By Robert Lamoureux, Signal Contributing Writer
Neighbor’s issues causes leaks
I live in a townhouse and have just experienced a leak from the unit above, and the damage is quite extensive.
I’ve heard of horror stories before, where people have experienced this and ended up not getting reimbursed for the full amount of damages, through insurance. Can you give me a sort of step-by-step guide on what the proper steps are that I can take, to ensure I am not sitting in that same situation through this? Thank you for all of your help through The Signal, we read your column weekly.
— Sam P.
First things first, take a ton of photos. You can never have too many, and I’d take video, as well. You need not only close-ups of the damaged areas but you need broad view pictures in order to show perspective and also to show what is installed in your home prior to damages.
This will help with documenting any personal items that may have been damaged also, it doesn’t hurt to have these in your records. Dealing with insurance companies can be a nightmare so the more well-armed you are, the more smoothly things will go. I’d log everything; dates, times and people you’ve spoken with and what was told to you, for your reference through the process.
Definitely work closely with your property manager, as they’ll be the contact and hiring vendors for the necessary work. Above all, be sure that proper drying out of your unit happens, and that the leak source is determined and repaired. Mold spores only need 72 hours to develop, so drying out is imperative, immediately.
Once the affected areas are proven dry with a moisture meter, you can relax and work your way to getting things repaired. The more you can make yourself or someone available for access to your unit during the repair process, the faster this is likely to go. We often deal with access issues which greatly lengthen completion time. We can only work as quickly as we are able to get into any unit. Feel free to reach out with any further questions, and good luck to you.
Value of permits
I live in Canyon Country and read your article religiously. I wish I had listened to some of your advice, because we came home from vacation to find that our entire living room, family room, dining room and small bedroom downstairs had completely flooded. The water made its way out the back door, which was unfortunate because out the front perhaps a neighbor may have seen it. We don’t know how long the water sat, but we had remediation people here and we have the biggest mess on our hands.
Ultimately, it was our water heater that went bad and my husband being handy, changed this himself. He is of the mindset that because we are the owners doing the work, we are exempt from getting permits for this change. Are we bound by law to get permits even though we are the property owners?
— Gina P.
Absolutely you are required to permit such a thing. I’ve said it 100 times and I’ll keep saying it: The city is there for safety. The reason permits are required is because they go hand-in-hand with inspections, ensuring that work is done properly and safely ensuring the safety and well-being of all concerned.
A water heater deals with gas — meaning it’s a potentially explosive situation in an earthquake if the installation isn’t done properly — so a water heater needs to be properly strapped. In the event of an earthquake, you don’t want to budge, which could cause gas lines to become disconnected. Ventilation is also an important safety factor.
The inspector is there to verify that all concerns are tended to, not only for your sake, but for those around you also. A water heater explosion can cause catastrophic damage for quite a distance. So yes, Gina, call the city and get them out to inspect this work, for everyone’s sake.
Hope the advice helps and remember: the city is there for safety.
Robert Lamoureux has 38 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Email questions to Robert at