• Shirley Stamelman

The Leak From Above

Recently, I did the monthly check on an a client’s empty Jerusalem apartment. There were no obvious problems when I first walked in, and I expected it to be my regular spot check, of:

turning on the water to the apartment

opening the windows for fresh air

switching on the lights

checking the taps that the water flowed properly,

checking the walls for any damp

checking that the main electrical appliances were working

sorting the mail - throwing away any junk mail while organising the bills


However, as soon as I entered the first washroom I could smell a tinge of dampness in the air. I switched on the lights and I could see small pieces of plaster on the floor and toilet seat. I looked up and I could see a small damp patch on the ceiling.


I followed the damp trail round into the adjoining washroom. There, the damp patch was larger with bigger flakes of cracked plaster on the floor. In the adjacent corridor I could see bubbled plaster on the wall that crumbled on my touch. The trail led into the cupboard that housed the boiler.


On the boiler pipes were drops of water with a small puddle on the floor of the boiler cupboard.


My first action was to switch off the water supply to the apartment (It was obvious that the leak was not from this apartment as I had only just switched the water back on, nevertheless it was worthwhile doing). I then removed all items in the boiler cupboard, such as the vacuum cleaner, ironing board and step ladder etc, that could get damaged by the water. I also that they do not buckle from the damp. I also placed a bucket in the cupboard to catch as much as the water as possible.


I then had to assess where the leak was coming from. Since the water into the apartment had been turned off, it was obvious that the leak was from outside of the apartment. Additionally this was an internal wall, and the rain season had not yet begun so it was obvious that leak sprang from either the apartment above or an internal building pipe. Indeed, I reached to the pipe above the boiler as I as high I could, and felt the drops of water there.


While I was relieved that my client would not be responsible for repairs, in some ways it’s preferable when the problem is from within the apartment, as I can send in a workman immediately and fix the problem quickly.


It’s much more challenging when the leak is from an apartment above, or the building itself, as it’s one thing getting them to send in their own workmen, another thing getting them to agree to fix the leak and an even harder thing to get them to replaster the apartment below. But that’s what needed to be done.


I went up the stairs to the apartment above and knocked on the door. Fortunately they were in. They had no idea there was a problem. Unfortunately, they were just tenants renting the apartment and the owners lived abroad. The tenants were willing to give me the landlords contact details, and so I called them. I also alerted the Vaad Bayit about the problem.


I, or rather the landlord, was very lucky. Both the owner and the Vaad Bayit were very cooperative and agreed for me to send in my trusted plumber to assess where the damage was coming and for him to give a quote for fixing it.


This I did. It turned out that the leak was coming from an internal building pipe. I don’t know how plumbers fix these things, but he did. He had to wait another 3 weeks for the dampness to dry, scrape off the damp plaster and paint over it. I was there every time he came, opening the door for him and ensuring he completed the work satisfactorily.

When the landlord came a few weeks later he could not tell that there had been any damage (of course, I had informed him and sent him pictures of the damage immediately).


Had he not had a property manager, he would arrived to an apartment that had a strong and  unhealthy damp smell, washrooms covered in plaster, and a buckled cupboard that would need replacing. He would have spent erev yom tov trying to find workers to fix the problem, neighbours who were getting ready for yom tov and uncooperative about workers explore their apartment, as well as a Vaad Bayit that may not have been available. It might have ruined his family’s Yom Tov.


This was an example of cooperative neighbours, and mostly they are cooperative. However, I have to vivid examples of one neighbour who just didn’t care and another, who couldn’t afford to fix it.


I’ll write about how we overcame those problems in a future article.

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