Suddenly wet floor in bedroom in rented apartment
October 4, 2014 12:19 PM   Subscribe

My wife lives in a rented apartment in Edinburgh. For several weeks, she's heard dripping in her bedroom intermittently, but didn't really think much of it, until last night, when she woke up to a soaked carpet.

She described it as a "sink-full" of water, and more comes up when you press on the carpet. It is not coming from the ceiling, and the person in the apartment below her doesn't see any water from their ceiling. She has called her landlord, who has recommended not sleeping in that room (so she's sleeping on the couch!) and that *sometime* this week some cleaners and contractors will come by.

As something possibly related, I've been trying to get her to go to the doctor for a persistent cough for months now.

So, my question is: what are the landlord's duties with respect to speed, and how dangerous is this situation? Should she demand something more from the landlord, like a hotel room? Should she contact local government regarding health and safety?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike to Law & Government (8 answers total)
Best answer: She has a rights here - specifically a right to repair. Shelter on this.
posted by Catseye at 12:56 PM on October 4, 2014

how dangerous is this situation? Should she demand something more from the landlord, like a hotel room? Should she contact local government regarding health and safety?

I'd just ring on Monday (when he can actually do something about it) and insist a plumber be called out the same day. Squeaky wheels etc.

And even in your worst (and likely unfounded) mould and fungus nightmare, a pipe that's been leaking for weeks isn't going to cause a cough that's been occuring for months.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:03 PM on October 4, 2014

I'm a Canadian who moved to England due to my wife's job as a lecturer and spent a lot of time around international faculty. Based on my anecdotal gathering of evidence there is a thing my wife and I call 'The Second Year Cough' that afflicts North Americans who move to England (maybe true for the UK as a whole?). My guess was that it was a persistent respiratory infection that people somehow pick up once the excitement of the move wears off and the damp dreariness begins to seep into your bones but one of the later arrivals during our time across the pond was diagnosed with mite allergies. There apparently were different mite populations in England. Antihistamines did the trick for him (they didn't work for me though - I was already taking them when I got the cough). There is also a very good chance of it being a mould allergy because due to the damp climate there is near constant natural mould spores in the air. No need for the mould itself to be inside your place. Though a soaked floor makes indoor mould extremely likely going forward (assuming this is the first time it has happened).

My cough lasted for about 4 months and my wife endured the same thing (one year earlier as my arrival in England was a 1 year after hers). It was awful.
posted by srboisvert at 3:23 PM on October 4, 2014

My concern is the leak hasn't been stopped. In my mind that is just a nightmare in and of itself because regardless if you can see it it is doing damage to the apartment and to the carpet. I'd press for the landlord to try and figure of the issue ASAP.
I'd talk to the landlord first. It is beneficial for him to stop the leak now. Not Monday.

In terms of if the the carpet is bad for you it probably isn't that much of a risk for two days. But long term it can cause mold.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:33 PM on October 4, 2014

Response by poster: pipe that's been leaking for weeks isn't going to cause a cough that's been occuring for months.

While that is of course true, we have no idea how long the pipe has been leaking. Not remembering hearing a drip does not mean it wasn't leaking.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 7:27 PM on October 4, 2014

The downstairs neighbour will inevitably start seeing water come through the ceiling, probably sooner than later (unless it's a sealed concrete floor), so maybe recruit them to put more pressure on the landlord?

It's quite possible that the leak has been there for many months, gradually getting worse (which is why she's only become aware of it recently). Constant damp can certainly cause mould that causes coughs and other health issues - she has a right to have this fixed fast and the landlord is crazy not getting it seen to fast, given the likelihood of significant further damage when water starts trickling into downstairs. I don't know about where she is, but here a tenant would be entitled to cease paying rent on a property that in uninhabitable for health reasons.
posted by dg at 9:29 PM on October 4, 2014

Water damage is no joke. I would consider this to be somewhat of an emergency.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:24 PM on October 4, 2014

Oh my goodness, had a "that's a lot of water in the carpet" thing happen to me about 5 years ago. Turned out that the neighbor's washing machine (it was a duplex) was leaking every time they used it. Carpet would get soaked in the main hallway and all sorts of "plumbers" my landlord called in could never figure it out. There was a dehumidfier in the place that I was told to keep running all the time. Had to empty it once a day it got so full.

I also had lots of asthma like symptoms and terrible hives throughout this. Lots of medication and doctors visits to try to figure out what was going on. It was awful.

Finally moved out and, wouldn't you believe it, my hives and wheezing cleared up within a week!

In a weird twist of fate, my wife and I ended up looking at another unit on the same property a few years later. I've never seen that much mold in my life. So so much mold. We were in the place for about 10 minutes and I was already starting to cough and wheeze. Seems like it's a pattern with that landlord.

All that to say, the carpet is annoying, but the threat of mold is a serious matter. And the threat of bad landlords more seriously. If they're going to respond to lots of standing water in the carpet with, "well, someone will be by later on this week. Maybe just sleep in another room?" then they're not doing a good job.

Legally speaking though I have no idea what your situation is in Edinburgh.
posted by beep-bop-robot at 3:07 PM on October 5, 2014

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