Help me fix my bathtub while managing a disagreeable downstairs neighbour
September 14, 2005 3:30 PM   Subscribe

What can you do if you live in a concrete building and need emergency access to your bathtub connection but have a neighbour who blocks access?

The tub in my condo was in very rough shape when I moved in last year. My condo's bathtub was in rough shape when I moved in. Bare metal showed through, in big patches. I think someone tried to remedy the situation in this thread using some sort of harsh chemical. We had planned to replace the tub, but two plumbers have said that they can't be sure that they can get a perfect fit to the drain. If they can't make a perfect connection, then they'd need to go to the suite below us and make a connection through the ceiling, since we are in a concrete building and the drain is below the floor of my suite. However, the downstairs neighbour ignored written requests for us to have this "just in case" access. (We did offer to pay all costs.) The strata manager says that the poor fellow suffers from extreme paranoia, including delusions that people randomly enter and ransack his suite. (Having heard the fellow at the strata AGM, we know this is true.) It's extremely unlikely that the downstairs neighbour would allow our plumber to fix the connection, if there was a problem.

Is there anything we can do? We'd keep the existing tub, but it's in rough shape. The tub drain and overflow (screw only) appear to be rusting. If we remove them, we're not sure there will be anything stable to connect them to. Do we have any legal rights regarding protection of the integrity of our suite? (ie. We really need to replace the tub or at least fix the drains, because it could cause flooding. If we don't connect properly, our suite and the downstairs suite could flood.) I live in British Columbia, if that helps.
posted by acoutu to Law & Government (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Apologies for the redundancies. My infant distracted me and he doesn't really care if I proofread accurately. :)
posted by acoutu at 3:52 PM on September 14, 2005

Best answer: What about installing a clawfoot tub that doesn't require an exact plumbing connection?
posted by SpecialK at 4:00 PM on September 14, 2005

Time to contact the landlord! I think he's the only one who can do anything in these cases.

If you have the tub removed and the plumbers require access, at least in Ontario, the landlord is required to give the other tenant 48 hours notice for emergency repairs like this. After 48 hours the apartment can be opened by the landlord to complete the repairs without regard to the tenant's wishes. But it is geared toward the landlord giving notice, not you.
posted by shepd at 4:02 PM on September 14, 2005

Strata meetings seem to imply that he's living in a condo, shepd. Those laws don't apply to condo buildings.
posted by SpecialK at 4:03 PM on September 14, 2005

There is probably some sort of clause in your condo agreement requiring that you and your neighbors give access in situations like this. You would of course be required to fix whatever had to be done to his ceiling.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:04 PM on September 14, 2005

Response by poster: SpecialK, excuse my lack of knowledge, but why wouldn't a clawfoot present the same problem?

Yes, I live in a strata condo. I'm prepared to pay and we let the downstairs neighbour know that. The strata manager suggests that the fellow would still refuse access, as he won't let anyone in. I'm not sure strata would be willing to deal with knocking down the guy's door. The strata manager said the tenant is a bit of a nightmare.
posted by acoutu at 4:08 PM on September 14, 2005

If the legal issues are too grey, you may want to contact Tony Gioventu, who writes a "Condo Smarts" column for the Province newspaper in B.C. He's always talking about legal issues and strata, etc.

Here's the contact info I pulled off the web:

Tony Gioventu is the executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association (CHOA). Contact CHOA at 604-584-2462 or toll-free 1-877-353-2462, fax 604-515-9643 or e-mail
posted by showmethecalvino at 4:08 PM on September 14, 2005

The relevent section of the BC strata act, is I believe this one, which talks about Implied Easements, especially 69.3.E, which talks about the right of access to maintain them. I imagine, though, that establishing a legal right to enter their unit is but one tiny hurdle in gaining actual access.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:53 PM on September 14, 2005

SpecialK, excuse my lack of knowledge, but why wouldn't a clawfoot present the same problem

A clawfoot tub is more like a piece of furniture than a built-in plumbing fixture, so you can actually make a drain connection above your floor level, and you won't have to worry about getting a perfect fit to your bathroom. You could presumably move the tub around until its drain centered over the drain in the floor. Example.
posted by LionIndex at 5:12 PM on September 14, 2005

Response by poster: Er, I said tenant above, but I meant owner.

Thanks for the clawfoot info, LionIndex. I'll see if I can find out anything else about that.
posted by acoutu at 5:16 PM on September 14, 2005

Best answer: Lion got it right. The clawfoot tub sits on *top* of the floor ... making it easy to route pipes underneath it. The only complex part is showering; you have to have a shower curtain that goes all the way around the tub.

