Apartment flooded... twice. Need legal advice!

So here’s the story.

My girlfriend and I moved into a place near Taida in early February. Within a month - that is to say when the first big rain occurred, we discovered leaks in the ceiling. We immediately called the landlords and they came and slapped some sealant here, slapped some there, and said “oh we can’t do anything really until it stops raining.” Heard that before?

Oh yes, and in the kitchen the sink leaked every time we used it - water creeped out from underneath. We mentioned this to the landlord and they said “oh zenme keneng?” Because, see, they had just redone everything in the kitchen.

Continuing on, over the months since this time the leaks have appeared, we’ve called, they’ve come and been repeatedly useless. Finally they hired some shuidian dudes to come check the sink. The dudes said it was clogged a bit, but mostly it was the way the plumbing was done (water flows down, water sits on a level surface, the plumbing is all level, etc). However, this did fix the sink leak. The ceiling leaks, on the other hand continued.

Let me pause for a moment to quickly describe the place. It’s two bedrooms, one living room, kitchen, bathroom, tiny. The apartment was extended a bit by enclosing the balcony - and it was from the metal-tube and plastic enclosure that the first leaks appeared (dripping onto my desk and computer). In the living room an enormous patch of ceiling discolored, water welled through, collected in a seam, and began dripping all along the seam onto our brand new 15,000NT sofabed. We moved it out of the way and put down buckets (something we ended up having to do every time it rained). Over the front door a discolored patch appeared. In the corner of the living room a discolored patch appeared. However, these two patches never actually dripped.

Okay so fast forward (through repeated “hello, it’s leaking again” “oh zenme keneng” exchanges followed by more inept slapping on of sealant with no results) to early this month. Plum rains finally arrive. Ceiling discolors in huge patches. More water dripping. We tell the landlord that’s it, we’ve gotta move out. How will we deal with the deposit. They say oh we understand, please don’t worry a bit about that (shoulda known). So we’ve been searching for a new pad (anyone moving out of a decent 2 bedroom close to MRT with kitchen and balcony? Please?!).

So now move to this last week. I go to work. Girlfriend goes to shop. We meet for lunch. We come home. Living room has an inch and a half of water covering the floor. We jump in, grab bags, realize the water is lapping over the powerstrips that power the running computers (holy sh*t unplug those fast before we die), call the landlord, evacuate the living room, start slopping dirty water into mop buckets and dumping it down the drain. Landlord comes over with his son (who asks his father repeatedly how much he’s had to drink… oh did i mention he smells like he’s been in the bottle… and I really mean soaking in the bottle like it’s a hot tub… every time we see him? or that his wife wears the pants and runs the business but he’s always the one that comes over first shouting “oh zenme keneng! hen kwa zhang!”) and stands around until i tell him in my terrible chinese that we need to get it cleaned first, then figure out how it happened. We clean - can’t figure out where the water came from. They leave saying “oh so sorry we’ll try to figure out what has happened.”

We continue looking for a new place. Start packing.

Today. I do recording work - work cancelled today. Girlfriend teaches - in between terms. We’re both home this afternoon. Xia hen da yu. I head to the bathroom and hear “Ahhh! Water!!!” from the other room. Water is shooting into the apartment from the balcony. Small fountain in the balcony drain. Call landlord. Try to stem the tide. Frantically move furniture, bags, books, etc. (did I mention the loss - to the tune of around 7000NT - of property in the flood last Saturday?). Drunk landlord again arrives and fiddles with the drain spouting useless words. I tell him “nin youmeiyou… babe how do i say pump… choshuiji?” he says no - i don’t know where to find a pump. i say “ni shibudhi fangdong!” and something like “you should know how to find one. we need one. you must call someone!” (girlfriend said my sloppychinese wasn’t quite correct but it got the meaning across)

okay i’m going on. I like to tell stories. let’s cut to the chase. gongren come, try rooting out the drain. tell us the problem is that when the landlords split their apartment into two and put in the plumbing in our half they plumbed terribly and plumbed into the roof drain so every time it rains big there’s a risk of this happening. we spend all day (cancelled work - more money lost) getting things cleaned, start packing. invite landlords’ wife over to talk business.

Here’s where you come in. i need advice. landlord is balking at returning deposit - returning all our deposit. i said look, we’ve had problems since we moved in so we think it would just be simplest to return the full deposit and we’ll go on our way and you can deal with your property without the hassle of tenants. she says but when you shower and hair goes down the drain… but this, but that… it’s not our fault… we’ve been so worried every time it rains… bascially she left without any numbers or agreements made (other than me saying no we’re not simply going to act as if this is a normal move-out, we need to dicuss this again) So now I’m thinking oh boy… we’re gonna have trouble after all. So now I need to find out how to best prepare for some kinda mediation. Of course this is the brief version (yep that’s right - this is the brief version. the long version is coming soon to a theater near you), and because i’ve ben man man xue-ing the chinese i’d need someone who can help in both languages. I also just want to find out, in general, what our options are: small claims court for damages, breach of contract? the threat of blacklisting by agencies like tsuimama? things like that…

congratulations for reading this far. now tell me what to do.



