seeking guidance rental property water damage

6 Replies

Hi everyone,

seeking assistance on the following matter:
I stay in a high-rise apartment in New Jersey. In the month of July'17, there was shower clogging in my bathroom which resulted in water overflow. We seen that the water did not travel from shower area -> bathroom floor -> living room but it happened internally beneath the walls / floor to the living room. There was water damage to the parquet wooden floor in the living room where the tiles had buckling but returned back to original state in 2-3 weeks. Management for the building came in and fixed the shower area clogging saying that shower clogging is our responsibility. Now per recent checks from a repair company there is mold on the living room floor and needs to be replaced to the amount for $12000 for which the landlord is holding us responsible.
We have repeatedly told the landlord that shower clogging may be our responsibility, but the subsequent damage to the living room floor tiles is more of a construction defect that allowed water to travel internally and cause the damage. Landlord disagrees and says he has a legal right to hold us responsible for the damage and that we will have to pay for it

Please provide me some guidance how to go about this issue.
- What are my rights in this matter? How do I prove that the water has traveled internally due to some defect and not traveled from the bathroom floor onto living room?

Hi Darryl

1.Is there a concrete floor under the parquet wooden floor.

2.When they came to clean out the shower trap. Did they use a metal snake attached to a drill.

3.If they did they may have punched a hole in the shower trap, this would cause it to leek when you are taking a shower. If you have a concrete floor the water will sit between the two floors causing mold on the wood floor.


1.To repair this you will need to remove the shower pan, jack hammer the concrete floor and replace the shower trap.

My opinion

1.This could be just an accident or old plumbing and needs to be replaced.

Good luck


Thank you for your reply Ray

1.Is there a concrete floor under the parquet wooden floor

Yes, below the parquet wooden floor, there is some sponge layer and then the concrete floor

2.When they came to clean out the shower trap. Did they use a metal snake attached to a drill.

I wasn't home when this happened so not sure.

3.If they did they may have punched a hole in the shower trap, this would cause it to leek when you are taking a shower. If you have a concrete floor the water will sit between the two floors causing mold on the wood floor.

The damage to wooden floor had already happened when the shower clogging happened. But my roommate at home said that the water did not overflow onto bathroom floor and then to living room. Water escaped internally and entered living room

Can I check with a plumber or someone who can verify the water escaping internally? I wanted to investigate if I'm at fault here for floor damage for water overflow that escaped internally

So, I guess my question is why didn't you alert the landlord when you first noticed that there was buckling in the floors?  This would have been your first clue that there was water underneath.  The subsequent mold WOULD then be your responsibility to resolve because you did not alert the landlord of the condition of moisture, which, when left unresolved, leads to other bigger things like mold.  This WAS your responsibility.  IF you had given proper notice to the landlrd, I can see how you could argue that it wasn't your fault that the water traveled underneath the floors.  However, in the absence of your proper notification, I don't know how you would argue that you are not at fault for any of it.

I think the best you can hope for is a shared expense in which the landlord takes responsibility for the inproper water drainage, and you take responsibility for the mold, and whatever came after that.

Sorry I couldn't offer better news.

Hi Cara, Thank you for your reply.

We alerted the landlord as soon as we seen that there was a shower clog and water is bubbling out of the living room floor. Building management came in and fixed the shower clogging then closed the report saying that shower was clogged and its tenant's responsibility.

I understand how shower clogging may be our fault, am I still at fault that water escaped internally and damaged living room? Can I not argue that it was more of an issue with the drain/leakage in the shower area that let water pass internally? 

The landlord is going to have a long road to hoe if they think they're going to be able to say that because the shower clogged was your fault, so is everything that resulted from it.

First off, how would anyone know for sure that the shower clog was your fault?

Secondly, even if it was and even if water had come up from the shower, the fact is that the bathroom should be constructed so that it gets water on the floors and not under them like that. 

Thats like saying that if a tenant had a toilet overflow and the water got under the floors, the tenant is responsible for that as well.

Not a chance. The property should expect water to get on the floor in a bathroom and not just a little spray from someone stepping out of the shower. They have to expect a toilet overflow at some point. They have to expect a shower drain to get clogged.

Something is clearly wrong if a clogged drain caused water to go under the floors and across three rooms like that. Thats not a clogged drain issue. Thats a drain leak.

There is no way a tenant can be held liable for damage to flooring across three rooms because their shower drain clogged.  The landlord is just trying to shift the costs and is hoping you don't call him out on it.  But there is no way I would pay that if I were you.

The drain clogged. You notified the landlord right away of the problem and he fixed it. And now the water apparently went across 3 rooms and did all that damage. I don't see anything that you did that was wrong that might have caused that damage. A clogged drain is not an intentional act of misuse in any way. Not unless you stuck a tub full of playdough down the drain or something.

Don't pay a thing. Call the landlord on his claim and tell him there's no way a clogged drain should have caused water to go through three rooms of a house a like that and that something is clearly wrong with the construction of it. Regardless, its not your problem.

Thanks Mike for your reply

- Shower clog was definitely because of hair and nothing else
- We explained many many times that water has leaked internally and did not overflow onto bathroom floor to living room. Landlord got back with a report from a repair company saying repair company seen a few damaged tiles in front of the bathroom on corner of the wall. Based on that report landlord concluded that water traveled through the bathroom floor, its our fault and we have to pay for it. (We noticed a few tiles on the corner of the wall having mold but we aren't even sure if this was from before the incident or may have also been affected internally)


- If needed, who do I contact to investigate the drain leak and prove it? is this possible ? will a plumber's investigation be adequate?

- Landlord says that he has a legal right to charge us the amount per NJ Residential Lease agreement. In my lease it states the following point related to our issue:
"Keep all lavatories, sinks, toilets, and all other water and plumbing apparatus in good order and repair and shall use same only for the purposes for which they were constructed. Lessee shall not allow any sweepings, rubbish, sand, rags, ashes or other substances to be thrown or deposited therein. Any damage to any such apparatus and the cost of clearing stopped plumbing shall be borne by Lessee" 

Should I request that he investigate the drain leak properly ?

Thank you again everyone for your time and consideration

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