Recommendations / advice - water leak rental property

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Submitted by skerzz on June 1, 2019 - 5:05pm

Hello,

Need some advice and/recommendations for some local help with my rental property in San Marcos. Tenant called yesterday stating that my upstairs toilet was flushed when clogged and overflowed. Apparently the toilet was only flushed once (my guess 1 gallon spill ) and all the water leaked below the floor because “the toilet isn’t caulked” (I find this hard to believe); but either way, the water leaked through the floor and into the ceiling below and made satins and leaked through one of the recessed lights. What type of contractor should I call to inspect and remediate or refer the proper professional? I’m not in the area, so referrals of recommended contractors that are fair/reasonable and do good work would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

Submitted by flu on June 1, 2019 - 10:37pm.

is this a house? Or is it a condo and your condo flooded the unit downstairs?

Submitted by skerzz on June 1, 2019 - 11:44pm.

This is a single family residence (two story). Struggling to understand how one flush would have done this; might have to fly out myself to check things out.

Submitted by flu on June 2, 2019 - 7:02am.

skerzz wrote:
This is a single family residence (two story). Struggling to understand how one flush would have done this; might have to fly out myself to check things out.

it happened to me once. my tank for clogged and when it flushed , water ended up overflowing out and went underneath the baseboard on the sides and started dripping down the ceiling downstairs. If it's just your own house, personally I wouldn't worry about it so long as it was really just a one time one flush event. If on the other hand , the toilet was clogged and the fill valve was broken and caused water to overflow for several hours, then it's a bigger problem. The official way to address this is to go through your insurance who will help you get a "water mitigation/restoration company". I missed Servepro and Emergency Restoration Services before. Basically what these companies do is charge a lot to come to your house , cut open the drywall if necessary, stick blower heaters to dry out the inside of your drywall, spray an anti-mold solution (which is really just bleach ). You then need to find a drywall person to patch up and paint. The restoration company can do it, but they always charge a fortune and subcontract it out. Anyway, it isn't cheap so you will want to run this through insurance....However again, if this is a SFH and it was only.one flush , you can probably just ignore what happened since the water probably has already dried .. To remove any water stains on the ceiling, mix 50/50 bleach and water into a paint tray and roll the bleach solution gently over the ceiling a few times. If that doesn't work, finding s handyman to paint the sealing.

If this was a condo and you damaged the downstairs unit, I wouldn't just ignore it.. I would get your insurance to get a water restoration company to dry out the ceiling of the owner downstairs. you will want official proof that water mitigation was done on their property correctly so you don't get sued if mold ends up being a problem in the downstairs unit

Submitted by skerzz on June 2, 2019 - 9:33am.

Thank you, Flu. Great information / insight.

Submitted by flu on June 2, 2019 - 10:02am.

Sure. I don't know why my phone autocorrected and said "missed" Servepro, etc. But i meant to say, I used Servepro, etc

Ask your tenant to take some pictures and you can PM them to me and I can give you an opinion.

The more important question is why is the toilet clogged? One of my tenants thought it was a good idea to throw feminine hygiene products down the toilet. My plumber dug it out....At the end of the year I deducted the $400 bill from their deposit when they finally moved out..I didn't tell them until they moved out, alone with the $175 for the garbage disposal that they broke too, but I did keep a copy of the receipt and a record of it..... You might want to get a plumber to check it out your toilet. Dont mention about who pays cost now to your tenant... #1 priority is protection of your property from additional possible damage at this point. and a scheduled non emergency plumber is a lot cheaper than an emergency one. I have a guy that I trust that is licensed and pretty inexpensive. PM me of you want his contact.

Submitted by gzz on June 2, 2019 - 10:40am.

Flu, I’ve heard making a claim on homeowners policy raises your rates a ton for a long time, so don’t do it unless it is a major issue.

Submitted by spdrun on June 2, 2019 - 10:47am.

If it's a plumber you need, I've had good luck with Pro-Drain Plumbing.

Submitted by outtamojo on June 2, 2019 - 4:41pm.

Has anyone tried tile baseboards with a tiled bathroom floor to contain toilet leaks?

Submitted by flu on June 2, 2019 - 5:29pm.

gzz wrote:
Flu, I’ve heard making a claim on homeowners policy raises your rates a ton for a long time, so don’t do it unless it is a major issue.

