How should we respond when our super fixed our ceiling but not the leak?
April 1, 2019 6:25 AM   Subscribe

As new residents we don't want to make waves and there are many issues of concern. Is this one worth pushing back on and, if so, how best approach it?

We moved to an apartment building built in the seventies this past fall and this winter we noticed the pain on the ceiling rippled in line with icicles we couldn't knock down. The visible spot is about eight inches in diameter and five feet from the outer wall. While they're fixing the ceiling they have no plans to address the original leak on the roof, attic, or with the cellulose insulation because they say the crawl space is too narrow and they pay for heat. We're concerned about lost heat proofing from an environmental standpoint and possible mold on the surrounding wood, especially since we might be breathing air from this attic.
posted by R2WeTwo to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
Best answer: So you're in the top apartment of the building, and the roof is actually above your apartment, correct? It's unclear on where the icicles are (outside hopefully? why is it your job to knock them down?) and what they have to do with anything, but if the weight of the icicles was enough to compromise the wall, it's a bad scene.

Anyway, they have to deal with the roof, and repairing that has nothing to do with the crawlspace. That is worth escalating, especially because if it happened once, it's gonna happen again. The immediate concern isn't lost heat proofing, it's water coming through the ceiling.

I'd make sure you actually know what the plans are, and what the situation is, before escalating. You didn't tell us how you discovered they have no plans to address the roof, and there are a couple other details missing here. Make sure there was damage to the roof and not e.g. a leaky pipe or a door that was left open.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:39 AM on April 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

You can consult an attorney about the warranty of habitability - when I've had landlords who wouldn't fix a leaking roof, water poured in after major rainstorms, mold erupted, I had allergic reactions, and the landlords wanted to keep my security deposit and charge me an additional month's rent for immediately moving out, and these were times when I was very glad to be an attorney with experience suing recalcitrant landlords who need reminders about tenant rights. You may want to start with your local legal aid organization, because if they can't provide direct assistance, they may be aware of local attorneys and/or government agencies who can review your specific situation and offer guidance on how to proceed.
posted by Little Dawn at 8:47 AM on April 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks aspersioncast. Yes, we're the top floor and the super is certain the leak was caused by icicles backing up the flow of water. He says he sees it all the time, which makes us wonder how much functioning insulation we actually have in the building after all these years. It's the super who told us they won't attend to the leak, confident there will be no more water now that the icicles are gone. The same thing happened to our neighbors across the hall and at the same time but much worse, if that tells you anything. Super's exact words are, "They don't do anything here unless there's a problem," which we took to mean very squeaky wheels.
posted by R2WeTwo at 2:34 PM on April 1, 2019

Response by poster: Yes, Little Dawn. Everything you say feels right and everyone we've spoken to has complained of stuffiness and other problems. Some are even making a case for this being a "sick building." Alas, the Legal Aid Society told us they only help people who are being sued. Economics are the issue here the need to buy air purifiers so soon after the move have exhausted our savings. Legal help would be a great relief, only we can't imagine how to avail ourselves.
posted by R2WeTwo at 2:42 PM on April 1, 2019

Response by poster: I'm sorry, Little Dawn. I see that you've provided a link to organizations in addition to "Legal Aid." We'll contact them today. Thank you again!
posted by R2WeTwo at 5:14 AM on April 2, 2019

Best answer: Honestly on this issue, I've lived in a few apartments with similar issues. Your concern is primarily from safety and environmental standpoints.

1. They pay heat, and you agreed to live in the building. This is probably one of many issues, including an inefficient furnace, drafty windows, and poor insulation. The list goes on and on. I would think that this issue wouldn't cause huge heat losses like you'd think, we are talking maybe a 5% change in your unit alone. Which is annoying, but installing door sweeps to contain heat on every door would probably do more for much less. I've had apartments built in the 70s mandate plastic over windows citing a 40% reduction in heating bills, and we payed heat. They were just helping us out. So, if you wanted to cancel them out, put some plastic over your windows!

2. Mold you breathe. Surprisingly, there's no such thing as "black mold". And, "breathing mold" isn't as bad as you'd think. It turns out that mold is indicative of bad air quality, not the cause of bad air quality. And, drywall is pretty good at protecting you from what's behind the drywall. If you think you have bad air quality, you can buy a c02 tester (to see if you should open a window at night) or a humidifier/dehumidifier to get that perfect temp. A stuffy room usually means too much c02 but individual preferences disagree. A "sick building" isn't mold - it's just one that tends to not get enough fresh air. Seriously, try cracking a window 1 inch for a week and see how that helps.

So, uh, no, I wouldn't make waves over this issue. The smell of pot is the way bigger one. Especially since you asked and said it was hard, you are basically asking them to invest $3-6000 on this... I'm sure they don't care about you THAT MUCH.
posted by bbqturtle at 12:48 PM on April 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Right again, bbq! Thanks for taking the time to lay it all out for us.
posted by R2WeTwo at 10:42 PM on April 4, 2019

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