Apartment trouble - they want to rip open my floor

Any legal experts know how to deal with this one:

My downstairs neighbour has water leaking through his ceiling.

A few months ago the builders (I live in 2 year old apartment) came and resealed my bathroom.

But the water is still leaking.

Now he came to see me and told me that the builders want to come into my apartment and rip open the floor and check or replace the water pipes (‘only’ 2 weeks worth of work according to him).

I asked him why they don’t access the pipes through his ceiling, he told me that the pipes are closer to my floor, and that is what the builders want to do.

He also told me that he spoke to a lawyer who advised him that if I, or my landlady, refuse access we can be enforced to do so by law.

I spoke to the landlady, and she is pissed, apparently he had the same problem when she was living there (about 1 year ago), and the builders already came in and ripped open the floor and did something to the pipes.

She also told me that there are two sets of pipes, on top of each other.

My suggestion to him was that the builders now rip open his ceiling and check the pipes close to his ceiling. This led to a sudden decrease in his English ability, as suddenly he could not understand me, and the conversation thus ended.

What really pisses me off is his attitude about it all. He asked his lawyer what he could do to make me provide access to the apartment. He forgot to ask what my rights would be. Like, is the builder going to pay for me to stay in a hotel for 2 weeks? What are their responsibilities?

I did suggest that if it really did come to the crunch I would have to stay in his spare bedroom. But, there is really no point in using sarcasm with the Taiwanese.

Any info, experiences etc?

Move out. You will not get a penny in compensation and this will not take 2 weeks. The floor will take a week to lay and a week to dry. Never mind what work they do, and you need to concentrate now on getting compo out of the landlady who is responsible to you for the condition of the apartment. This is your landlady’s problem not yours.

Any legal action your neighbour will undertake will be directed at your landlady. Similarly, any legal action you take should be directed at your landlady.

Normal modern building practise would be to lay down steel reinforcing and then pour concrete to form your floor/his ceiling, else use precast units. All the pipe work, electrical conduit etc. would go on top of this and be covered in a thin layer of concrete. Therefore access to the pipes from your neighbours ceiling would be extremely difficult, if not impossible…
I had almost the same problem with my last apartment, except the leak was in the kitchen wall. Had to turn off the water in the kitchen for several days to check if the leak was actually from my apartment side.
I agree with Hexuan, it’s an issue you should take up with your landlady, not the guy downstairs. If you’re pissed, think how he must feel…

Originally posted by SuperS54: I had almost the same problem with my last apartment, except the leak was in the kitchen wall. Had to turn off the water in the kitchen for several days to check if the leak was actually from my apartment side.

Wow, this must be more common than I thought. Same thing happened to me a few years ago. Turns out the leak was from our apartment (11th floor)and it was going straight to the 9th floor for some reason. But they discovered, after tearing out part of our kitchen wall, that they had to repair it from the apartment below us. Unfortunately, the tenant on the 10th floor wouldn’t give the construction company permission to enter his apt. We eneded up having to go without using the kitchen sink for a couple of weeks–until his landord threatened eviction if he didn’t let them in to repair the problem. From what I could understand, occupants are required to allow repairs to be made from their apartment if the problem is affecting other units.

The above poster mentioned “From what I could understand, occupants are required to allow repairs to be made from their apartment if the problem is affecting other units”. I agree 100%, but again this is the landlady’s problem.

For such extensive repairs, you are advised to negotiate to cancel the rental contract and move out. I find it unlikely that the Taiwanese landlady would put you up in a hotel for the duration. If the landlady won’t agree, you could file a request for arbitration with the local District Office (gung1 suo3).

Sorry, guys… but I had to chuckkle a bit reading your posts - painfully familiar. I had a similar problem with my downstairs neighbors, we were 5F/of five, they were 4F. When any problem occured, our standard operating procedure was to automatically call our landlord. As a tenant structural problem (not resluting from drunken excess) have nothing to do with you.

I agree with SuperS54 that there is probably some rebar sandwhiched in the middle of the concrete slab that forms your floor, and your neighbor’s ceiling. As you can imagine… any water- carrying pipes would be on your side of the rebar… in other words… your plumbing, under your floor. His plumbing, would be under his floor and would effect his downstairs neighbor. Its simple hydrodynamics (water seeks its own level - in a building, this is alway down) Your landlady, is talking the same shite that mine tried to talk in order to side step the issue. Two sets of pipes me arse!

Because of the rebar (a lattice matrix of iron bars, that add strength to the slab), and the difficulty of jack hammering from below, the only way to address the problem is from your apartment.

My impression is that many Taiwanese landlords try to avoid any major maintenence payments. They will try to hum and haw first, and need to be pushed before taking action. Chances are they bought the rental contract that you signed at 7-11 (yes, they do sell stock rental contracts), and some sort of limit of liability clause has been penned in, in Chinese - and you signed it.

Where does this leave you? Good question. I’ve never gotten to a truly nasty stage with a landlord. In the case of the water leaking in our place, the landlord dealt with our neighbors, and our neighbors’ handy son sorted the problem out without resorting to the dreaded jackhammer.

I think that this is a plumbing problem that your landlady needs to deal with. If she trys to dodge it, then you should have no more illusions about the kind of person you are renting from. Under Taiwanese law, I’m not sure what your “rights” are. These things are almost always settled informally, after the historonics, by good old fashioned neighborly negotiation. As part of the informal comprimise - which may involve compensation - you may have to grin and bear it as workmen come in and do their stuff.

If you are really willing to make a stink… you may well be entitled to some compensation yourself. If you do push for this, count on your landlord being extremely unresponsive the next time you have any problem in the apartment.

The reason that these kinds of problem is often sovled on the spot, by the two concerned parties, is that everyone knows that they are common, especially in older examples of Taiwan’s favorite architechtural form: concrete slab construction.

I sympathize greatly. Good luck. And here’s hoping that you don’t work at home - because when the jackhammers start, adding to the chorus of jackhammers in the neighborhood, home isn’t where you’re gonna wanna be.

Thanks for the replies, it has painted a clearer picture.

As the apartment building is new all the units are covered by a warranty (or something like that). This means that the builders of the apartment complex are responsible for any repairs.

In this case it is obvious that they intend to solve the problem.

I do understand how my neighbour must feel, if I was in his shoes I would be pissed too.

I would really prefer to stay in the apartment, it is in a great location for both my partner and I, it is brand new (very clean:-) and it is fuly furnished with brand new furniture. It took me a few months to find something this nice (in the right location), and I am reluctant to let it go.

I don’t have a problem with the builders coming in to fix the pipes. BUT…as they are liable for the repairs, are they also liable for my temporary accomodation expenses???

This problem is not only in Taiwan - It happened in every apartment that I owned or rented in OZ - I guess the contractors who come to fix the problem in Taiwan may not be as caring about your furnishings and continuing use of the apartment as they were in OZ

So what would I do? I live alone and have only one bathroom. How would the workers get access during the day while I am at the office and where do I shower in the meantime?

This seems to be a very “uncomfortable” position for both sides.