It really depends on the insurance provider how they handle water claims.One of my insurance companies have a 2 strike rule such that if have more than 2 water claims on the same property within a 2 year period, you can get dropped completely.. But, other than that, your rates won't go up... I have another insurance company that wont raise rates for 3 claims within 4 years. And I have had insurance companies that will drop you if you have more than 3 claims within 2 years across all your properties you own. So it varies by a lot. If you have concerns, you should talk to your insurance agent to get to the exact bottom of things... Also, you should have an agent that works with different carriers that can write you a new policy at a different company if you need it... My agent works for Allstate, BUT he also writes contracts with 4 other carriers...And I've switched between them every so often just to take advantage of each of the variations of their policies and because sometimes one carrier premiums end up being less than the other.

In general, you should try to avoid a water claim unless you really have moderate damage because you want to save the water claims for the situations that you really do need it. Anytime you need to bring in an official water mitigation company, it's going to cost a lot of money because they need to cut the drywall, they will need to get an asbestos inspection clearance (new law in CA even if your home is built after 1980), they will need to run heaters, etc. Even for a small 1/1 condo, I have never seen a mitigation company charge less than $1500 for a tiny water mitgation work....So anytime the water mitigation company needs to be involved, you are better off running it through insurance because chances are your deductible is lower than the cost of water mitigation + restoration (drywall, retexturing, repainting)

The situation when you want a water mitigation company to come by is when (1) your water damage is moderate to severe or (2) you caused water damage to someone else's property, no matter how small you *think* it was and (3) someone else causes water damage to you, no matter how small they insist and think it was.

#2 and #3 really only applies to condos and townhomes with shared walls/ceilings...We will get back to those later.

In the OP's case above, the property is completely his, what matters mainly is how extensive the water overflow was. a one time flush overflow, as annoying as it is, probably isn't going to create a mold issue in a San Diego home. We don't live in a humid area, it's pretty warm during the summer, and we are close to the summer. Homes are built such that there is an amount of breezing room between walls, ceiling and joints to tolerate some moisture, and most of the overflow water from 1 flush has already drained out.. the only thing left is probably some staining on the ceiling. So these are easy fixes that a handyman can do, which the tenant should pay for (you find a trust worthy handyman, and stick the tenant with the bill, not the other way around)... The tenant is full of shit saying the floors are not caulked. No amount of sealant or caulking is going to prevent an overflow of a toilet from upstairs to the downstairs ceiling, and basically, the tenant screwed up if the toilet was backed up... End of story... OP should find a plumber to check the toilet isn't backed up again, to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Now on to case #2 and #3 when a townhome/condo is involved.....

If your condo/townhome was damaged by someone else's property, you should insist on getting that person's insurance, and you should insist on hiring a water mitigation service.. The reason is simple... You shouldn't take chances on if there is mold, and especially for attached homes, if one unit is growing mold, if could eventually affect everyone else's. And save yourself the hassle and get the person's insurance, assuming they have insurance, and don't let them talk you into settling this out of pocket.. Why? Because they won't agree to the costs of a proper water mitigation service, afterall they are trying to save money by not going through insurance, and you should not shortcut your water mitigation/restoration to make things convenient and cost less for them....Run it through their insurance...When you talk to their insurance company, they will try to do everything possible to get out of paying you. They will try to make a distinction between whether the owner (or his tenant) was negligent or whether the water damage was due to normal wear and tear.... Why? Because insurance companies will say a water leak from normal wear and tear is "normal" and hence the owner isn't liable and refuse to pay you.. Versus, the owner was "negligent" (didn't keep up with maintenance, tenant threw tampons down the toilet), then the insurance will have no choice but to cover for owner's negligence... Yes, I know, did I tell you how much I hate insurance companies? It gets better. Insurance companies will do their best to deny the claim and tell you if you aren't happy, just have your insurance company pay for things and subrogate the claim...Well, here's the rub... Remember what I said about the 2 strike rule that sometimes your insurance might drop you if you have more than 2 water claims on a property within a year? Yup, that can include subrogated claims that wasn't even your fault... That's why whenever the other owner was clearly at fault, I never subrogate my claim....I always deal with the other guy's insurance directly. And boy can it be a bitch to deal with....

