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amarettoSour
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Breaking lease over apartment problems (leak)?

Postby amarettoSour » Sat, 16 Aug 2014 7:46 pm

Hey guys, i rent a condo and have just renewed my lease in february. However problem started popping up in february as well. It has not been fixed by landlord and we have lost our patience and want to move somewhere else sincr it doesnt seem like an easy problem to solve.

The full story is that we moved in on feb 2012. We noticed there is chipping paint on the roof of the common room but landlord repainted the whole place so we didnt see the paint chip anymore. On april 2013, we noticed the paint chip again and notified the owner, who repainted the same place again.

Over time on feb 2014, we again noticed the paint chipping in the same spot, coupled with dark mold and overall damp smell in the room. We notified our landlord who sent a contractor. He determined it was a leak from the upper floor. So we left it up to the owner to liaise with upstair unit to get whatever leak fixed. But he didnt and left the issue untouched since both parties did not want to pay for the cost to fix the leak. Meanwhile the leak has gotten worse, and in june we started making noise again since there is now actual water dripping from the area where the paint is chipping, and that area has gotten noticeably bigger as well. He still did not want to fix the issue, and sent a contractor to paint with waterproof paint instead. Upon seeing the area, contractor refused to paint since he told us this is not goigg to fix the issue.

Finally after some angry messages from us they went up to the upstairs unit again and supposedly found a leak from the bathroom upstairs and patched it up. It is now Saturday and the leak has not stopped, and we just do not want to wait anymore.

All of this was documented in email and there are picture evidence of the leak and the mold.

Do you think it's reasonable for me to tell owner we are moving and ask for the two months deposit back? I suspect there is just a bigger issue with this apartment and i am sick of pushing them to fix it.

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Re: Breaking lease over apartment problems (leak)?

Postby JR8 » Sun, 17 Aug 2014 8:01 pm

amarettoSour wrote:He still did not want to fix the issue, and sent a contractor to paint with waterproof paint instead. Upon seeing the area, contractor refused to paint since he told us this is not going to fix the issue.


Waterproof paint stops condensation entering a wall, and thus causing damp/mould. It does not stop water leaking out from behind a wall, which seems to often be from a damaged pipe/coupling. So a) the landlord is not taking the matter seriously, and b) good on the contractor for refusing to do work that might only make the matter worse.

amarettoSour wrote:Finally after some angry messages from us they went up to the upstairs unit again and supposedly found a leak from the bathroom upstairs and patched it up. It is now Saturday and the leak has not stopped, and we just do not want to wait anymore.


Difficult; and water leaks are a tricky thing. Especially in buildings with partition floors. Water can leak into a floor at one side of an apartment, and exit via the ceiling of the unit below at totally the opposite side of the room, or even flat. Tracing leaks 'from upstairs' can thus be difficult, time consuming, and hence $$$. As a worse case it can mean taking off bath panels, or even lifting (wrecking) tiled floors etc., it is one of the biggest headaches a landlord can be faced with IME.

Your LL has demonstrated he's not interested in your welfare, so if you quit early you can pretty sure he's going to try and keep your deposit. Being exposed to the mould you describe is unhealthy, especially amongst the elderly/very young, and those with certain conditions, esp. allergies and asthma. From a legal/tenancy perspective I think your issue could come under the heading of 'Quiet Enjoyment/QE'. Look at your TA and see if that term is mentioned. Not that that fact matters really AFAIUI as it is a given right. QE It is not just about noise; and is sometimes also called 'Peaceful Occupation'. In summary - and very roughly - it means enjoying the flat in the same condition as you took it, without undue loss of amenity or interference from the landlord. Example:
- No hot water? = LL has to get it fixed
- LL comes around every other evening? = not allowed

Look into the term further via Google to understand the nuances of it, and read your TA carefully. Sources from Commonwealth law (UK, AUS/NZ/SG etc should be similar, at least in outline).
From what you've said, that to me seems like it might be your best bet for an exit route...

amarettoSour wrote: All of this was documented in email and there are picture evidence of the leak and the mold.

Do you think it's reasonable for me to tell owner we are moving and ask for the two months deposit back? I suspect there is just a bigger issue with this apartment and i am sick of pushing them to fix it.


Well done. First rule if a situation is turning sour, is document document document. Pix, phone calls, e-mail archive, a diary of events... = absolutely priceless, in the case that it does come to law.


.... the above is a starting point for you consider. Naturally unknown events, and responses down the road cannot all be addressed at this time...

