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I live in an old building that was originally a single family residence but long ago was converted into four units. The unit below mine has flooded probably 10 times in the last year. Our landlord is pretty unhelpful in most cases. A few times ago he came out and looked at the hot water heater and had it replaced. the hot water heater is in a small closet with a door to outside and walls shared with the flooding unit and the garage.

The time after that I went and looked in the hot water heater closet and the floor was wet but the hot water heater and the basin it sat in were dry. The water was coming from the wall between the water heater and the flooding unit. The last two times it has flooded a plumber was actually called. The plumber has said both times that the unit floods when we, on the floor above, clog our kitchen sink. I thought that was a major design flaw for our sink on the second floor clogging to flood her apartment but we got a new sink drain trap and have been very careful about food falling in the drain since then. That didn't stop the last time it flooded when we hadn't used the sink the whole day.

Today I woke early to take a shower and while the shower was heating up I got a text message from the tenant below that their unit was flooding again! Now I can't take a shower without flooding her apartment. I'm afraid the landlord will do nothing about this. The plumber has been called out twice in the span of a month and has done nothing but tell us not to put food down our sink. We told them the last time that it was not a problem with food going down our sink. Is there anything we can do to get the landlord to actually fix this plumbing issue?

Residence is in California.

  • Yikes! for both the plumbing and the one long paragraph. You will get more readers if you break this wall of text into shorter paragraphs. (I tried to break it into four, but this site does not allow short edits. Since the rest of your writing is good enough to not to need editing, I couldn't be bothered. So the ball is in your court.) – Just a guy Nov 21 at 14:32
  • Great constructive comment. I was a bit stressed out when writing this after helping my neighbor pull all of her stuff out of her unit. – Sdarb Nov 21 at 15:14
  • Glad to help. This is much better. Since landlord/tenant law depends on state & local law, it might help if you tell us what state (and even what city) you live in. (FWIW, I'd make the last sentence its own paragraph.) – Just a guy Nov 21 at 16:42
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What rights you have under landlord tenant law depends on where you live. Since SF has its own twist on landlord-tenant law, be sure you take local ordinances into account. A quick web search shows the SF Tenant Union has a Habitability and Repairs web page. That page gives a summary of relevant CA and SF law. They also give some practical advice about what steps to take. I'd start there.

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Under California law, the landlord is legally responsible for repairing defects that make a unit uninhabitable. There are three remedies available (to the person getting flooded): repair-and-deduct (tenant fixes it and deducts the expense, up to a month's rent), abandon the unit (move immediately), or withhold rent (see §1942). All of these scenarios presuppose that the problem is not due to your negligence (the landlord's position), see §1941.2. You must have given reasonable notice of the problem, which by default is "wait 30 days" (unless you can prove that the matter is more urgent). It you cannot persuade the landlord to fix the problem, hiring a lawyer would be the wisest course of action (the lawyer may remind the landlord of his legal obligations and the downstairs tenant's remedies). Bear in mind that you are (apparently) not the one with the flooding problem, so it's up to that tenant to decide.

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