How to get Neighbor to Repair My Ceiling
March 2, 2015 12:01 PM   Subscribe

Own a condo; extensive water damage to ceiling from upstairs renters and I need to get the elusive owner of that unit to pay for repairs. But he's a jerk, so how do I do it?

I live with my husband in a condo unit (formerly an apartment building) that he owns. The upstairs unit is owned by someone who rents it out and is rarely around. Four years ago the renter living there caused extensive water damage to our bathroom ceiling, not sure how. After a long runaround the upstairs owner "Bart" paid a repairman to redo our bathroom ceiling drywall. The repairman was odd and slow about the repair, and for a couple weeks we were showering under a ceiling that opened straight into our 70s-built-building's hollow interior. The work was eventually done. The problem with the presumable leak that caused this had not been solved, though, and the damage all returned. The cutout drywall piece now sags and the damage looks awful. (Fortunately the leak seems to be resolved.)

My partner and I were both too stressed by life circumstances at the time to address the further damage, and we didn't see Bart for a long time. Our last upstairs neighbor moved out several months ago and Bart occasionally shows up to fix it up for showings. Fed up, I introduced myself and brought him downstairs to show him the damage. The guy's a jerk -- he made fun of a vent I hadn't cleaned (I'm heavily pregnant) and gave me some BS about calling him in 2 weeks after he took care of some "stuff." Apparently the old repair guy moved away so he has to do some inquiries, he said.

So I have his number -- but now my partner is swamped and I have to proceed. He gave it to me in late January. I gave him our information (naturally we haven't heard anything) and I'm just petrified of the next step. Bart gave us so much trouble before and now I'm also due to give birth in a couple months, with a really screwed-up bathroom ceiling. I find myself stewing about this often and I wonder how I can proceed to get this resolved sooner rather than later. Calling is the obvious next step but I'm not great with confrontation unless I have a plan. Bart treated us so low-priority before that I fear he'll just keep BSing me and putting me off in the hopes I'll go away. The condo association is pretty poorly-run and wouldn't be much help, and the management company rep wouldn't even call me back after I slipped on ice last week and had to be hospitalized.

Any suggestions for dealing with this are welcome. Thanks!
posted by Locative to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This probably should have been done through your home insurance.

Try giving them a call and see what they say.
posted by srboisvert at 12:06 PM on March 2, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Agreed, that this should be an issue for your homeowner's insurance, who will a) pay for the repairs, and then b) go after the upstairs neighbor to recoup their costs.

That being said, is there also an HOA for the condos? Would they be any help at all?
posted by anastasiav at 12:11 PM on March 2, 2015

Well...if it was me, I'd do the following. First, write out a script for your phone call to Bart. If he's an avoider, it's probably likely you'll be getting voicemail or such, right? But having a script will help you either way. I would say: "Bart, as you know, this damage occured (Month, year) and the repair was not done correctly. Husband and I have been patient, but our patience has now ended. If you are ready to talk about repairs, please contact me in the next 72 hours to make arrangements to have this work redone. If we don't hear from you by then, we will go ahead and have the repair done by our guy, and we will then take you to small claims court to recoup the money."

Set a firm deadline. Stick to the deadline. Have the work done yourself, if needed, to get this ugly monstrosity out of your face. Then take him to court. Small claims court is actually very easy and if the situation is what you've described you will easily prevail.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:12 PM on March 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh man -- well, my partner cancelled the home insurance when we had financial issues. Does this mean we are screwed? He never wanted to own this place, his dad bought it with him ten years ago as a favor but it's been a terrible place to live. His dad insisted renting was throwing money away. Staying here has been a financial hurdle as the place falls apart around us -- one year everyone had to be charged to fix the foundation, then another year the roof. Is this why Bart has been so patronizing -- he can see we have no idea what we are doing?
posted by Locative at 12:16 PM on March 2, 2015

Best answer: Notify him by registered mail that he has until xyz date to arrange to have this repaired by someone you both approve of (licensed contractor, not some cousin or deadbeat friend who's "handy"), if he doesn't respond, have the repair done yourself, then bill him. If the bill goes unpaid, take him to small claims court.

And, by all means, get a new homeowner's policy immediately. It's reckless not to have one considering how much this asset is worth. It's probably also against your condo bylaws.
posted by quince at 12:22 PM on March 2, 2015 [15 favorites]

Best answer: You are not under any obligation to figure out why Bart has been patronizing to you, but I would imagine he IS hoping you will just forget about this problem. If you do, it's free money to him! The advice above seems spot on. Make up the script, give him a call, send the letter, and go from there.

And by go from there I absolutely mean get insurance. If you can't afford insurance for your condo, you can't afford the condo, and it is time to find a place to rent and move out. This is also true if you just don't enjoy living there, think it's mismanaged, etc. Renting can be a worse deal than owning, but it isn't necessarily, and it certainly means you don't have to think about issues like these.
posted by Phredward at 12:36 PM on March 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Oh man -- well, my partner cancelled the home insurance when we had financial issues. Does this mean we are screwed?

Cancelling your insurance is extremely likely to be a serious violation of your condo agreement. Not to mention being foolish and exposing yourself to tremendous liability should you ever do something like flood your downstairs or next door neighbors. I'd worry more about sorting that than a dry wall problem in the bathroom ceiling.
posted by srboisvert at 1:03 PM on March 2, 2015 [25 favorites]

Best answer: If you have a condo association, there are probably procedures in place for the association's insurance to cover any damage to a unit caused from a source outside the unit. They should take care of inspecting and repairing. If they determine the ultimate cause was within Bart's unit, they will go after him/his insurance to cover the costs.

That's typically how it works where I am - unit owners don't go after one another, it's all handled by the association.
posted by trivia genius at 1:53 PM on March 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that this incident occurred four years ago. It may be that too much time has passed to take any legal action.
posted by megatherium at 2:23 PM on March 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, your condo association's master policy might cover this type of damage, depending on what type of coverage it is.
posted by amarynth at 4:56 AM on March 3, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for the great advice, everyone. A big alert to the hazard of going without homeowner's insurance. Because the situation ended up being resolved by involving the HOA, I marked all the suggestions for that as best answers, as well as the ones to get homeowner's insurance. Thanks to everyone for the help.
posted by Locative at 11:28 AM on April 2, 2015

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