Maybe Landlord Will Fix Ceiling After It Collapses?

This is a video of Bucky’s liquefied bathroom ceiling:
After cleaning black mold off the ceiling daily with bleach for about two months and pleading with the new landlord, he sent the pseudo-super, who barely speaks English, to fix the leak in my bathroom.

After ripping down the almost collapsed ceiling and the neighbor’s kitchen floor, the guy discovered at least three different leaks, all converging on my ceiling.

This is a clip of him working on the problem (day 2) from the neighbor’s apartment upstairs. He states the case rather simply, “Mucho problemo!”

Bucky says the super replaced his ceiling with a drop ceiling for easy access, and now there’s some new drips. Perhaps a sequel could be in the (water)works?

Have you ever had trouble getting your landlord to do repairs? Do you have any tactics that have proved successful in encouraging the landlord to get the job done?


Edit Your Comment

  1. EvilTapioca says:

    The only good tactic I’ve found is to take the money for the repair out of the rent and give the landlord the receipt for it. Though if the landlord is unwilling to fix something major like this then it’s probably a good idea to start looking for another place to live.

  2. DeeJayQueue says:

    In most states it’s legal to send a letter to the landlord stating that if they don’t repair the premesis within 30 days that you’ll do it yourself and send them the receipt instead of the rent.

    Once you send the letter, wait a month, then call a contractor. Have the work done and if the bill comes out to less than the rent for that month, send a copy of the paid invoice along with a copy of the check, and the remainder of the rent. If it’s more than the rent, do it twice.

    My landlord is a withered old man and he basically said I could do whatever I wanted to the place, just send him the receipts and take it out of the rent.

  3. kromelizard says:

    Withhold rent if you’re lazy or do what the first guy said.

  4. swissdietcoke says:

    Sign a lease with a 24 hour maintenance guarantee….if they don’t fix it, I don’t pay rent. Simple as that.

  5. FLConsumer says:

    @swissdietcoke: Unfortunately, such “guarantees” are worthless in most cases.

    Where does the original poster live? If in NYC, call up 311. They’re terribly over-paranoid about mold & mildew. You’re looking at more than a water problem there. It appears like it’s become structural as that wood is rotted out from the months/years of neglecting the leaks.

  6. kimsama says:

    @DeeJayQueue: Yes, definitely. This is self-help maintenance, and if you need to resort to it, it is legal, but you have to follow your state/local laws to make sure you’re in the clear.

    P.S. I wish my landlord was laid-back like yours. He’s such a tightwad that it takes a lot of convincing for him to pay for any fixes and improvements. For example, I still have freaking single-pane windows. What’s particularly brilliant is that he doesn’t realize that since he pays for heat, he’s probably losing more money over the years from being too cheap to replace them.

  7. Hoss says:

    @FLConsumer: If he doesn’t care if the place is condemned, he can call 311.

  8. bohemian says:

    Some things will just never get fixed and are too big for a renter to consider dealing with. At that point moving is probably your best option. Rotted floors, collapsed sewer lines and mold infestation are huge expensive issues beyond something any renter should consider paying for.

    We found that county to county and even suburb to suburb have different rental laws. If you have the time to research what the laws are in various areas it might be smart to find a place that has more or better laws and some sort of office to enforce them. Otherwise your really screwed with taking them to small claims as your only option.

    This is why I don’t want to be a renter ever again, too many landlords just plain stink. There are feedback sites about everything else, there needs to be one for landlords and property management companies.

  9. shan6 says:

    Giving him a receipt instead of rent sounds like an excellent idea to me, before it causes health problems, or collapses on you while you go number two.

  10. ionerox says:

    Instead of withholding rent, file a Rent Escrow with the city or county. Then the ball is in the Landlord’s court to fix everything if he wants his rent money, and if he doesn’t take care of the problem correctly, you can probably get the courts to terminate the lease.

