Q I've had a long existing leak in my full bathroom since the owners above me have moved in. It so happens that the owner's son runs a bath for as long as two hours at a time, blasting the water full force. Over time, this has caused damage to the pipes and I've had recurrent leaks in the bathroom ceiling. An extensive plumping job was done two years ago to replace the broken and deteriorated pipes. However, the beginnings of yet another leak have surfaced on the ceiling as well as in cracks on the wall. I was told that there is nothing they can do to prevent my neighbors upstairs from taking a two hour bath or a 24-hour bath, for that matter. Is there anything I can do? Is there a way to put a limit on how long they use the water?
—Wet & Wild in Wildwood
A “The answer to this is largely dependent upon the applicable proprietary lease and bylaws,” says attorney David Byrne of the law firm of Stark & Stark, based in Lawrenceville. “Without having those available to review, nothing other than a general answer can be given. In general, a shareholder has an individual right to enforce the terms of the proprietary lease against both the co-op and the offending shareholder. Further, the actions and/or inactions of a neighboring shareholder, and the consequences thereof, could rise to such a level as to constitute a breach of the co-op’s warranty of habitability. A co-op provides to each shareholder a warranty of habitability and in turn, may have a duty to do more to control the habits of neighboring shareholders, or be forced to provide an abatement to the suffering shareholder. That suffering shareholder could claim an abatement either via affirmative suit against the co-op, or as a defense to any action brought against him by the co-op once the shareholder begins to withhold payment of maintenance fees in the face of the leak.”