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Postby amarettoSour » Sun, 17 Aug 2014 9:48 pm

Thanks for the thorough response JR8. I took a look in my TA, and we don't have something exactly called Quiet Enjoyment, but there's a clause that could help us called "inhabitable condition". I'm a bit concerned that the clause seems a bit vague, but i'm pretty sure nobody in their right mind would be ok living with mold and leaky roof - which is STILL leaking onto the floor as we speak!!! Isn't water damage going to cause permanent damage to wooden floor? I don't understand why he is so laxed about this when his apartment could be in danger.

Anyway I've gathered all evidence of our complaints and will try to sort this out tomorrow. Wish us luck...

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Postby Beeroclock » Sun, 17 Aug 2014 11:14 pm

Sometimes these issues get bogged down in arguments between the upstairs owner, condo mgmt and affected owner over responsibility/liability. Not sure if that's a reason here or you just have a lazy/irresponsible LL. good luck, I agree it seems a reasonable grounds to terminate taken together with the LL's failure to act on it.

As it happens I'm having a similar internal wall leak , but not from above its from within my apartment, and also struggling to find a good contractor. Have called in 3 people so far, a leak " specialist", plumber, and air con man. Only the latter gave my much confidence he knew what the problem was. So I am also taking longer than desired to fix it as I don't want someone randomly hacking my wall!

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Postby amarettoSour » Sun, 17 Aug 2014 11:25 pm

We are fairly understanding (aka normal) people and totally understand that there are a lot of parties involved. However this had been an ongoing issue since february, with the most recent complaints being actively pursued from our side since june (we didn't really chase between march to may since we were all busy traveling). We feel the landlord has not been at all proactive abput resolving this matter.

At least in your case you took the time to ask around and showed intent to repair, ours seems a bit reluctant and not taking any responsibility to his damaged property. Meanwhile we have been paying rent on time each month.

Basically we are just so sick of dealing and chasing to ensure things are being taken care of. I am not even the tenant who is staying in the leaky room and i am getting extremely impatient over this, you can just imagine how my roommate feels having to sleep in that room every night.

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Postby taxico » Mon, 18 Aug 2014 1:28 am

i'm a landlord that has dealt with this issue before.

it is NOT an easy problem to solve.

your landlord's hands are tied if your upstairs neighbors/property owner are uncooperative.

as Jr said, using "water proof" paint is useless. patch jobs and/or chemical injections are generally uesless. i am assuming your apartment is quite old (80s? early 90s?) and to fully get rid of the leak requires extremely intensive detective work by professional engineers. air-con men, plumbers, your wife's aunt's 3rd cousin, etc, could only guess from their experience where the cause of the leak comes from. the engineers were able to tell me where the leak's coming from - in short, the path of least resistance is not necessarily the shortest path.

the civil engineers' fee is not cheap - about $400/hour in my case. the other alternative is to completely hack the floor of the bathroom (?) and other possible areas upstairs and reapply a fresh coat of water-proofing, and re-tile. this will mean the areas cannot be used for at least 1 day (more like 3 days)... where will the residents go?

if you/your landlord is able to prove that it was a recently-completed shody job, it might be easier to find the contractor who did the job instead of pushing the blame between property owners/tenants.

as a landlord who had to see through the entire process, i can only say it is EXTREMELY EXTREMELY time consuming and difficult. it took me almost 12 months to get the leak rectified completely.

i know i'm not giving you the answers you seek... but know that your landlord could have done all he feels he could do. pointing him in the right direction, if you have any, may help him help you.

i think it would be wise to find another place and negotiate your way out of the TA.

lastly... let this be a cautionary tale for everyone when they see/feel damp ceilings or chipped paint.
Aut viam ad caelum inveniam aut faciam

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Postby JR8 » Mon, 18 Aug 2014 8:58 am

Beeroclock wrote:Sometimes these issues get bogged down in arguments between the upstairs owner, condo mgmt and affected owner over responsibility/liability. Not sure if that's a reason here or you just have a lazy/irresponsible LL. good luck, I agree it seems a reasonable grounds to terminate taken together with the LL's failure to act on it.


Yeah BoC it's tricky, as it can involve several parties, none particularly motivated to try and resolve what can be a surprisingly complex and $$$ problem.

Beeroclock wrote:As it happens I'm having a similar internal wall leak , but not from above its from within my apartment, and also struggling to find a good contractor. Have called in 3 people so far, a leak " specialist", plumber, and air con man. Only the latter gave my much confidence he knew what the problem was. So I am also taking longer than desired to fix it as I don't want someone randomly hacking my wall!


We had something similar at our previous place, in our bedroom. A large area of upper wall where the air-con unit was positioned became 'dappled' in very fine pale green/white mold. You had to look at the wall a certain angle to even notice it really. This caused me congestion = snoring, = upset wife + tiredness. The dampness also caused mold to grow on our otherwise fresh/clean clothes in the wardrobes, so destroying some of them (the dreaded red mold spots).

