Sweety Holy Fuck! My bathroom looks like Sarajevo!

My roommate at I came home last night at about 10:45 pm and immediately knew that something was wrong.

When we got to the rear of the apartment, we noticed a bizarre wet-rot type smell, accompanied by gravelly crunching noises beneath our feet. Only when we reached the bathroom did we realize the true gravity of the situation.

The top half of our bathroom is now laying on the bottom half. Our ceiling has completely collapsed… drywall, rotten wood, rusty pipes (!!), and cement are piled three feet high on the floor, in the toilet, in the sink, and in the tub. Oh, and there’s water damage. It looks like a bomb went off in there.

Here’s where the story gets exciting.

Once the shock wore off, we noticed that there was water still dripping from what was left of the ceiling, and that the rate of drippage (?) was increasing steadily. We started to panic… what if someone upstairs slipped and fell in the tub, and is now unconscious with running water pouring everywhere? Knocking on their door yielded no answer, but when we pressed our ears to the door, we could definitely hear water running that sounded like a shower. Freaking the fuck out, we tried to get our super to come up and get into that apartment, but he was not at home. Concerned for the safety of our upstairs neighbor, we called the NY Fire Department.

… brief digression …
Ladies, everything you’ve heard is true. Firemen are hot. Even when they aren’t hot, they’re hot.

The brave firemen shimmied up the fire escape, broke into the other apartment (which was vacant, though my roommate and I could have sworn someone moved in a few months ago?!) and saw that their toilet was running. Once they shut it up, the dripping in our place stopped, and a semblance of peace was restored to the land.

Our super finally showed up at about 12:30 am, scratching his head and his ass. He seems to think that he can bring in a team of workmen and have the entire bathroom cleared out and ceiling fixed today. IANA home repair expert, but I call bullshit. At any rate, he’s in there now, no doubt continuing to scratch himself.

Do any Dopers have some encouraging words for me? How long does it really take to repair this sort of thing? Also, can we hold our landlord accountable for all the items that have been damaged? We did a tally of everything that had been destroyed, and so far it’s over $500 worth of stuff, including three expensive bottles of perfume, all of my roommate’s makeup, and an emotionally valuable art glass vase among other things.


I would start with reading over your renter’s insurance policy or just contact your agent.

Past experience tells me it’s about 3 1/2 months. But you have to withhold rent to get it done that swiftly.

It shouldn’t take more than a day to cut out and replace the floor joists where it needs to be. Also, replacing the drywall on the ceiling should take no time at all. You mentioned cement, but I’m not really sure where that would come from, perhaps you could explain further. As long as your Super is willing to work on it, it should all be done in a matter of a day or two.

Holding your landlord responsible is a different matter. As JuanitaTech already pointed out, check your renters’ insurance.

I would talk to your insuance agent, but it seems to me that if a structural issue with the building is at fault for your loss, your landlord (or his insurance company) should be responsible.

And if for some reason you don’t HAVE renter’s insurance, see about getting it. It’s not expensive – at least it wasn’t for me – and makes for some peace of mind. I had a flooded apartment a few years ago (the water heater upstairs busted at midnight; nothing like looking up from a book to see water POURING out of your ceiling fan, and then going into the other room and seeing it going through the kitchen light and the fuse box!) and while I got lucky as far as my belongings go, my insurance company would have replaced anything that had gotten ruined.

How big is the bathroom? You’ve got at least half a day just cleaning up the debris and ripping out anything too damaged to salvage. If there was extensive water damage, the walls might need new sheetrock as well. You’ve got to get a plumber in there to repair the leaking (broken?) pipes, otherwise this’ll just happen again. Then new floor joists (if it was a lath and plaster ceiling, they’ll have to rip out all the old stuff unless they really take a short cut and just slap sheetrock over the remains), drywall, taping, sanding, and painting (hopefully painting the entire bathroom as it’s probably a mess). Then cleaning up all the dust and crap from the repairs.

Three or four days, if they’re motivated, at a minimum. Although the facilities should be at least usable after the debris is cleared.

If nothing else, you probably are entitled to recompense for the time that the apartment is uninhabitable (and not having a bathroom pretty much renders in uninhabitable.
$500.00? Really? Guys really do have it easy. I could probably replace all the contents of my bathroom with a $30.00 run to the local CVS.

Unless you have carefully documented the contents of your bathroom, I’d say you are SOL.

Try to be glad you were not hurt, and get in touch with whatever local agency handles renter’s rights - just in case you have problems getting this cleaned up quickly.

Thirty bucks? You must use the expensive shampoo. I’d have to have half my wardrobe in there for it to add up to $30…

I see you are in New York. Most standard leases in New York (and this is mandatory for rentstabilizied apartments) say that the landlork is liable if and only if you can prove that he was actually negligent - i.e. he knew the toilet had been pouring out water. However, you may be able to get a rent reduction for however long the bathroom isn’t useable. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.

I seriously doubt the landlord knew about this problem and ignored it. In my experience, even fairly scummy landlords fix major leaks promptly, because they can do structural damage to a building, leading it to be condemmed and evacuated (and the landlord gets no more rent). I idly wonder if the disappearing tenants that you thought had moved in upstairs left a present for you and the landlord.

If it looks like the bathroom will take a while to fix, see if they can get the less-damaged one upstairs fixed so you can use that.

IANAL!!! Just someone who’s had a few run-ins with NYC landlords.


Thanks to all of you for your advice. When I got home from work last night, all of the debris had been cleared and the bathroom at least swept, though by no means is it clean. The toilet and sink are useable, but hell if I’m using that shower with a gaping open ceiling of doom right over my head. Luckily we’re close with our neighbors and they are more than happy to let us use their shower.

Supposedly, the super is returning Saturday with some drywall guys. :: crosses fingers ::

Regarding renter’s insurance, I wish I could say that I had it. I’ve done some research and found out that it is totally affordable as whiterabbit mentioned, so I’ll be signing up right away. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help me for this incident, but I’ll feel much more secure.

Finagle, the bathroom is pretty typical for an NYC apartment… it’s itty bitty.

jc, we took pictures of the damage, brought three different sets of neighbors over as witnesses, and made a complete list of all damaged items. Furthermore, we saved all of said damaged items from the debris, in case we need physical proof. Perhaps this is overkill, but dammit I want to be sure we don’t get completely fucked. And yes, Wikkit, it was the expensive shampoo, and the expensive lotion, and the expensive candles, and the expensive… you get the idea.

Oooh, oooh, mischievous, my apartment is rentstabilized! That’s one bright spot.

Thanks again everyone.

For the record, Sarajevo is looking pretty good these days. Looky here:

Wowee! I stand corrected, r_k.

Once we get our film developed, I will post pictures of the bathroom… although if you just imagine a bombed out room, you’ve pretty much got it.