  11. kerrington.steele says:

    my boyfriend’s apartment in a big rent/own building had a similar, though not nearly as bad, problem for the past month or so: a leaking pipe in the bathroom wall/ceiling soaked the drywall and it started falling away. he starting cutting out the wet parts to patch it up himself, and the whole wall came away in his hand — totally useless. the building managements company balked at paying, saying that the tenant upstairs (an owner) should pay for repairs since the pipe from his bathroom was the leaker, and my boyfriend would have to sue the upstairs neighbor for damages! the super stonewalled him, too.

    after three weeks of back-and-forth, my boyfriend went to the hardware store, bought drywall, caulking foam, paint, and tools, and did the whole job himself over a couple of weekends. it was a huge hassle, and if he wasn’t as handy as he is, he’d be using a bathroom open to the elements in the dead of winter while the management company and super denied his repair claim.

    by contrast, my landlord and super for my three-unit, Civil War-era building downtown are awesome!

  12. FLConsumer says:

    @bohemian: Amen. My last apartment totally turned me off to the idea of renting. Similar type crap, landlord (actually management co w/a “24 hour guarantee”) refused to fix any of the problems, any of which would be enough to condemn and evacuate the building. When I had left, I made a quick call to the local fire inspector who promptly shut the building down and made them fix the problems.

    Owning my own home is great. I can do whatever I want to the place, upgrade the electrical & mechanical, and when something breaks, I’m not waiting 2-3 months for the management co to send up their maintenance guy who really isn’t qualified to fix advanced problems.

  13. cornish says:

    I recently met a family that had to seek shelter with a non-profit due to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in their home. Their landlord told them that he “didn’t believe in carbon monoxide”, which just about sent the volunteers at the non-profit into low-earth orbit. Once the fire marshal’s office beat the knowledge of CO into his pointy-little head, he then announced that it would be two weeks before he could fix the problem and turn the gas back on. He changed his tune to “24 hours” once a camera was stuck in his face.

  14. LawyerontheDL says:

    While it depends on what state and/or city that you live, governmental authorities will sometimes go after landlords who fail to provide habitable residential units. In Boston, Massachusetts, it was called the Inspectional Services Department. Basically, it is the local building inspector. It doesn’t hurt to call your city or town supervisor/mayor, but if your building is in REALLY bad shape, you stand the remote chance of it being condemned and then you would be out on your ear.

  15. madrigal says:

    Last year I lived in a hellhole. The wall in my bathroom started turning brown. Just the bottom edge. I had small puddles of water. It was because my roommate’s bathroom was leaking. (our bathrooms shared a wall). We told our landlord, and he blamed it on me not being able to use a shower curtain correctly. This wasn’t it because I had covered the floor and edge of the wall with rubber mats to prevent water from getting on the floor. He just spray painted the brown parts back to white.

    Two weeks later, it was back again. The hallway on the other side was also getting brown walled, and the carpet was wet. The landlord again blamed it on water traveling from the shower.

    I lived with it until I moved out. I spray painted all the brown stuff just like the landlord did. I got my security deposit back. I hope the new person has had better luck.

  16. toddkravos says:

    FLConsumer has a good point. However,
    if your state’s landlord tenant laws already protect you, it’s a futile line item for the contract.

    I’d say call your cities building and/or health department.
    Mold is taken very seriously

    In the interim, I’d stop paying rent. Directly to the landlord.
    Maybe a ‘temporary’ bank account that holds the funds for the ‘lord
    until the s/he fixes the problems. I forget the name of
    that bank account type, but it’s pretty common.

    Call your city.

    My personal experience with water and mold problems:

    In Cleveland, Ohio (where I live) I once had a landlord refuse to address
    leaks from my bathroom into the adjoining bedroom and subsequent mold (in the walls between the rooms)

    I got sick. As did my roommate. His illness was worse; he had been diagnosed with Pleurisy and was instructed by the doc
    to look problem spots in the apt (bathroom, kitchen, etc..)

    I called the city, explained my situation. They sent someone from the building department (first) then health department to ‘inspect’
    the problem.

    They found water damage, mold (in an area I hadn’t seen, but was effectively under my roomies bed!)
    and other problems were in need of repair. Immediately.