It transpired that it derived from the air-con unit. Specifically the drainage-hose had become uncoupled within the wall itself. Causing leakage inside the wall. The remedy was going to be 'hack' the wall until they could find and repair the broken pipe joint. That would have meant us moving out of our bedroom with all possessions. Contractors, mess, maybe even alternative accommodation. You can see why LLs can seek to overlook it.

In our case we were leaving not long after that problem arose, so it wasn't resolved during our time there. Oh and apparently something similar had happened before in that same unit (our friendly agent explained), and that might be why the owner was so reluctant to act: He knew what a minefield it was.

--- some background reading on quiet Enjoyment.
“Quiet Enjoyment”

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Postby amarettoSour » Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:04 am

So today we woke up and lo and behold, the leak has stopped! Odd because it was still going strong last night. So maybe it really was coming from upstairs bathroom but took some time to drain out? We are going to wait it out a few more days (supposed to wait until the wall is totally dry anyway, before fixing anything) and hope this doesn't happen again.

Sucky thing is we started casually viewing places yesterday and found one we really like, but if this is fixed there are no good reason to break the lease.

Thanks for the info everyone, especially JR8. I will keep this in mind for future reference.

And yes, now I know chipping paint means problem. I thought the building was just old (condo was built in 1995).
Last edited by amarettoSour on Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Beeroclock » Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:08 am

JR8 wrote:A large area of upper wall where the air-con unit was positioned became 'dappled' in very fine pale green/white mold. You had to look at the wall a certain angle to even notice it really. This caused me congestion = snoring, = upset wife + tiredness. The dampness also caused mold to grow on our otherwise fresh/clean clothes in the wardrobes, so destroying some of them (the dreaded red mold spots).

It transpired that it derived from the air-con unit. Specifically the drainage-hose had become uncoupled within the wall itself. Causing leakage inside the wall. The remedy was going to be 'hack' the wall until they could find and repair the broken pipe joint. That would have meant us moving out of our bedroom with all possessions. Contractors, mess, maybe even alternative accommodation. You can see why LLs can seek to overlook it.

In our case we were leaving not long after that problem arose, so it wasn't resolved during our time there. Oh and apparently something similar had happened before in that same unit (our friendly agent explained), and that might be why the owner was so reluctant to act: He knew what a minefield it was.

Yeah this sounds very much like what we have. The damp area starts about 1m below the ceiling so it can't be from above. We had to figure out if it's an internal water pipe or air con pipe. However the lack of a major leak, just slowly accumulating damp patch and mold, implies it's not a water pipe which even with a small pinhole leak should lead to more water coming out by now. First contractor didn't really know but just proposed to hack the wall and explore, without being able to give a firm quote either until he sees what's there. This seems risky to me and almost like signing a blank cheque. Second the plumber also doesn't really know but suspects it's the air con system, but wants to do a pressure test anyway for $200+ to confirm water pipes are not leaking. He also suggest me to call air con man. So I did that without doing the pressure test which I was not sure would prove anything. Finally, the aircon man who is confident it's a drain pipe leak from one of the air con units and asks us to stop using this particular unit to see if the wall dries out. It's been almost a month now, and it is much drier but I'm still not completely certain ! If I can pinpoint the cause to the aircon then I might be able to run an external drain pipe as an alternative fix to hacking the walls.

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Postby martincymru » Mon, 18 Aug 2014 1:54 pm

Finding the leak is easy. It's what you do next that's the problem.

Normally lots of options what to do next; thus base knowledge of the property(s) coupled with "knowing" all stakeholders is the key to an effective solution.

After 25 years of resolving construction problems I just kind of instinctively know what to do. For others, as posted, it's a nightmare.

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Postby amarettoSour » Mon, 18 Aug 2014 9:33 pm

false alarm. I went into my roommates' room after work today to check on the leak, and upon opening the door (which had been closed all day) the room smelled like mold and damp. and yup, leak is still going strong complete with a puddle on the floor.

Our part time maid came by earlier at around 2-3pm, so she would have noticed and wiped up the puddle. So in the 5 hours between her cleaning up our unit and me coming back from work, it has collected a puddle of water which means the leak never stopped.

:mad:

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Postby martincymru » Tue, 19 Aug 2014 8:49 am

put red dye into the water system upstairs, if red dye in your room you have found the source.

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Postby JR8 » Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:16 am

Beeroclock wrote:Second the plumber also doesn't really know but suspects it's the air con system, but wants to do a pressure test anyway for $200+ to confirm water pipes are not leaking. He also suggest me to call air con man. So I did that without doing the pressure test which I was not sure would prove anything.


