Unit above me caused water leak in my bathroom

by Carrie
(Deerfield Beach, FL)

Hole in bathroom ceiling

Hole in bathroom ceiling

Visitor Question:The unit above me has caused a fifth water leak in my master bathroom. I reported it to code enforcement. They gave her three days to fix it. She hired her friend who is supposedly a licensed plumber; yet he had no business card, and no proof of license or insurance. The plumber had the tenant assist him in the so-called repair four days later.

There was still water leaking through my ceiling. I contacted code enforcement; they did nothing. I brought in my own plumbers, and they confirmed the leak was not fixed properly.

It took the unit owner 17 days to repair the leak, and her tenants were showering and taking baths knowing the leak wasn't fixed and that they were causing more water and mold damage to my unit.

I have contacted code enforcement via emails, phone calls, and text messages and they did nothing....They simply said I have to wait for the hearing which was set for five weeks after the leak started!

Do I have any recourse? Shouldn't she have been fined on day 4 for not fixing the plumbing leak that was causing damages to my property?

Editors Reply: Our answer to your last question about whether the other owner should be fined is Yes. But that is really up to the municipal judge, or whatever judge or administrative hearing officer makes those decisions in your location.

As for your first question about recourse, that really is a legal question. You speak of a "unit," so perhaps you have a homeowners association with the power to fine and enforce other remedies. If there is an HOA, definitely make sure they are aware of this behavior.

After that, you could discuss with your attorney whether to file a civil suit against the owner of the unit above you. Depending on the dollar amount of your damage, there might be a small claims court that could handle this matter both faster and cheaper for you.

Now the question becomes whether there is any recourse against your city. Again this could be discussed with an attorney, but usually citizens don't win unless a city employee physically does the damage. In other words, we observe that lawsuits based on non-enforcement of codes usually lose.

You have the option of dealing with your city and county in a political way. Your city council definitely should know that in this instance, the code enforcement office failed you. At the very least they didn't explain the law and why they were doing nothing. At worst, they were very careless about the way this was handled. Your city elected officials deserve to know that someone with a leak was told to just wait five weeks to tell your story. They might want to look at changing ordinances so this does not occur in the future.

We mentioned county because the last time we checked, Florida counties govern contractor licenses, and the county could tell you for sure if the plumber had a license. These days the licensees are very likely to be shown on a website too.

Somehow this answer seems inadequate; we would like to reach out and fix this situation for you, but of course we can only suggest how you might make code enforcement work better in the future.

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