RE Q&A: Should Upstairs Neighbor Pay Water Damage?


A leaky toilet damaged the condo below, in part because it took the upstairs neighbor a long time to fix. Now he refuses to reimburse about $1,000 in damages. What can the downstairs neighbor do?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: The upstairs neighbor in my high-rise condominium had a leaking toilet, and the water damaged my ceiling. The repairs cost me over a thousand dollars.

It took several phone calls and follow-ups to get him to fix the leaking toilet, and now he refuses to pay for the necessary repairs to my bathroom ceiling. What can I do? – Don

Answer: People are responsible for the damage they cause. Everyone is responsible for maintaining their property well enough that it does not harm a neighbor’s property.

Your upstairs neighbor is responsible for the damage his leaking toilet caused you.

Calling him to try to resolve the problem was a good first step. Since it did not work, your next step should be to document your attempt to work things out by sending him a certified letter. Be firm and polite, explaining the issue and asking your neighbor to step up and fix the damage he caused.

Keep detailed records of the damage, cost, and each step you take to resolve the dispute.

If the letter does not have the intended effect, your next step is to involve your community association. Speak to your property manager and follow up in writing. Remember to keep a record of every step you take.

Your condominium’s rules likely require each unit owner to maintain their property. These rules also make your neighbor responsible for his negligence, and your community association should be able to help resolve the problem.

If none of these efforts get your neighbor to pay for your loss, you will have no choice but to take him to court.

While hiring a lawyer for a thousand-dollar loss may be uneconomical, you can sue him in small claims court. As the name implies, small claims court is designed to help people resolve more minor disputes and have a simplified procedure that many people can navigate even without the help of an attorney.

Check the court’s website or head down there for the simplified forms and instructions to bring your claim. The records you kept will help you prevail when you get your day in court.

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