    They contacted the owner of the property on my behalf
    and ordered him to fix the problem within 48hours and required him
    to schedule a follow-up with inspection the health department.

    He failed to do so. He was fined, heavily. I stopped paying rent the moment
    “Mold” left the health dept. guy’s lips (about 5 weeks worth..) and
    moved out 3 weeks after that.

    When the landlord tried to sue me for back rent, the case was tossed due to his stupidity.
    And was called on the carpet for re-renting the space to another person without fixing the problem
    first (no re-inspection on file)

  17. synergy says:

    I’m not 100% sure, but I think “rent escrow” isn’t allowed in Texas. I know there’s a clause in my lease which states that withholding rent isn’t allowed. Now whether that includes withholding rent and leaving it in holding with the county/city, I don’t know. If anyone does, please let me know. I have a similar problem as the original poster’s that’s been going on for some time, although not as severe.

  18. hollerhither says:

    Also you probably have a health violation.

    But definitely check the laws in your state before you do *anything* as some of what is listed here has not applied where I’ve lived. I’ve lived in states that are tenant-friendly (NY, MA), and I’ve lived in states that favor the property owner above all (boo, CT).

    But it may be easier, if not cost-effective, to move rather than take this guy on. Again, check your state law and housing resources, and follow their guidelines carefully, but you can likely terminate your lease if repairs aren’t made within a certain period.

  19. atomicbeaker says:

    My college landlord refused to come look at the sagging ceiling over our sink until one day when nobody was home, the whole thing collapsed. Turns out the upstairs sink had been leaking for weeks, and something in our wall was leaking downstairs as well. When the plumber came to repair it, he found such a hack-job in the walls that he refused to work on it unless he could replace everything, so at least we got a new sink out of it.

    When we moved in we had brown, intermittent hot water. It was months before he fixed it, and the previous tenants had put up with it for months before that.

    This is the same landlord who refused to fix our oven, claiming all it needed was a good cleaning. He also demanded that we throw out the old refrigerator when we moved out, claiming he was going to be renting the apartment as “unfurnished”. apparently a refrigerator is furniture. Mass. tenant law demands that all bedrooms have heat; mine was a converted closet, and didn’t. We hung that over his head when we moved out, and he *graciously* waived some of the “penalties” to our deposit. If you’re looking for an apartment in Worcester, don’t rent from Girouard Realty.

  20. Jay Levitt says:

    If it hasn’t been emphasized enough already, check your local laws because they differ greatly.

    When I was a teenager living in VA, we had the furnace break down on a weekend, and couldn’t get a hold of the landlord, so we had a local repair company come, diagnose the problem, and set up a repair apointment. The landlord refused to reimburse us for the diagnosis charge, and insisted that we cancel the appointment.

    Instead, he had a friend of his come by, make the exact same diagnosis, and make the exact same repair – a few days after the original company would have been finished.

    And best I could find out at the time (pre-Internet), that was within his rights to do.

    Remember that in many cases, the management company is not the owner, and one of the two may be more sympathetic or effective than the other – especially if you go visit them with a friend and a cell phone camera.

    I actually own a brownstone now with four apartments. I know I’m lousy at keeping up with details, and returning phone calls, so I hired a management company to collect the rent and handle repairs, hoping that it’d give the tenants better service than I could.

    Mostly it does, but there were a few times the tenants had to call me and say “Why the #*($ is such-and-such still happening?” And all I could answer was “#()$* if I know, but I can promise it’s going to stop right now!” as I started dialing the mangement co. One woman went without a fridge for a few days because it broke, and the management couldn’t get a hold of me to pre-approve the exact model of her replacement refrigerator. Jeez, guys, just buy the woman a fridge and tell me how much it was…

    Sometimes you can’t win for losing.

  21. Jay Levitt says:

    Oh, but I totally forgot the good story about the original landlord. After the furnace incident – and another problem that he simply refused to fix, I forget what it was – we gave up on reporting any sort of minor problems.