A pressure test on what? The internal gas system of the air-con - that's the only type of 'pressure-test' I've seen being done. Or some form of pressure test of your apartments internal plumbing system? I've not heard of the latter being tried, and am not sure if/how it could prove a leak at a specific location. More to the point the air-con condensate drain-pipe is (AFAIK) not pressurised. Oh and pressurised water pipes don't usually run along walls at ceiling height or therabouts. They often run laterally at floor level, and have 90-degree junctions/spurs off, rising up walls, as required, to specific points (taps, shower-heads, toilet cisterns etc). So if you shared those same doubts, then yes, me too!

I forget, did you say you're in a condo? If so have you spoken to the management office? If you're having a problem, it's entirely possible others have had too. And the MO might/should be able to suggest a contractor, i.e. one known/used by the MO, who therefore will be under an expectation of doing a decent job.


Beeroclock wrote:Finally, the aircon man who is confident it's a drain pipe leak from one of the air con units and asks us to stop using this particular unit to see if the wall dries out. It's been almost a month now, and it is much drier but I'm still not completely certain ! If I can pinpoint the cause to the aircon then I might be able to run an external drain pipe as an alternative fix to hacking the walls.


If it's a structural wall, it can take weeks to dry out, and that's in the UK with low humidity. So here with far higher humidity I wouldn't be surprised that the dry-out rate is equally slower.

Would it be possible to disconnect the drain hose within the air-con unit, and attach a by-pass hose (perhaps similar to the pvc tubing used for home-brewing? You could search on-line for lay-out and parts lists for the condensor, and this should show you where the drain is, and the dimension of the pipe/coupling). The hose could simply hang and terminate/drain in a bucket on the floor. Running the air-con like this for a couple more weeks would also have the benefit of drying the wall. Running a surface-mounted pipe is not a pretty thing, but the temporary by-pass test might help confirm the problem is the current in-wall drain-pipe.

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Postby amarettoSour » Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:58 am

martincymru wrote:put red dye into the water system upstairs, if red dye in your room you have found the source.


They did this last month and no colored water made it into our unit. This is why i think the matter is complicated bc they cant pinpoint where the leak is coming from. Last week they patched something from the sides of the bath tub upstairs since it could be water seeping in from there. Keep in mind that was the only repair that has been done sincr Jan/feb, when we first made noise about this, so of course we are losing patience.

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Postby Beeroclock » Tue, 19 Aug 2014 3:32 pm

JR8 wrote:A pressure test on what? The internal gas system of the air-con - that's the only type of 'pressure-test' I've seen being done. Or some form of pressure test of your apartments internal plumbing system? I've not heard of the latter being tried, and am not sure if/how it could prove a leak at a specific location.


Thanks JR8. It was the latter, "some form of pressure test of your apartments internal plumbing system". I also was skeptical if it would prove anything. With a very minor leak creating dampness at the wall but no obvious dripping or accumulation of water. I asked him if his pressure gauge will even be able to sense such a leak which he was confident it would, but I still said no. Just felt like an attempt to extract some $$$ from the trip beyond the call out/transport fee. But to be fair he did also suggest it was likely the air con condensation/drain pipe and we could also try switching that off for a few weeks.

JR8 wrote:I forget, did you say you're in a condo? If so have you spoken to the management office? If you're having a problem, it's entirely possible others have had too. And the MO might/should be able to suggest a contractor, i.e. one known/used by the MO, who therefore will be under an expectation of doing a decent job.
...

If it's a structural wall, it can take weeks to dry out, and that's in the UK with low humidity. So here with far higher humidity I wouldn't be surprised that the dry-out rate is equally slower.

Would it be possible to disconnect the drain hose within the air-con unit, and attach a by-pass hose (perhaps similar to the pvc tubing used for home-brewing? You could search on-line for lay-out and parts lists for the condensor, and this should show you where the drain is, and the dimension of the pipe/coupling). The hose could simply hang and terminate/drain in a bucket on the floor. Running the air-con like this for a couple more weeks would also have the benefit of drying the wall. Running a surface-mounted pipe is not a pretty thing, but the temporary by-pass test might help confirm the problem is the current in-wall drain-pipe.

Yes condo. MO took a look and promptly adjudicated that it was internal to my apartment and therefore not their problem. I did ask them for recommended contractors, one of whom was the aforementioned plumber...

Instead of this test we decided to suffer without the suspected a/c unit for the past 3 weeks and substitute a pedestal fan. My electricity bill will probably be all the better for this.... I think the wall is actually drying out now but after two weeks it was still inconclusive. At least we are narrowing down the problem - I hope! Definitely the dry out times are lengthy here!


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