to Austin, and what do you know? My ceiling started leaking again, only along a much greater area and with much more water coming in. Got out the buckets and contacted management Saturday morning. They really couldn't do anything til Monday, but they were responsive. But then Saturday night, part of my ceiling collapsed. The hole in my ceiling is approximately 2ft x 6ft, and thank goodness I had moved all my computer equipment beforehand. My carpet was soaked and my friends and I had to clear out all the plaster that had fallen.

So, I'm glad that the maintenance guys are on the job, but there's a damned hole in the ceiling. Can I demand any sort of compensation or reduction in rent? I'm not a tough person, but I'll put pressure on the company if I know I'm in the right.
posted by lychee to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
Compensation for what? Were you unable to inhabit the apartment?
posted by mischief at 4:24 PM on October 3, 2004

>Can I demand any sort of compensation or reduction in rent?

Did any of your stuff get destroyed? If so, make a list of it. Their negligence in the first repair means they should be liable to replace it.

Were you unable to sleep in your apartment that night? If you're a major asshole, you could ask them for a 1/30th reduction in rent for that month as your apartment was unusable for one day.

Personally, I'd say if the water damaged my stuff, I'd ask for that replaced. That one should be obvious to anyone. I'd not bug them about a few bucks reduction in rent, it's too petty.
posted by shepd at 4:31 PM on October 3, 2004

the carpet will probably be stinky. if they don't replace it and you need to replace it then they should pay for that.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:50 PM on October 3, 2004

When that happened to me in Richmond I demanded (and got) the cost of a hotel room for the night and the cost of my books that were destroyed.

Of course, the landlord never gave me back my deposit but that's beacuse he was a coke-head asshole and another story...
posted by JoanArkham at 5:17 PM on October 3, 2004

I think you should count your blessings that they were so responsive.

Don't piss them off unnecessarily.

(I used to work in a rental department.)
posted by konolia at 5:27 PM on October 3, 2004

Take pictures of everything. Now. The hole; the soaked area of carpet, the amount of debris, if it's still around somewhere; any buckets full of water that you still have. If you decide to pursue some sort of compensation, you can't have enough pictures of the situation. If you decide not to do anything, why then, hit the "delete" button on your camera.

I had a similar problem with a New York landlord and it ended up going to court. Our photographic evidence was crucial. As if to prove b1tr0t's point, we ended up living there several months for free--god forbid we got one blessed cent out of him.
posted by Tholian at 5:33 PM on October 3, 2004

I'm with Konolia on this one. But, it never hurts to simply ask, "I really appreciate everything you're doing to deal with this. Can I be compensated at all for my trouble?"

You never know......
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:45 PM on October 3, 2004

Presumably, you've paid your $100/year for renter's insurance -- contact your insurer, should you be in need of compensation, and they'll put you up, if need be, cover any damage to your possessions, and compensate you accordingly.
posted by waldo at 6:10 PM on October 3, 2004

This happened to me once. It was the first rain of the season, so when management called to get the ceiling repaired, they found every roofing company in town was suddenly booked for 6 weeks. I had to live with the leaking, buckets out, regions of rooms uninhabitable... There was also damage to my furniture and books.

They compensated me for all damage to my property and gave me a few hundred bucks off my 1200 rent. This, combined with the sense that they were doing all they could, and were genuinely sorry for the inconvenience, satisfied me. But then, the real issue was that I had to live with it for a while. If your problem is solved in a couple of days, then yes, be glad you have an attentive landlord, and you might want to drop it at that in the interest of keeping a good relationship with them.

But if you feel put out, don't be afraid to ask for compensation. Remember that by entering into a rental agreement with them, you receive the promise of a habitable, up-to-code abode. If something's really wrong with it, they're in breach of the lease, and you have options to nail them. You don't want to piss them off, but they don't want to piss you off either. They may give you a break. A couple hundres bucks when they know they're in the wrong is small potatoes compared to a lawsuit, even a small claims suit.

Ask. What's the worst that could happen? They'd say "no." You think they'd evict you for having the nerve? I don't think so. Good tenants aren't completely expendable.
posted by scarabic at 6:22 PM on October 3, 2004

Your first party renters insurance will give you the quickest payout, and might put you up in a hotel. This is your first and best option. Any remedy you might obtain from your landlord will pale in comparison to the insurance benefits. My view is, you might as well get what you are contractually entitled to under your policy, rather than fight for what you may or may not be entitled to from your landlord.

Should you hit your limit on insurance, contact your attorney to learn about whether the "constructive eviction" doctrine exists in your jurisdiction and how extensive it is. That is, your landlord doesn't actually lock you out, but through negligence or other means, makes it impossible for you to live in your apartment (or part of your apartment.) The remedy for this can be anything from a rent discount to the ability to break your lease.
posted by PrinceValium at 6:34 PM on October 3, 2004

Response by poster: Great, thanks everyone! The carpet's starting to stink up the place, so I'm going to push that issue primarily. This company has been pretty good at dealing with the problems of a crumbling apartment complex, so I'm hopeful they'll replace the wet portion. Thankfully there was no real damage to property, since I moved the computer right away (my computer desk was right under the leaks.)
posted by lychee at 9:41 PM on October 3, 2004

It's likely to depend on the housing code in your city; at least in terms of how you go about getting compensation. As everyone else said, document everything with photographs.

If you're a student, the student union at your school probably has a (free?) legal services department. I'd say talk to them about it before you do anything else.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 10:11 PM on October 3, 2004

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