Another solution is to raise the tub up off the floor a bit by using a drop-in tub, kind of the way a Jacuzzi is done. That way you've got space to run plumbing underneath the tub.
posted by SpecialK at 6:19 PM on September 14, 2005

If the neighbour is mentally ill, I'm not sure that a court order (alone) will be useful. It might even be taken as "proof" that the paranoia is justified. If you got a court order and he still refused, what would you be willing to do to enforce it? Would anything you're allowed/able to do actually convince him to change his mind?

Perhaps a local agency that works with and/or advocates for the mentally ill can give you some advice. They'll probably be quite happy/impressed that you came to them before the situation escalated into something nasty.
posted by winston at 7:52 PM on September 14, 2005

Response by poster: SpecialK, what kind of drop-in tub do you mean? I've got a basic American Standard tub right now and I'd like to have the same sort of thing. (My husband informs me that a clawfoot tub would be considered a drawback for resale, since we only have one bathroom and people would be paranoid about water spray from the shower.)

I don't think my strata would want to get involved with a court order, since I'm just one unit out of 50 owner units. They probably wouldn't consider it to be worth their time.

I think the best solution to this problem is probably going to come from rethinking the plumbing. I've really appreciated all the input so far. You've all given me some things to start with. I don't suppose anyone can comment on the likelihood that, upon removal of the drain and overflow, it would be impossible to put the pieces back on. (If we could do that, I could just reglaze the tub, no?)
posted by acoutu at 8:15 PM on September 14, 2005

Well, it's simple, right? You're on top of his condo, and if your tub starts leaking, it's going to damage his apartment.

So, to prevent damage to his place, you'd like to fix this know, unless he likes dripping ceilings!

Maybe bring him some cookies, or some sort of weird nicety. People like this sometimes respond well to kindness.
posted by effugas at 1:16 AM on September 15, 2005

Its good to be nice the the guy underneath, as much as you can. But ultimately, you have to worry about your property, the condo you own. IANAL and I have no Canadian knowledge, but I can't imagine your owner's association (strata?) has any choice but to facilitate your access, unless they want to pay full value and buy your condo from you.
posted by Goofyy at 4:39 AM on September 15, 2005

I don't think my strata would want to get involved with a court order, since I'm just one unit out of 50 owner units.

That's why you may have to hire a lawyer to get this done yourself. Your strata would be included in any legal action if they remain unwilling to help. There are reasons you pay condo fees. You are holding up your end of the contract, if they are not willing to do so then you will have to sue them for relief and recovery.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:24 AM on September 15, 2005

Claw-foot tubs are very, very cool. The only downsides are that they are usually (a) expensive and (b) heavy as shit.
posted by mkultra at 7:48 AM on September 15, 2005

Claw-foot tubs are very, very cool looking, but a bit of a pain if they are your only bath/shower source. The water spray wasn't a problem for me, but the billowing shower curtains that always billow into your shower space (it's a different askme question why that happens) means that you can feel claustrophobic while showering, and the high tub sides made getting in and out not a little precarious, especially when very sleepy or drunk. I would consider installing one as a second bathroom, but not as the only one, and I would not consider a claw-foot tub a selling point in a 1 bathroom condo, for my opinion.
But raising the tub/shower floor might do the same thing, without these drawbacks, as someone mentioned above.
posted by dness2 at 8:38 AM on September 15, 2005

>but the billowing shower curtains that always billow into your shower space (it's a different askme question why that happens) means that you can feel claustrophobic while showering
Bernoulli principle "is responsible for the fact that a shower curtain gets ``sucked inwards' when the water is first turned on. What happens is that the increased water/air velocity inside the curtain (relative to the still air on the other side) causes a pressure drop. The pressure difference between the outside and inside causes a net force on the shower curtain which sucks it inward."
posted by philfromhavelock at 12:00 PM on September 15, 2005

Learn something every time.
posted by dness2 at 12:42 PM on September 15, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks. I am going to do some calling around to see what it would take to put in a platform tub. Although it may be my legal right to have emergency access, I think it might take more time and as much money as putting in a platform tub. The clawfoot tub idea is cool, but not well suited to this sort of condo.

Kudos to PhilfromHavelock for the Bernoulli answer.
posted by acoutu at 10:13 PM on September 15, 2005

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