M.A. from New London County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I have had a recurring leak appearing in my ceiling for over 6 years. 3 times it has shown up as ceiling stains. I have had the area investigated, had some repair work done and ceiling repainted by the maintenance people sent by my property manager. There have been years between instances but each time I inquire about possible mold since it is up in the ceiling. Each time a little meter is punched in the ceiling and I’m told all is well. So now, this June, I see another leak has separated the tape at a ceiling seam and water is behind the paint on my wall making the latex bubble. I report it to the Property Manager that this is the 4th time we have been at this and a more thorough look at the problem is now needed. The following week, a hole is cut to observe the problem better but we had almost no rain until July 4th, which was torrential inside and out. I videotaped the leaking, reported damage to my carpet and a piece of furniture and now the hole is much bigger than when it started. Monday, the Property Management Company’s workers show up. They/We decide to tear down walls further to investigate fully. Apparently, if mold was suspected that was a “no, no”. I had no idea but wanted them to make sure they saw all the possible damage and how serious this was. Beams were rotting and/or possibly covered in mold. I’m no expert; neither are they. The damage after all this time was shown to be much more than cosmetic forcing the removal to 2 wall sections and a big chunk of ceiling in my living room. To cut to the chase I have a lot to deal with and am not sure my Property Manager is beyond trying to get this mess sorted out cheaply and not necessarily done right considering them having to possibly replace beams and sub floor from unit above. Oh, yeah, I am on a bottom unit and no damage can be seen to above unit. At least not visible, but since my leak pooled up from behind the fireplace I am guessing it is a mess behind theirs as well and possibly more mold-infested than mine may be. A cleaning contractor has been out. I am now waiting for his report. I insisted on an Environmental Hygienist after consulting with friends who run cleaning service businesses in New Jersey. This latest incident started on June 10th; it is now July 25th. I have lost use of 50% of my home and have no confidence that not all will be corrected up to code unless I insist on everything. Without hiring a lawyer how do I make sure everything is done on the up and up and am I due any compensation for my loss of use of my home for the entire summer? I have had trouble so far getting same day response from the Property Manager and I am basically waiting for more rain to see if even the stop gap measures taken have finally stopped the leak, let alone start addressing the severity of the damage to the structure and how and when can it start to be worked on. HELP! Any advice is appreciated…sorry for rambling 🙂
Mister Condo replies:
M.A., I appreciate your question and your desire to avoid having to hire an attorney but it is pretty clear to me that unless you are simply willing to let the cards fall as they may, you will very likely have to bring suit against your association, the management company, and one or more insurers if this matter is not taken care of to the satisfaction of what is legally your right to the use of your condo. I am not an attorney so please consider my advice as friendly and not legal. For legal advice, I strongly encourage you to speak with an attorney.
If you have been able to document a leak that is the association’s responsibility for the past six years and you can show that they did nothing about it or the resulting mold that the leak caused you would be well advised to seek legal counsel and remedy. Keeping your unit dry and mold-free is an association responsibility. Now, if you had done something like keep a window open or not replace a damaged sill or otherwise caused the damage yourself, then you might not have a case but it sounds to me like you did everything you were supposed to do which was to report the damage each and every time. Once mold was suspected, a mold remediation expert should have been hired to inspect and remove the mold. The long term health consequences of exposure to mold can be quite significant as mold can be toxic and, in extreme cases, deadly.
The association is bound to hire licensed and insured contractors to perform these repairs. The property management firm may have its own set of “in house” workers who can handle a variety of tasks but they need to ask for professional help on jobs that are too involved for them to handle. You shouldn’t have to second guess if the repairs are “up to code” and you could certainly hire a third party to inspect the repair once the repairs are completed. That doesn’t mean you will have a perfectly blemish free ceiling; there may be signs of a repair job. You should, however, have a dry ceiling and should further water intrusion events occur, you should continue to report them.
As for the loss of the use of your home, you may have some coverage under your own homeowner’s insurance policy, commonly known as HO-6 here in Connecticut. However, unless you specifically purchased insurance that covers the loss of use of your home (common for fire and water damage), you may not be able to make a claim. Again, if an attorney advises you to bring a suit against your association for the water damage / mold issue, you may be able to add the loss to the claim. I honestly think that is the weakest point of how you have been wronged. The poor repair on the initial and subsequent leaks and the mold growth are the likely items for which you could sue, if advised by an attorney to do so. Other than that, keep up the pressure on the association to get your problem fixed. Good luck!