Vintage condo water damage problem - Chicago - whose fault is it?
June 14, 2016 5:30 PM   Subscribe

We live on the 3rd (top) floor of a 100 year old 6 flat on the north side, near Wrigley Field (Go Cubs!) see details....

We have the only rental unit in the building beneath us and it turns out that our dishwasher and one of our bathtubs was leaking down to that unit - for 2 years!
The renter is rarely home and the owners live out in the far flung suburbs and, rarely, are in town to inspect whats going on there.
Just a week ago the water damage to their unit has come out (manifested by extensive puckered ceilings)
Even though some of the costs will come out of the condo association coffers (pipes are a limited common element) we will still be out several thousand dollars with insurance deductibles plus out of pocket expenses. In addition, our apt is almost unlivable in the meantime with huge exhaust blowers running for almost a week - kitchen in unusable, etc.
It just doesn't seem right when we weren't even aware we had leaks!
Aren't those absentee landlords responsible for inspecting their unit, regardless if the tenant said anything or not?
posted by Tullyogallaghan to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
Unless there are condo by-laws that say otherwise, the downstairs landlords are no more responsible for regularly inspecting their unit then you are for inspecting yours. Had you done so you might have caught this issue a long time ago and probably mitigated your damages; as it stands, the water came from your leaking appliances and is ultimately your responsibility. It's unfortunate but that's what insurance is for; you may want to invest in some water-activated alarms to prevent this from happening again (I have these by my basement washer and water heater: Dyconn Faucet LKDET-3PK Water Detector Alarm ).
posted by bizwank at 5:45 PM on June 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

We had no idea our dishwasher or tub was leaking. How were we to know??
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 6:01 PM on June 14, 2016

I am not a lawyer, but I feel like you're responsible for inspecting and maintaining your own plumbing and appliances, and for any damage that they cause to someone else's property. If the muffler fell off of your car on the highway and caused an accident, that would be your fault even if tou didn't realize it was loose, right? It sucks that the leaks were in hard-to-inspect places and that the person downstairs didn't notice for a long time, but it was still your stuff that caused the problem, and you're responsible for your stuff.

That said, I also feel like your insurance might pay out for this kind of thing. Water damage related repairs are usually covered by homeowner's insurance, certainly when the damage is caused by a leaky pipe or somesuch.

You might want to consult with a lawyer who specializes in these kinds of disputes, and then follow up with your condo insurer if the lawyer says it's wise to do so. This is an area where common sense might not apply, since I agree that it's a little bit of a gray area and there are arguments to be made on both sides. I'm sure the law has something to say about this kind of situation.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:28 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you have proof of when the tenant had noticed issues and when they notified their landlord?

The duty to mitigate damages for issues stemming from someone else's negligence typically starts upon discovery of the problem. If you were to be sued by the landlord, for example, and you had proof that they were notified years ago of the problem but didn't do anything about it, you could possibly have tried to limit the damages in that context.

But before you get to those questions, you'd first have to balk at paying and get sued.
posted by Karaage at 7:11 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Are the leaks actually within the walls of your unit or in parts of the plumbing system, e.g., supply lines, that are shared by all? In the latter case, the repair may be a shared expense.

(Former owner of vintage condo.)
posted by she's not there at 12:33 AM on June 15, 2016

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