What to do about water damage caused to my property doe to a neighbor’s water leak?

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What to do about water damage caused to my property doe to a neighbor’s water leak?

I live/own a townhouse and my upstairs neighbor had a water leak due to some plumbing work and caused water damage in my home. I took pictures as well as video of the incident and contact my neighbor who instructed me to contact the plumber. Now no one is willing to take responsibility of the damage. What is the legal course of action I may be able to pursue?

Asked on April 26, 2012 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Liability (or a legal responsibility to pay) in situations like this generally depends on fault. If the plumber was negligent (or careless), or deliberately did shoddy work (e.g. to save cost), you could hold the plumber liable. If the neighbor was at fault by being aware of a leak or other plumbing problem, but not responding to it until it gotten big enough or lasted long enough to damage your property, the neighbor could be liable. On the other hand, if the pipe leaked or burst without any fault of either, there may be no recovery for you.

If neither the neighbor nor plumber will voluntarily take responsibility, you may wish to force the issue by suing both; if the amount  is under the ceiling for your small claims court, you may wish to represent yourself in small claims court. By suing, you will put pressure on them to settle, and will have the opportunity, using "discovery" (e.g. written interrogatories or questions; document production requests), to find out more information about happened.


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