Taiwanese water torture

My wife and I are unfortunate in that the people living in the apartment above ours are immature, irresponsible, noisy, and stupid. (I’ll spare everyone off-topic examples and get to the point.)

There is some sort of water leak upstairs, apparently in more than one place. This is a problem in several senses:
[ul][li]mold is growing in spots on our kitchen ceiling, disfiguring our apartment and doing God knows what to the strength of the concrete;[/li]
[li]problem 1 results in bits of paint and mold falling off onto utensils, etc.;[/li]
[li]the cement blocks, etc, above the false ceiling in the bathrooms are covered with white mold;[/li]
[li]I suspect there’s also mold on our bedroom wall near the ceiling, but we can’t see it because there’s a false ceiling in there with no opening;[/li]
[li]My wife and I can hear the maddening drop, drop, drop of water late at night when we need to sleep;[/li]
[li]I can’t help but think “Amoy Gardens.”[/li][/ul]
I can’t see the leaking spots, but it’s obvious they exist.

The people upstairs have been unwilling to do anything about the situation, despite repeated and increasingly irate entreaties. They also avoid communcation with us and the rest of the people in the building. They don’t usually answer their door buzzer or even telephone. (Perhaps they know it’s us.) They have been uncommunicative about what might be causing the problem and deny that they or their apartment could have anything to do with it. They don’t want to let plumbers examine their apartment. And they claim to have no money to do anything.

We own our apartment, so just moving isn’t really that much of an option. The people upstairs own their apartment, so complaining to their landlord isn’t an option.

As much as baseball bats and gangsters might fit into my revenge fantasies, I want to keep things legal.

They are loud people who tend to stay up much later than we do, so they could easily respond to anything we do by dropping things on their floor above us even more than they already do. But this water damage (and noise!) is not something that can be allowed to continue forever.

Since they live on the top floor, revenge possibilities for me could include basketball practice above them during their sleep hours; but they could easily respond in kind. They also have an illegal structure on the roof (empty and uninhabited); it was built to help prevent their roof from leaking. They certainly wouldn’t like it if that were to be torn down by the authorities.

I want to avoid an all-out war with those jerks. It does, however, seem time to at least bring in the law. But which office that I could complain to might give me the best chance of results? (The building is in Taipei County.) Or might something else work better?


If there are obvious leaks in your ceiling resulting in cracks and discoloration of your ceiling, then it sounds like leaky pipes, which can be handled simply by paying a contractor to crack open your ceiling and find the offending pipe. Leaky pipes get more expensive to fix, the longer you let them go, because of all the collateral damage they can cause. Your first step should be to bring in a professional contractor to look at the problem. He can tell you if you even need to access the upstairs apartment. Chances are you don’t.

If Taiwanese real estate law is modeled on anything like US law, keep reading. You’re probably living in a condominium building. Do you pay monthly common charges to the building maintenance company? Not just for common charges to cover the salary of the doorman, but also charges that cover building repairs and upkeep. Do you have a separate heat and water bill? Or perhaps that is paid through the common charges as well? The common areas are mutually owned as common property and managed by a building management company. You are responsible for the interior walls and floor/ceiling of your own unit. In the US, this would be an issue to be resolved by contacting the building management, since it sounds like it involves leaky pipes in the walls/floors in between units. They’re also more likely to get cooperation from your neighbors in their role as an objective mediator. And the great thing is the building management may even pay for the repairs. So that professional contractor may be brought in and hired by the management company. Since you’re a foreigner, knowing most Taiwanese people I would certainly think they’d be friendly enough to refer you to someone to fix it, if it turns out it’s not their responsibility to fix it.

In this event, and if cooperation from your neighbors is important, and the building management won’t intercede, then…personally I would send a large Taiwanese man to entreat the neighbors to cooperate speaking Mandarin/Taiwanese. Maybe a police or army person and ask them to show up in uniform, just for the officiality of it all. If the neighbors simply have no desire to cooperate even after all that, you could try a more aggressive Western tactic of drafting an official document stating your intention to bill them for water damage with a big dollar figure blah blah blah and that the repairs will be extremely costly because you cannot get access from above. That’s what I’d do. Even if it’s totally bogus legally and unlikely to be enforceable, you might get their attention better that way. And if that doesn’t work, maybe you just need to lay down a few bucks for a lawyer to analyze your legal rights.

