Leak damage from upstair neighbor toilet’s wax ring failure

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Leak damage from upstair neighbor toilet’s wax ring failure

My upstairs neighbor s toilet was leaking around wax ring area. The leak caused my bathroom ceiling to sink. There was no sign of water damage. We called emergency hotline to get HOA plumber to check. It turns out the accumulated water put weight on the ceiling and almost collapsed eventually. Facing a hefty bill from the HOA, my neighbor was pleading our negligence. Saying we didn’t report the issue in time. The unit is under my name but daily occupied by my parents no rental relationship, I came over to visit a few days each month. My parent called me for help as soon as they noticed the ceiling issue. Somehow my neighbor consider it is my parents fault and threatening to sue them or me in small claim court. It is ridiculous! The HOA gave me the choices to either go with the HOA’s master insurance policy and let them to subrogate I would be forced to accept whatever comes out of it or file the claim with my insurance company, in which case I will be $1000 less for sure from the deductible. I am looking forward to seek solutions to enforce them to pay for the full damage including the deductible and other inconvenience caused by the incident – the bathroom is useable sealed for repair for over 10 days and noise from restoration.

Asked on February 14, 2019 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

The neighbor would only be liable if he or she was at fault in some way, such as by being careless. If the leak around their toilet would have been visible to them, so that they were negligent or careless in not addressing it, they likely would be liable and you could sue for any costs or losses you incur (e.g. if you have to absorb a $1,000 deductible, if you go through your insurance; or you could elect to not go through insurance and sue them for the full amount--though then, you'd have to also worry about collecting if they don't have the money, if they file bankruptcy, etc.).
If the leak was "internal" in some way (not visible to someone using the bathroom), the neighbor would NOT be at fault, since without knowledge of a problem, it would not be careless to not do anything. There must be fault to hold them liable.


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