There was this owner upstairs, and his water heater leaked and flooded my condo downstairs, and the ceiling drywall sagged and fell off. He originally wanted to pay out of pocket, and I was like fine. Servepro wanted $3000 to dry everything out and cut out the drywall, it was another $1500 for drywall with my guy, carpets needed to be shampooed and aired out, and so the guy was looking at $5500 roughly....He balked and tried to convince me to use his unlicensed people to do everything for like $1000... I said hell no.... Why? Because if you are selling your place later, you will need to disclose of any water damage within X number of years....If it was major, the buyer (like me) will want proof that a water mitigation/dryout was properly done by a reputable company. If you don't have proof, that's a red flag... Caving in and letting the guy upstairs hire is $1500 undocumented/unlicensed worker to do everything for cheap will give me a headache when it's time to sell.
So, in the end, I insisted on running it through his insurance...And his insurance tried to snowball me and deny my claim as a "routine maintenance item"... I ended up threatening to sue the owner in court for $15k, including not only the cost of the repairs, but all the time off from work I had to take to deal with insurance...(Since I'm an exempt employee, I can't take 1/2 day vacations. So every 1-2 hours time away from work, I just asked for 1 day of PTO from my boss to deal with it)...I called the owner and tried to explain ahead of time that I was going to sue him not because I wanted to do, but because his insurance refused to pay me, and only if I sued him, will his insurance actually have to take me seriously because if he lost in court, the insurance would still have to pay me... It rattled and pissed of the owner, and I'm sorry that he didn't understand it wasn't that I had any issues with him. But that's what it takes for some insurance company to deal with you fairly... In the end, I had a stack of proof that the owner was "negligent" in that he didn't maintain the water heater, didn't ensure the water heater properly drained, didn't use a licensed contractor to install the water heater, didn't get a proper permit for the water heater, and that if we went to court, not only would I be seeking damages to my property, but also loss of use from my tenant, loss wages, transportation costs...oh and I would be calling the city to reinspect the owner's water heater installation to make sure everything was up to the latest building code since he didn't have a permit for the new water heater he just put in for cheap..including the water heater overflow tank that all new installations must have according to the latest building code....all of which your insured and you would have to deal with who pays what, not my problem.... Insurance ended up calling me back and asked me to send a line item of reimbursement costs. I sent them a $15,500 bill including my wages.. Insurance settled with me a little over $14k.... All because they weren't willing to pay me the original $5500 I asked to be reimbursed for originally.... go figure..

That brings me to the last point... If you are the one that causes water damage to someone else...You want to go through your insurance to handle their claim to however they want because you don't want to be liable for anything later... You want a release of liability claim from the owner you damaged.....AND if you are already going through insurance to pay for damages to someone else's unit, you might as well run damages to your own unit through insurance anyway, since a water claim is a water claim, regardless of whether the insurance had to pay only the other guy's damages, only your damages, or both....

Submitted by flu on June 2, 2019 - 5:06pm.

Oh as a followup, you can also use some of these learnings to help you deal with your next water damage caused by someone else, if they aren't cooperating with you...

For example, that owner that caused water damage to my unit below had another plumbing leak 7 months later. It wasn't a big deal, but I wanted to use my guys to handle the leak and everything... He again, wanted to be cheap and find his unlicensed plumber, unlicensed handyman, to repair his plumbing and patch my walls and ceiling...

I said hell no. Even though it's your plumbing, those pipes run aobve me. I insisted him using a licensed/bonded plumber just so if the work was shoddy and it leaked again, there was some accountability.... or use my guy who is licensed/bonded who is cheaper than average. The guy tried to weasle his way out again by going the cheapest route again....

This is where I dropped the hammer and said.. Ok fine, if you aren't going to do the repairs they way I want, I want your insurance so I can run everything through your insurance company again......Oh by the way, since this is your second claim within a few months, your insurance carrier might end up dropping you and you might have a lot of trouble getting re-insured with TWO water loss claims on the same property in less than a year...If you don't believe me, you can call your insurance to see how they handle more than one water loss claim on the same property within the same year.....

The owner called back and said, just send me the bill of whomever you want to use, and I'll Venmo you back.... He never gave me problems again....

Submitted by flu on June 2, 2019 - 5:24pm.

outtamojo wrote:
Has anyone tried tile baseboards with a tiled bathroom floor to contain toilet leaks?

Instead of the water leaking right away downstairs, it will end up flowing into the hall or another room upstairs...where it could then flow downstairs. It seems like that would cause even more damage.

Don't think this will work... unless in your lavatory, the toilet sits below all 4 sides.

Submitted by outtamojo on June 2, 2019 - 5:40pm.

The way I see it,a leak that large is gonna flow out anyway- small to medium leaks perhaps no damage at all. All guesses I admit- wondering if anyone has actually done it.

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