Definitely do not get into a war of subtle insults (your basketball practice example) with a Taiwanese person, or any other person for that matter. For your own sake, it probably would backfire anyway once they start responding with something equally annoying to you. Plus it makes it that much harder for the other party to give in; once a war of subtle insults starts, even more “face” is on the line and neither party will be willing to back down. And it’s tiring as hell. Voice of experience speaking here.

But start by bringing in that contractor. You might not even need to look in their apartment, chances are it’s a leaky pipe that you can access through your own ceiling. And the building might even pay for the repairs!

Taipei city has a “jianguanchu” building department, if there’s a corresponding office in Taipei county that might be a good place to inquire.

I know a good lawyer in Banchiao through my wife’s family, if you want his number PM me.

My building is unusual in that it has only one flat on each of its five floors. There is no organized building management – not that I know anything about, at least. So there’s no building overseer to complain to and no company to pay for repairs. The only building maintenance that’s done collectively is cleaning the water tank every year; and that’s something one of the people downstairs arranges. All the people living in the building get along fine with each other – except for the jerks on the top floor. FWIW, this is a relatively new building; it’s only about seven years old.

I suspect it’s more than just leaky pipes, because my wife and I have occasionally seen water streaming down our bathroom wall. But we’ll start with having a contractor look at our place.

If that can’t solve the problem, we may need to try the jianguanchu daltongang mentioned. And then perhaps a lawyer.

This problem has left me feeling both agitated and depressed. Thanks for the responses; I appreciate them.

Your situation is not uncommon for a small building. There are small condominium buildings here in the US and they often are “managed” by one of unit owners (your downstairs neighbor). Perhaps you should discuss this problem with that neighbor.

Eventually, there are common problems that are bound to occur. Plumbing, exterior walls, roof replacement, etc. These are expenses that your building will eventually have to incur as it ages. The easiest way to solve this is to institute monthly common charges. It’s easier to ensure collection if you spread it out over time. A condominium building usually has a board, in your case there will be 5 seats. The board then authorizes hiring a management company (which for a small building is probably unnecessary) and paying for repairs out of common charges that have been collected. Not sure what legal standing such a board might have in Taiwan, you’ll have to do research on that. This really sounds more like neighborhood activism that you need to do, calling a meeting of the unit owners to discuss how you will pay for and solve repairs to common areas as they are needed. Your upstairs neighbor stands to benefit from this; the roof is common property (unless Taiwanese law is different on this matter and it is included as part of his unit) and the building should pay to replace it every certain number of years, depending on the type of roof.

A little while ago my wife called upstairs to let them know that we were having someone come look at the situation in our apartment and that the contractor might need to have a look upstairs as well, so we needed to know a convenient time for them. She was entirely polite and non-accusatory.

The psycho asshole upstairs, however, responded by yelling rude things at my wife. Really yelling. I could hear him from here in my computer room.

I am a mild-mannered person when it comes to most things, and I’ll usually put up with a lot before saying anything. But this is not cool. My wife convinced me not to follow my impulses for now, which would be to go upstairs and have it out with that guy one way or another.

Some outside advice on the right thing for me to do – from the Taiwanese perspective, and perhaps from other perspectives as well – would be appreciated.

Cranky, you said the other tenants/owners are all reasonable people, didn’t you? You need to get them on your side. I’d suggest you or your wife get one or two of them up to see “how much worse the water damage has got in just a few days, it seems to be spreading downwards even faster than before. If we can’t get those guys upstairs to be reasonable soon, the water’s going to be damaging YOUR place too.”

Maybe, faced with a united front, they’ll back down a bit, and its not too confrontational, I don’t think. I really feel for you – what a bunch of 'tards.

