Posted almost 5 years ago

03.08.14 Caved in Ceiling

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We bought a duplex in 2010 with a 10-15 year old adequate roof. Our prior tenants let a hole in the ceiling develop (never contacted us), traced back to the improper installation of a satellite dish. We were in the process of fixing it when our newest tenant saw the unit and moved in, since it was a more time consuming project.

This week the Pacific Northwest got pummeled with a storm. A winter storm warning was issued, for wind gusts of 25+ mph and up to 6 inches of rain. It was a bad storm.

In the middle of the storm, in the late evening, we got a call that the spare bedroom (same room as earlier ceiling issue) was leaking water. Our handyman was an hour away and not available for an emergency visit. We took plastic over to cover belongings and made plans to address it first thing in the morning. Our handyman determined that the rain blew under the shingles and got into the attic due to the underlayment not being quite right, seeing no evidence of a long standing issue. He took care of the issue, drained the water from the attic, and said it would take some time to dry out.

Late that evening, the ceiling in the corner of the spare bedroom collapsed. A second contractor came the next day to re-assess the roof and fix the ceiling. I have not yet heard their thoughts (this was yesterday). Conversations were also started with insurance adjusters to see if it is worth putting in a claim, if the tenants belongings can be covered, and whether we were at fault.

When we had issues in our last weather event, our tenants were understanding that things happen in extreme weather, were accommodating that it would take some time to get someone in to fix the situation, and did not make any demands.

Not true this time. Our tenant feels that we have not adequately addressed a long standing roof issue. She demanded that it be fixed within 72 hours, interpreting Washington tenant-landlord laws incorrectly. She is throwing around words like “black mold”, “asbestos”, and “haz-mat suits”. She put up a huge fuss that our handyman leaves too big of a mess and would not let him come back, delaying work. She is demanding payment for her ruined items, even though we made it very clear that her renters insurance needed to cover all of her belongings regardless of the cause for loss.

This is not starting out as a good year for rentals. I don’t want pity; this comes with the territory and this too shall pass. I would however like ideas on how others might have responded to the leak, deal with drama tenants, and if it might be time to find a new handyman.

Comments (6)

  1. Thanks for the comments, James Wise, Dawn Anastasi, & Andy. Our insurance adjuster determined that we are not at fault, after interviewing us, our tenants, and our handyman. Think I will add a clause to the rental agreement about installing dishes. We will keep our handyman that we are otherwise happy with, since only our tenant found fault with him. We plan to replace the roof sooner than we expected and be hyper vigilant about brown spots or other indications of roof leaks at all of our properties.

  2. To add to Andy's point in my experience Dish installers are generally lazy & sloppy workers.

  3. As a contractor, I can't tell you home many times satellite dishes have led to serious roof leaks. The installers usually install them where they get the best test reception with no regard given to what they might be drilling into...and they usually install with 5 to 8 3" or 4" lag bolts....and don't properly caulk & seal them. Roof leaks are tricky...most start out from split vent boots over the baths or kitchens. Some are flashing issues. Consider putting a clause in your lease that the installation of a roof dish will cost $200 to cover future or possible damages. I don't let me tenants install them...if they are there already on the property, we inspect and properly seal them with a product called Through the Roof....great sealant. Sounds like you have the tenant from hell. If there was a long-standing roof leak, you probably do have mold in the surrounding drywall. The tenant has put you on notice so you should probably get it check & tested to ward off a possibly lawsuit later on. Welcome to landlording!

  4. Is this really a long standing roof issue?

  5. Is this the only tenant complaining about the mess he left? Besides that are there other complaints about him?

    1. James, such a faithful poster, thanks. We have had enough work done by our handyman to know that he does not leave the work site pristine, but not terrible either. We don't want to pay him to clean up, but maybe we should be there at the end of the job to bridge the gap. I am more concerned about the ceiling crashing down after he said that everything was fine.