Rental roof leak quandary
June 5, 2010 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Our rental just suffered a serious roof leak. What should we know and do concerning the needed repairs?

We're on the top floor. The drains on the flat roof were blocked and water collected and leaked overhead. We were alerted by a large, saturated area in our living room. When a maintenance man cut into this water drained out. Insulation is wet.

Part 1) We believe the complex will hire a drywall specialist to fix the ceiling and wonder whether anything more should be done to dry things out. We're in a wooded area that tends to be damp anyway and we want to avoid unpleasant microbes and make sure our insulation remains effective. Part 2) Do you have any tips for getting this work done without unduly stressing an overwhelmed complex management?
posted by Pamelayne to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
Regarding Part 1, they should, at the minimum, pull out any and all insulation that is damp and replace it with new material. It has all manner of mold and mildew spores in it and you don't need a mildew farm right above your heads. This is probably covered by their property insurance, so doing the job right should be no big deal to them.

Regarding Part 2, with responsibility comes authority. If they are responsible for the repairs, they have the sole authority over how and when it gets done. It is not your job to assure the "...overwhelmed complex management..." that they won't get stressed. What you can do to make the job go smoother is to be sure to have furniture out of the way, have access available to workmen and such and to do whatever they need to make it easy to repair the damage. You are not in charge of getting people to show up, etc. It's tough to just stand by and watch, but that is your role in this project. That said, your approach to management when things go wrong (and somewhere along the way they will) will make a big difference. If you go looking for heads to chop off, there will be a lot of stress. If you go in with a "we're all in this together, how can I help get the job done?" attitude, they will want to work with you. You sound like you already have this going for you, so see what happens and roll with the flow.
posted by Old Geezer at 1:47 PM on June 5, 2010

My experience: if you deal with a property management company, everything will go okay.

If you have a landlord who has been stubborn and/or sketchy about small things in the past, start thinking about fleeing the ship, unless you don't mind living for weeks with a giant, ragged, moldy hole over your head. /bitter
posted by fleacircus at 5:47 PM on June 5, 2010

Past experience with a bad leak and a slow-to-act landlord: the entire ceiling suddenly fell down in one giant, sodden block. it would have been a disaster had someone been in the room at the time. My advice is to be careful about this.
posted by keener_sounds at 6:34 PM on June 5, 2010

Past experience with a bad leak and a slow-to-act landlord: the entire ceiling suddenly fell down in one giant, sodden block. it would have been a disaster had someone been in the room at the time. My advice is to be careful about this.

But the drains are unblocked and there is currently no leaking, right? The question is about making sure the repairs are done well.
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 8:18 PM on June 5, 2010

I'm presuming the building complex has some sort of insurance on the building? This would cover this damage. Find out the insurance company and policy number. Call them to lodge a claim. They will probably need you to get authorisation from whoever manages the complex. If you get this authorisation you can then manage the repairs under the claim, freeing the complex management from this task and allowing you to supervise the quality of repairs.
posted by Pranksome Quaine at 4:51 AM on June 6, 2010

This is so helpful; thanks everyone. I've just broken my arm, hence my slow response. We've assumed the roof is fixed but need to confirm. The handyman told us the same thing had just happened with another building. Ducks were found swimming in six inches of roof water but it never leaked.

We're running a largish air purifier as the smell was noticeable. We'll press for prompt repair and offer to take the lead as PQ suggests. We hadn't known this was possible.
posted by Pamelayne at 11:39 AM on June 6, 2010

If anyone is still checking-in could you give us a timeframe for expecting these repairs? The water was seeping for at least a week during hot, humid days before it even appeared on the ceiling so we've been living with this for awhile. Is a week reasonable?
posted by Pamelayne at 11:43 PM on June 6, 2010

A week is certainly reasonable, with most of that time being drying out of the ceiling cavity. The contractor should be using a heavy duty fan (usually with a large, clothes-dryer type hose they can stick in the cavity) to dry the ceiling out. Drywall installation, sanding and painting shouldn't take more than 2 or 3 days.
posted by electroboy at 7:12 AM on June 7, 2010

The office is telling us they need to make sure the insulation is dry before they can schedule the work. Does this sound right?
posted by Pamelayne at 9:43 AM on June 7, 2010

The insulation should be replaced anywhere they're opening up the ceiling.
posted by electroboy at 10:55 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

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