Remind me to stop off tonight at Mr. Chang’s next door and thank him for being such a nice bloke.

Sounds like time to call a lawyer, CL. Sorry you’re having so much trouble.

Get a lawyer.

Reminds me of the old adage:

The monkeys at the top of the tree look down and see smiling faces.
The monkeys at the bottom look up and see nothing but assholes.

Hello Cranky,

Sorry, but I can’t offer any great advice.

It sounds as if this is one of those things that will just drag on and wear you down. Perhaps contacting a lawyer is a good way to get started.

Also, I agree with the person who recommended getting the other neighbors on your side. Perhaps you have already built up a good realationship with them in the past few (five ?) years you have lived in the building. If so, now is the time to call on those relationships–or to start building some up.

Best of luck solving this problem. Please keep us posted.

An update:

My wife and I decided to be “more Taiwanese” about it. So my mother-in-law called the father of the guy upstairs to let him know something of the situation and to have the father pass along the news that on Sunday morning (today) we’d have a plumber come. The father promised to relay the information and that his son would allow us in.

Of course the problem wasn’t on our end, though the plumber was able to do some things from our apartment to improve the situation. So we went upstairs. But the people above us refused to answer their door. So the plumber was going to go home.

At this point I went to the roof and jumped as loudly and heavily as I could. My mother-in-law tried to get me to stop immediately. But I told her, “If they’re not home, then it’s no problem for me to be jumping here.” Then I put on my sweetest smile and jumped a little more.

Sure enough, pretty soon the guy on the fifth floor emerged from his apartment. He once again denied even the possibility that anything could possibly be wrong in his apartment. The plumber replied, politely, “I’m a plumber; I know what I’m talking about. I may only need to make a few minor adjustments.”

But psycho guy had to yell and deny everything some more, barely pausing for breath. So it was hard to get the message across that he probably wouldn’t have to pay for anything, because my wife and I just wanted the damn problem fixed, that’s all.

After about half an hour of this he agreed to let the plumber have a look.

After paying for a couple of hours of adjustments and caulking, mainly to an apartment not my own, I am several thousand NT poorer. But I am a happier man, because for the first time in months the quiet of the night is not broken by amazingly loud sound of the quick dripping of water. I’ve moved the loudly ticking clocks away from the headboard of my bed and top of my chest of drawers in the hope that I will no longer need their sound to help drown out the torturous drip-drip-drip from upstairs.

The apartment upstairs still has plumbing problems, which the people on the fifth floor promised to fix (yeah, right). But the plumber says that at least now their remaining problems will be theirs alone and not mine and my wife’s as well.

I’m too much of a pessimist to think this is really over now. But at least there’s been progress.

Wow, that’s fantastic that you got it fixed. This guy sounds like a real jerk. Were you watching the plumber as he was working? I’m just curious where the leaks were coming from. How can they still have plumbing problems that won’t affect you? Not sure if the plumber explained exactly what was happening, but I’d love to know.

I met you at the forumosa get together at the Q Bar.

The idea of you jumping on someone’s roof gave me a good chuckle and was highly amusing.

Do you think he’ll try to get revenge?


The plumber spoke Taiwanese, so I didn’t understand much of what he was explaining about the problems. (Not that my Mandarin vocabulary really covers plumbing matters either.)

As I feared, not everything was fixed. I can sometimes hear the same dripping noise; but now it’s occasional rather than pretty much constant. So this needs work. But there’s a new problem in that sometimes there’s now a visible dripping of water from a pipe above my bathroom’s false ceiling. One drop every 20 seconds or so, but only sometimes, not constantly. I’m guessing that the plumber didn’t seal something properly. He’s coming back sometime soon, very soon. Perhaps he’ll need to do more work upstairs, in which case I’ll probably have to practice my leap and stomp technique some more. :smiling_imp:

No revenge that I’ve noticed from the people upstairs. But it’s not like they had to pay anything. My wife did mention during last week’s standoff that if we so desired, their illegal rooftop building would be torn down, resulting in considerable costs to them (in fixing their own roof from leaking). So maybe that gave them pause.