    But at the end of our lease, we did make sure that at least one of us would be home whenever an agent came by with prospective tenants to show the property. That way we could give the full, highly informative version of the tour – here’s the dead moth inside the oven glass, here’s the part of the railing that comes off the wall, here’s the window that doesn’t really close so you’ll want to buy a blanket to stuff in there…

    He had to stop showing it till we moved out.

  22. Trauma_Hound says:

    @DeeJayQueue: In the state of Washington they have something like 24 hours to fix leaks like this, or you can hire out and take it out of the rent.

  23. skepchick says:

    Last year my bathroom ceiling had a leak, which I told the landlord about. Repeatedly. Eventually, the ceiling collapsed and I called her again. She told me someone would look into it. The next day I called again, and she said her daughter went to the place upstairs and didn’t see any leak. Um, yeah but there’s still plaster in my bathtub and I have no ceiling. She told me to clean it up. I told her maybe she should clean it up and put in a new ceiling. She said she wasn’t my housekeeper, and I could clean my own apartment. She said if I didn’t like it, I could just move out. So I did.

    She had the guts to demand rent for that month, too. Right. Sure. You wait right there, it’ll be in the mail.

  24. trillium says:

    Between a termite infestation and the fact that a leak in my plumbing not only caused the downstairs neighbors ceiling to fall but also the entire wall to collapse (try 4 ft of gushing water onto the bedroom floor)… I moved out that summer

    And now own a home… minor leak repair here but hell it’s my problem and I dont have to wait for someone to fix it!

  25. othium says:

    I’ve had a huge hole in my bathroom ceiling for about two years now that still leaks water. The building repair person stated that he will fix it soon (I have heard that there are other apartments in the building with the same situation) and I told him that he can take his time as I don’t care at all about the bathroom as I am only in there long enough to do my thing and leave. This person has let me pay the rent late when I have been in a desperate money shortage and has made keys for me in the middle of the night when I broke/lost mine over the last seven years I lived here so I am willing to give him as much slack as I can.

    After reading about the mold thing I am having some doubts. The exposed pipes are covered with black, slimy stuff and the building is very old. I wonder if I should take a sample and have it checked out?

  26. dreamcatcher2 says:

    @kimsama: My landlord shoots himself in the foot too – we have a leaky faucet that has been around since the last tenants were still here (about 6 months), yet he pays for the water! Granted, water is really cheap, but he’s been here several times for other problems, and fixing a leaky sink is usually not the hardest maintenance task in the world.

  27. richcreamerybutter says:

    It’s easy to be NYC-centric, but it’s worth noting if the victim is indeed located in the area, depending on the neighborhood, he might also be subject to various old world sabbath holidays between management/LLs and the maintenance crew on top of everything else. I Thank “God” my current LL is Catholic but will of course address an emergency on a Sunday.

  28. timmus says:

    Is there a backstory on this article that I’m missing? There’s no details!

  29. hollerhither says:

    I’ve been renting for 16 years, am just about to close on my first house, and I CAN’T WAIT. Repairs, heating oil bills, mortgage…bring it on, it will be worth it.

    @Jay Levitt:
    You sound like the rare breed of landlord who remembers what it was like to be a tenant, and for that, sir, I commend you.

  30. tadowguy says:

    I’m curious why people are so afraid to sue. I would sue the landlord, you might actually get some results. Surely with Google at your fingertips it’s not that hard to file in small claims court.

  31. hollerhither says:

    Having been in this situation —
    *It depends on the state how easy, and how cheap, it is. You can’t always use small claims.
    *You are taking on someone who has control over your domicile. Some people don’t fight fair, and things can get very ugly. It doesn’t make for a pleasant living environment.
    *After going through all of that, do you really want to write monthly checks to a LL who has demonstrated willfull disregard for your safety and the law?

  32. PinkBox says:

    I think the ceiling cats did it.

