Q&A: Water Damages in Co-op Unit

Water Damages in Co-op Unit

Q “I reside in a co-op apartment in the Bronx. For a whole year, I have incurred damages to my bathroom and kitchen ceilings from a washing machine in the apartment directly above mine, which is occupied by the shareholder’s subtenant. Each time a leak occurs, I notify my co-op board, but nothing is ever done to rectify the situation. I want to sue the shareholder for the damages. Under the proprietary lease can the co-op board be held responsible as well?”

—Waterlogged in the Bronx

A “Under the Warranty of Habitability applicable to all residential tenants in New York (including proprietary lessees in co-op apartments), the co-op has a non-delegated, non-waivable duty to maintain the shareholder's apartment in a habitable condition,” says attorneys Andrew J. Wagner and Bruce A. Cholst, of the Manhattan-based law firm of Rosen Livingston & Cholst LLP. “This obligation exists, even if the damages are caused by third parties, such as the upstairs shareholder, or his subtenant. The shareholder therefore would be entitled to an abatement of rent/ maintenance proportionate to the severity of the conditions, for so long as the conditions exist, and provided the co-op was notified of the conditions.

“The shareholder can either withhold his maintenance and seek a rent abatement in housing court if the co-op commences a nonpayment proceeding, or sue the co-op for a money judgment (but not both). Before resorting to litigation, however, the shareholder should warn the co-op in writing that if the situation is not properly addressed, that he will avail himself of legal remedies. The dates, times and a brief description of each incident should be maintained in a log, as well as the co-op's response, if any. All out-of-pocket expenses should be documented as well.

“An additional option is to commence an HP Proceeding in housing court. If an inspector issues violations based upon the damages to the kitchen and bathroom, the co-op will be ordered to correct the violations. If the violations are not timely corrected, the co-op will be assessed fines or penalties.

“The shareholder can sue the upstairs shareholder directly in small claims court for the damages sustained, if they do not exceed $5,000. Otherwise, there are other courts with higher jurisdictional limits, although they are more difficult to navigate if unrepresented by counsel.

“Finally, if the shareholder has a co-op owner's insurance policy, he should speak to his broker or a representative of the carrier to see if he is covered for this type of loss. If so, he should notify his carrier immediately each time there is an incident, and file a claim. The carrier may pay the repair costs and then go after the upstairs shareholder or the co-op for reimbursement.”

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8 Comments

  • i would like to know if an active business is allowed to be run from a bedroom in my neighbors coop unit she is an acupunctureist and a facial specialist.
  • I have had water damage since Aug.2009. My Kitchen area ha sbeen unusable since then. Am I entitledto sort sort of reduced maintenance ? May I legally hold my maintenance payments? The Management company told me I could not withhold payments or I could be sued.
  • I've had a long existing leak in my full bathroom since the shareholders above me moved in. It so happens that the shareholders son runs a bath for as long as two hours at a time. Blasting the water at full force. Over time this has cased damage to the pipes and I've had recurrent leaks in the bathroom ceiling. An extensive plumping job was done two years ago to replace broken and deteriorated pipes. However, the begins of yet another leak developing has surfaced on the ceiling as well as cracks down the wall. I was told that there is nothing they can do to prevent my neightbor upstairs from taking two hour baths or 24 hour baths for that matter that their hand are tied. Apparently there is no law on record that can be enforced. I live in New York. I am at my wits end wit this problem since I keep getting a run around from the managers and superintendent.
  • We had water damage from a unit above, it was clear that the cause of the water damage was due to a pipe not being soldered. The co op's insurance carrier reviewed the damage and prepared a report/estimate to repair the damage. My question is, am I entitled to any of the money if I do not make all of the repairs? For example, the insurance is covering damage to the floors, original, and we do not want to replace them just yet. Can we ask for the cash in this case for us to use if and when we decide to replace/repair the floor? Thank you...
  • Law Office of Jared Sint sintlaw.com on Monday, February 27, 2012 7:08 PM
    By-laws generally do not allow business' to be run out of a coop, but check your bylaws.
  • I have a crack in my bedroom ceiling. Who responsible to fix it . The landlord or me I live in a coop in Westchester n y.
  • I live on the top floor. there's is a roof leak which is getting worse. My issue is that the board president is not that fond of me and the sponsors aren't insterested in the owners issues, so the leak continues without any response from the board. If damages continue due to their lack of response what's the most efficient way to get this reimbursed?
  • My wall and part of my ceiling is peeling from a leaking pipe two floors above me. Unfortunately, I did not realize how bad it was, because, it didn't seem to be too bad. I did not report it for a few months, then got the super to have a look at it. He is a lousy super and never wants to be bothered. He said that there was nothing I could do about it, as I left it too long to report. It keeps peeling more and more and looks really bad at this stage. Please let me know if I am too late to claim. What is the time limit? Thank you so much.