Q&A: Wet & Wild

Q For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a leak in my bathroom. I believe it happened when the shareholders above  me moved in. Another complaint is that the upstairs owner’s son likes to take long baths, sometimes for two hours or more. Over time this  has damaged the pipes and I've had recurrent leaks in the bathroom ceiling. The  co-op extensively repaired the pipes about two years ago, but I’ve recently noticed the beginnings of another surface leak. I was told that  there is nothing they can do to prevent my neighbors upstairs from taking a two  hour bath or a 24-hour bath for that matter. Do you have any advice?  

 —Leaking in Levittown  

A “Just because you suspect your nascent leak may be caused by your upstairs  neighbor, you cannot require the board of a cooperative, nor does the board  have the authority, to ask shareholders to limit their time in the tub, or that  matter, to insist shareholders bathe so they don't offend the gentle noses of  people with whom they share the elevator,” says attorney Steven M. Goldman, partner at Kurzman Eisenberg Corbin & Lever, LLP, in White Plains, NY. “However, if the leak has returned, the board has the obligation to determine the  source of the water. Although it hasn't been that long since the leaky pipes in  your bathroom ceiling were replaced, the return of moisture on your ceiling and  walls might be a sign that the issue wasn't adequately fixed. If that's the  case, the board must hire a plumbing company to prevent future damage.  

 “If, however, there is no evidence of faulty plumbing, your upstairs neighbor's  plumbing fixtures could be the culprit. Normal wear-and-tear can loosen the  fittings of a sink or toilet, and bathtubs and showers have to be re-caulked  regularly. Cracks in the floor tile can let moisture escape from the bathroom  above and wet your ceiling—particularly if junior is splish splashing as he's taking his bath. If that's  the case, your upstairs neighbor is required to remedy the situation. If  nothing is done, consult with an attorney to weigh the possibility of writing  to the board and claiming that the co-op board has breached your warranty of  habitability. The co-op board has a duty to provide its shareholders with  habitable space, even if a problem is caused by your neighbor's action. But  unless there is a direct correlation between the youngster's actions in the tub—such as prying away the caulking and squirting water through the crack—the board has no say over what junior does in the tub or how much water he runs.”  

 

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