  33. Pylon83 says:

    Ok, first off, until you review the local and state laws that are applicable to your rental, DO NOT WITHHOLD RENT! Don’t pay it into an escrow. Continue to pay it to the LL until you can CONFIRM what you are legally allowed to do. Further, once you determine what is legally allowed in your situation, you MUST follow it to the T or you could find yourself evicted and facing a lawsuit for the remainder of the rent. People on here are always quick to recommend not paying rent, or withholding rent. While typically withholding is allowed, it is imperative that you check your local laws to see what you can actually do. Not staying within the law in these situations leads to eviction when you stop paying. If you are not competent enough to read and understand the local laws, contact a lawyer/tenants rights group, or call a local law school as some of them have housing clinics. Whatever you do, make you sure are doing it in accordance with your local/state laws.

  34. gingerCE says:

    This happened to me. For months there was a leak in my bathroom from the upstairs apt. They’d send someone out to fix it and the leak would stop–temporarily. One day I heard this loud crash–the ceiling on my bathroom had totally collapsed.

    To give my landlord credit, he got someone in to clean up the mess right away. It took a little while to fix it (so I had no ceiling–could totally see the beams and flooring to the upstairs apt. BUT maybe because I was young and in college, I really didn’t care or get upset. It got fixed and afterwards my landlord was super nice to me.

  35. wwwhitney says:

    I used to live in a very rundown apartment when I was in college. My upstairs’ neighbor’s bedroom was right above mine. One night at about 4 in the morning (he kept very late hours), I woke up to the sound of him jumping up and down in his bedroom. A little bit of plaster from the ceiling rained down on me but it was 4 in the morning so I was too tired to particularly care about it at the time. Around 6:30, I awoke to a terrifying crash. The entire ceiling to my bedroom had come crashing down literally around me while I was sleeping. By extreme luck, the only part that didn’t fall was basically a bed shaped section that was right above me!

    I called my landlord after that to ask him to compensate me for my destroyed property and he evicted me, citing repeated noise complaints from my upstairs neighbors (yes, the same ones who jump up and down on the floor at 4 in the morning). He also refused to give me back my deposit (by refused, I mean he stopped answering my phone calls and letters). I eventually had a lawyer friend of mine write him a threatening letter demanding my deposit back. I received a check the next week in the mail without any letter. Didn’t care to ever follow up with him again.

  36. rjhiggins says:

    This is a serious health issue that needs to be taken directly to your city’s Board of Health, housing agency, etc. In most cases they will take this very seriously. If not get the local news involved — they love these stories, particularly around the holidays (maybe put your Christmas tree and soggy presents directly under the leak…).

  37. ornj says:

    Man I am so happy I found a decent place to rent. It came mostly furnished and when I started having problems with the picture on my tv they had it fixed within 2 days. Wasn’t even a major issue that would make life in the apartment hard to put up with and they busted their ass to fix it. Now the owner of the building moved in up stairs so if something is wrong all I have to do is bang on his door.

    Says something if the owner/landlord is willing to live in their own building.

    Moral of the story, meet those in charge, research them if you have to. Chances are if they are scum bags someone knows.

  38. SarcasticDwarf says:

    In regards to mold: I live in a 60 year old building on the second floor. The bathroom has no ventilation in it at all and is extremely small. The apartment also has no air conditioning. As a result, there is always mold in there (it gets on the ceiling and shower curtains all year round and under the toilet tank all summer). Other than spraying it with bleach, is there anything I can do?

  39. altdude says:

    A few years ago, I had a landlord who would not fix my broken oven and freezer. The unit was an all-in-one stove/oven/refrigerator/sink, and a replacement was impossible to obtain because the company had stopped making them some 10 years ago.

    I ended up doing my own research on replacements, and put printouts in her mailbox. I kept leaving notes about it, and I confronted her about it several times. Finally about 4 months after it first broke, she had someone send out for a new set of appliances.

  40. FLConsumer says:

    @SarcasticDwarf: Ventilation should be your primary goal. Even a small space heater w/fan only setting on the floor can be used to get air in/out of that room. Ideally a dehumidifier, but these are loud depsite working very well.

