Ceiling Leaks: What Can I Do?
The issue of ceiling leaks dragging on for months and even years without being resolved due to uncooperative neighbours has been in the news recently, with Minister of National Development Khaw Boon Wan calling for more power to be given to the Housing Development Board (HDB) to enter flats to carry out repairs.
So what can you do if you are suffering from a ceiling leak? The situation differs depending on where you are staying.
For HDB flats, the responsibility for maintaining the flats and fixing the leakages falls on both the upper and lower floor flats. After informing HDB and/or Town Council, HDB will usually assist in the investigations to determine the source of the leak and to ensure that repairs needed are made.
In the case of ceiling leakage between the upper and lower floor flats, under the lease, the upper and lower floor flat owners are jointly responsible for the repair of the party structure (the floor slab between the flats). This is according to the HDB Residents’ Handbook. A contractor should be jointly engaged for repairs and the costs should be split 50-50.
For those staying on the topmost floor of the flat, as the leakage is from the roof of the block, and as the roof is part of the common property maintained by the Town Council, you should contact the Town Council in your area for repairs.
HDB also has a Goodwill Repair Assistance scheme to render assistance to HDB flat owners referred by the Grassroots Advisers of their estates. HDB will co-pay 50% of the repair cost, with the remainder cost split between the 2 flat owners (i.e., the upper and lower flat owners). Each flat owner will thus only have to pay 25% each for the repair costs, subject to a maximum of $300 per repair location. For rental flats, however, HDB will bear the full cost of the repair.
In the case of uncooperative neighbours, grassroots leaders may be involved to mediate when needed. As a last resort, HDB will initiate legal action.
It may take a few months for the situation to be resolved, allowing for investigations and repairs to be made and the complexity of the problem, and longer depending on how cooperative the flat owners are.
Private Non-Landed Estates
In the case of ceiling leakage for private non-landed estates, the relevant law is governed by the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act, which is administered by the Strata Titles Board.
According to the Act, the upper floor is presumed liable for the leakage and thus the repairs unless he can prove to the contrary. Thus, the upper and lower floor flats are required to jointly carry out an investigation to determine the cause of the leak and proceed with repairs. You should also involve your condominium’s Management Corporation when necessary.
If an amicable resolution is not able to be achieved, the flat owner can make an application to the Strata Titles Board to resolve the problem.
The STB is a tribunal, which will fairly evaluate the situation based on the evidence and mediate between the parties.
There is an application fee of $500 which covers two mediation sessions and hearings conducted by industry experts. You may apply for the $500 fee to be paid by the other party (i.e., the respondent) in your application, by making a claim against the respondent for the reimbursement of the fee.
After hearing both parties, the STB will make an order which is enforceable in the State Courts, including whether the respondent is to reimburse the fees.
This article is contributed by Denise Ee, a student at NUS School of Law.
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