Clearly they knew they were renting a swimming pool to you and if they didn’t disclose that to you in advance that ought to be sufficient grounds to order them to at least refund your deposit. At least if your description is accurate and I were the judge it would be.

I don’t know about small claims court in Taiwan, but I do know that having strong evidence to support your case is extremely important. In this case the evidence would consist mostly of photos. I hope you stopped to take some during the crises.

Presumably someone who has sued in small claims court here will tell you how it works. Good luck.

It’s not time to think about legal issues yet. Hopefully it won’t come to that.

Like MT, I hope you got some pictures. If not, take pictures now of the water stains and damaged items. Then I hope you got the names and phone numbers of all the repairmen who’ve been in, including the ones who said the plumbing was to blame, especially the one who found the plumbing connects up to the roof drain.

Once you have that together, start tallying up the reasonable damages caused by the flooding: any thing that is damaged beyond repair, anything you’ve paid for to stop or control the flooding (buckets, etc.), time off work to deal with any problems. Include the rent you’ve paid for when the apartment was ‘uninhabitable’, which seems like about half of a month if I read right.

Get a new place NOW. Borrow to get the deposit if need be, but you must have a place to live before you can negotiate from a strong position.

Go to the landlord with all of this and DEMAND that they must take responsibility for all of your damages, and return your deposit. They will probably be very upset about this prospect, but these are all things that you can reasonably claim if legal action would be resorted to. If they threaten to blacklist you with agents, you threaten them with the same right back. No agent will want to deal with a landlord with a chronically flooding apartment.

Settle for full return of the deposit and 1/2 June rent if everyone agrees that is a final settlement and the landlord gives up the cash immediately.

Don’t delay much longer… Typhoon season is coming.

Thanks mucho for the advice and help so far!

As of now we’ve filed a report with Tsuimama. We’ll be calling the landlord soon and continuing the discussion.

So yeah we’ve got pictures from day 1 of the leaks, and of the floods. We have the worker’s phone numbers - and they said sure they’d support us cause it’s no skin off their backs to say “uh yeah in my professional opinion this plumbing was stupidly designed.” Money isn’t an issue for finding a new place - it’s an issue on principal and in the long run. See, long story short, when we moved here we had actually moved from a temporary place. We moved last November to temporary place (move cost 3500 NTD). Moved here in Feb (move cost about 4000 NTD). The place was unfurnished - we furnished it, including the expensive new sofabed, at a cost of around 90kNTD (okay so I spent 30 on a projector and surround sound system… i’ve always wanted my own theater). I expect our next move to cost around 6-10000ntd now as we have much more in the way of large furniture items. In addition, there’s a very good chance we’ll have to move to a temporary place again - which will actually mean two more moves. I’m contemplating renting blue trucks and doing it myself but we’ll see bout that… Anyhow the point is we have plenty saved for these moves. We aren’t kids (which po’s me all the more when the landlord says “you must be putting hair down the drain” - I want to retort "look lady I’ve been on my own cleaning my apartment and doing my own laundry since I was 18… shall we take a look at your place and see how clean it is?) and we know how to take care of ourselves and be prepared for emergencies. In fact, the emergency move last November was made because of a holy-cow-life-is-real health problem that befell the girlfriend… the kind where we just continue to live healthy, do what needs to be done with medical services, and hope that she continues to be around for a long time…

Anyway - another mitigating factor: when we moved in the place was completely empty (as i believe i mentioned)… except for some airconditiong insulated copper pipes on the walls. I asked the landlord specifically if i could remove them. they said of course, no problem. We purchased window mount ac’s a few months later - the guy who installed them canabalized the power cords from the copper pipe/cords that were originally in the place. He spent a good several hours helping us out so we said hey, why don’t you just take the copper. I know it’s worth a good amount - bout 16 meters or so, and current prices put that at around 8000 NTD (nice tip eh?). landlord was unhappy bout that - said the previous tenant (who, we just discovered, moved out because the ceiling leaked… go figure) had cracked a floor tile (i should mention the floor tiles are always popping when it heats up. again, shoddy work on the remodelling here) and offered to leave the copper in lieu of having anything deducted from the deposit. so we said oh we’re so sorry there was a misunderstanding we thought you said we could remove it and didn’t know you wanted to keep it of course it’s our fault. So now the landlord is demanding that we pay 12000 NTD or leave the ac’s (which we bought at 12000 NTD) in the place. I’m willing to leave the ac’s - just cuz if we try selling them second hand we prob won’t get much more than 4k.

don’t know where i’m going with this - just storytelling i suppose. i gotta get to work. everything is up off the floor. hope it doesn’t rain. i’ll keep y’all updated if you’re interested… should be a fun next conversation!