    @tadowguy: It’s because they might need to rent at another place and landlords (mainly property management slumlords) are very nervous about people who sue, particularly if it goes to court. I actually did threaten to sue my last apartment complex over water intrusion/mold/non-functioning appliances and started the legal process through my attorneys. A settlement was reached. Basically, they refunded me almost a whole year’s rent, in turn, I wouldn’t go to the courts and would leave once my lease was up. Paid for closing costs on the house + moving expenses. Was hell to find and close on a house in a relatively short time, but totally worth it.

    I don’t miss the thin walls, trashy/rude/inconsiderate neighbors, poor USPS service, water leaks, mildew, lack of water pressure, slowly collapsing building, disintegrating drywall from the water damage, parking problems, water cutting out entirely at certain times of the morning, non-functional stove & oven, cheap appliances, cheap carpeting, barely functional AC, high utility bills, and living 15 miles further away from the city that the apartment had.

    When I look back, I wonder why I waited so long to leave and get my own place. In hindsight, I’m wishing I had gotten an apartment for the first year, scout out the area, then have gotten a house after the lease was up rather than waiting 4 years.

  41. josh42042 says:

    Once, the fridge in my apartment broke. I let the management company know, and they said it would be a day or two before they got me a new one.

    Well, the super had an extra (albeit older) fridge in his apt, and let me use that until i got a replacement. BUT, even when i told him to let me know when he would bring it over, he brought in the replacement fridge while i was around the corner at work, set it up right next to the broken fridge, and moved all the spoiled food from the old fridge into it! when i came from work i was so pissed, now I had two fridges in my kitchen, both with rotten food in them.

    A few days later I got my new fridge, and I got the management co to kate about $350 off my rent for the cost of the food.

  42. rachaeljean says:

    Random, sort of related question:

    I just moved to a new apartment in September. They’re nearly brand-new, less than a year old and I am only the 2nd tenant for my unit. It came with a detached 1-car garage. So, we moved in and filled out the inspection paper (dings on door and stuff like that so we don’t get knocked for it upon move out), but there was no section on it for the garage….

    A few weeks after we’ve lived here and the garage is finally cleared of boxes and ready for my car, I notice mold on the wall. Right in the top corner, it’s obvious water is leaking from somewhere because the mold is in the shape of a waterfall. I didn’t see this before we turned in our paper, since our friends helping us move had stacked boxes in front of it. Plus, there’s no garage section on the inspection sheet anyway…

    So, I reported the mold and filled out a”maintenance request” for it. About 3 weeks later one of the 100 or so maintenance manager guys comes and looks at it, says yup there’s a leak, but it looks like the contractor needs to fix it. I haven’t heard anything since. (This would’ve been October…)

    Coincidentally, I went back by the mangers’ office today and asked about it. The girl took my message and is going to have to have the guy call me. Who knows when that will be.

    Meanwhile, Oregon has had record storms and the mold has doubled in size. I moved ALL my stuff out of the garage. My question is, what exactly would the law be on this?? I tried looking at the tenant law thing that was posted a few days ago, but found it to be verbose and full of legalese, sigh. Plus, it’s the GARAGE… it’s not like it’s impacting our health or anything.

    Any insight would be cool :)

  43. Pylon83 says:

    Since it doesn’t affect the habitability of the dwelling, it’s unlikely there is much you can do as far as “self-help”. You might be able to get things moving if you call the local building inspectors office and let them know. Mold can be dangerous, but how would affect a garage is questionable.

  44. lhm says:

    I had a hole in my ceiling that dripped water. The landlord never fixed it.

    After several months of this, and bunches of ruined stuff, I called the city of New York. They sent someone to look at it. And finally sent someone to fix it. I imagine they sent to the bill to the landlord.

    BTW, my building is owned by West Realty Group, and they’re a bunch of scary people. First time I called the City of New York, the landlord threatened me over the phone. Once when I complained about the super not doing much, he called me white trash to my face. (I went to an Ivy League school.)

    Don’t rent from them.