Advice on a ceiling leak/damage issue?
May 11, 2010 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Advice on a ceiling leak/damage issue? We own a condo on the 2nd floor of a building. A few weeks ago, we noticed a stain on the bathroom ceiling, getting bigger. We called the property manager, and he sent the groundskeeper up to have a look. The guy looked at the ceiling and was like "yep, it looks like there's a leak." Then he reached up and pushed on the ceiling with his fist, and it left an indentation in the ceiling because the ceiling had become soft. That was about 2 weeks ago. Since then we heard nothing.

Today I saw the groundskeeper, so I asked him what the deal was. He said that they had gone with a plumber to the condo upstairs, and there was a showerhead up there that appeared to be leaking, and they tightened it, and he thinks that fixed the problem. He's probably right, because the stain doesn't appear to be growing anymore. I said "what about getting the ceiling fixed?" Since now I have about a 2 foot by 3 foot area of staining, plus a knuckle indentation in the ceiling which is actually more eye catching than the stain itself. He said "If you want to pursue that, you have to go through the people above you's insurance. It would not be covered by the association, because it was not caused by a 'common area' leak."

I am not a very pushy person (neither is my husband), so my first inclination was that I would paint the ceiling, and try to figure out how the hell to cover up a knuckle indentation in the ceiling, even though I suck at spackling and so forth. But then I have this nagging thought that why should I have to do this work, or potentially pay to have it done, when it's because of a leak upstairs and the groundskeeper's hand? It also crossed my mind that perhaps even though I would cover up the cosmetic damage, that the ceiling might not be structurally in good shape now, and perhaps needs a more major repair or replacement. I feel like a jerk about potentially costing the neighbors a lot of money, but... it seems like it might be the right thing to do. Do I just go knock on their door and say "hey, we are going to make a claim against you, nice to meet you, bye"? (I have never met them).

We are only planning to stay in this condo for 1 to 2 more years, so I'm not overly upset about that part, I just don't want it to be an issue when I'm trying to sell the place. I know nothing about home maintenance and repair. Advice is appreciated.
posted by treehorn+bunny to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
This is why people have insurance.. just go knock on their door and be cordial about it. Definitely don't fix this yourself if you have no desire to.
posted by mbatch at 4:04 PM on May 11, 2010

In a typical condo, you don't actually own the ceiling. If this happened to me, I would expect the condo association to fix the problem and deal with the other owner's insurance.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 4:05 PM on May 11, 2010

Sheet rock is pretty dang cheap as far as these things go, so if the ceiling isn't textured, having a handyperson come in and patch it (better than you) is pretty affordable in most areas. Material cost is tiny and you can save labor costs by painting the whole ceiling when s/he's done.
posted by plinth at 4:06 PM on May 11, 2010

IANAL. This is a matter for the Association to handle. The groundskeeper is right in that the end payer of the bill should be your neighbor or his/her insurance, but it is the Associations responsibility to perform the repair and bill the neighbor.

Depending on your Condo's founding documents you probably only own the finish on your ceiling. The area between the units should be Association common area. They are responsible for ensuring that it is structurally sound, and that there isn't any mold growing there now. They are also responsible for fixing your ceiling.

Read through all the founding documents to make sure your bases are covered. Contact your Board and make sure you document everything
posted by Crashback at 4:15 PM on May 11, 2010

I disagree with Crashback. Maybe it's different where he (and you) are, but in New York, you own your ceiling, and your neighbor caused the damage - the condo association doesn't factor into it. It's your neighbor's responsibility to pay for the repair, either themselves or via their insurance. It will be a very cheap repair, but you should replace the sheetrock, not just paint over it. Wet sheetrock can mold.
posted by boots at 4:29 PM on May 11, 2010

Crashback and boots have just proven why Metafilter is absolutely the wrong place to ask this question. It can only be answered by reading your condo contract, and/or consulting a lawyer. It depends on local laws.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:10 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do NOT just cover it up. This happened to a place I was renting, and two weeks or so later most of the bathroom ceiling came falling in. I shudder to think what would have happened if I had been in there when it did.
posted by Night_owl at 10:33 PM on May 11, 2010

Unfortunately, while I can't say for sure that you absolutely can't solve this without a lawyer, my knowledge of condo disputes is sufficient that I can't recommend enough that you have a talk with one. Navigating issues like this is thorny even when everybody is nice, which is rarely the case when you have to deal with an Association or damage caused by a neighbor's negligence.

(By the way, if your drywall hasn't started to come down on its own, Night_owl is right -- it will eventually decide to. The stuff just loses all its structural integrity once it gets the slightest bit wet. On the other hand, it probably wouldn't actually hurt an adult much unless they were looking up at the time. Messy as hell, though. Move valuable/breakable stuff away from the leak.)
posted by dhartung at 11:34 PM on May 11, 2010

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