What to Do When Your Upstairs Neighbor Has Flooded Your Apartment

Living in an apartment has its fair share of pros and cons. 

You’re way more flexible and can move easily, apartment blocks are typically closer to downtowns and urban areas, and you’re likely to meet more people, making apartments a great option for young professionals.

However, being in close proximity to many other people and neighbors has some cons too. Usually, it’s the noise, but sometimes the issues can be more substantial.

Like water damage, for instance.

If you’ve experienced flooding from the upstairs apartment, this post is perfect for you. You’ll learn how to minimize the damage, how to have your losses covered, and the best ways to conclude the situation.

Let’s dive straight in!

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upstairs flood

What Caused the Flood from Upstairs

Okay, first, let’s quickly go over some of the most likely causes of flooding that reached your apartment from upstairs.

Plumbing Problems

Plumbing problems, whether from your neighbor’s apartment directly or the building’s plumbing system, are a very common cause of flooding in apartment buildings.

The flood may have even originated from your apartment’s plumbing, which is why you want to make sure that’s not the case before reaching out to your neighbor and HOA.

Depending on factors such as building age, design, and local building codes, different apartment buildings have different types of plumbing:

  1. Single-Stack System: In older buildings, you might find a single-stack system where all waste and soil pipes are combined into a single vertical stack.
  2. Two-Pipe System: This system separates wastewater and rainwater. One set of pipes handles waste from sinks and toilets, while another set deals with rainwater and drainage.
  3. One-Pipe System: Similar to a single-stack system, a one-pipe system combines all waste and soil pipes into a single horizontal pipe. It’s commonly used in smaller buildings.
  4. Ventilation Systems: Buildings may have various venting configurations, such as individual vents for each unit or a common venting system shared among multiple units.
  5. Manifold System: In new, modern construction, a manifold plumbing system is quite common. It involves a central distribution point (manifold) that supplies water to individual fixtures.
  6. Recirculating System: Some apartment buildings use recirculating systems to reduce wasting water. This involves circulating hot water continuously through the building.
  7. Stack System: High-rise buildings often employ a stack system where vertical stacks serve different purposes, such as waste, venting, and rainwater drainage.

It helps to be familiar with the type of plumbing your building has so that you can detect the type of issue you’re dealing with more easily.

What type of problems are we talking?

  • Pipe leaks
  • Frozen pipe bursts during wintertime
  • Clogged drains that cause overflows
  • Toilet and sewage backups
  • Rusted or corroded pipes, which usually lead to dirty, contaminated water
  • Problems with the backflow prevention system

As you can tell, some of these are specific to one apartment unit, while for others, the HOA could be blamed. Again, this depends on where the damage is coming from and what type of plumbing system your building employs.

Appliance Leaks

Especially if the appliance is located in a bathroom, which is usually stacked right on top of yours, your neighbor’s appliance leak could sip into your apartment.

This includes dishwasher and water heater damage. 

You may also have a case where a neighbor has problems with their refrigerator’s water line, which then leaked and reached your place.

These appliance leaks typically sip into your apartment through the floors and ceilings.

Roofing Leaks

Roofing leaks in apartment buildings are usually on the HOA, unless you live in a detached condo with its own roof.

These leaks are the result of wear and tear as much as they are caused by winter and storm damage. These issues can damage roofing components and cause cracks, allowing for water infiltration during rain and snow. 

Ceiling stains and dripping, bathroom fan leaks, kitchen extractor fan leaks, HVAC leaks, and such problems “from the above” all indicate a roofing leak.

But it’s important to note that each of these may also not be the result of a roofing leak but rather a completely different issue.

HVAC Leaks

We also have a situation when it’s the neighbor’s HVAC system that’s causing problems.

HVAC units produce condensation as a natural byproduct of their usage, and this water is usually drained away. 

If there are issues with the condensate drain, excess water might leak into surrounding apartments. This ties our story to the plumbing and pipe problems we’ve gone over before.

Also, if the HVAC system is not installed correctly or if there are issues with the seals around the unit, water may escape and seep into other units in the building.

There are a ton more potential causes of water damage. These were just some of the more common ones in apartment buildings, specifically.

Now, let’s go over some actionable steps to take during a flood.

What to Do Right After an Upstairs Flood

Here are the steps you should take RIGHT AWAY. If you’ve got a flood from upstairs, you need to ack quick to minimize your losses.

Save as Much as You Can

The first step would obviously be to try to stop the water. Be careful about this if the water is dirty; in that case, it’s recommended to stay away. The same goes if the water has reached parts of your electrical system.

Remove porous items out of the water’s way. This includes carpets, upholstery, clothing, and other items.

Call Your Landlord

If you’re renting, call your landlord and have them come by.

Your landlord needs to be notified right away about any damage, especially if it’s not your fault as a renter. More about this later.

Talk to Your Neighbor

Go upstairs, knock on door, and explain the situation.

Do not be a jerk or show that you’re angry, as you’ll only add unnecessary tension to the situation.

Your neighbor is likely also aware of the leak. If not, you need to let them know.

Sometimes, you might need to work out the cause of the damage together with your neighbor.

Have a Personal Record of the Damage

If you can’t stop or minimize the damage in any way, we recommend spending your time gathering evidence.

Take as many photos and in-depth videos of the damage as possible. This evidence will help you in case there are any disputes.

You want to do everything you can to prove that it was indeed not your fault. This evidence will help you deal with everyone – your landlord, insurance company, and HOA.

Notify Your HOA

As we’ve touched upon earlier, your HOA is to be responsible for your building’s problems – the shared roof’s leaks, plumbing problems, and others. 

So, reach out to them and request their insurance policy. 

Contact Your Insurance Company

If you’ve got renter’s insurance, you should immediately reach out to them and see if you can get coverage for your water damage.

Don’t rely with 100% certainty on your landlord or HOA. There can be instances where things might not be going the way they should, and we’ll touch on the legal implications later.

Nevertheless, contact your agent and look into your policy. Insurance companies are very specific when it comes to water damage, as some types of damage are covered while others are not.

And then there are some types of water damage, like flooding from natural disasters, that require separate policies.

Call a Restoration Company

When involving insurance, it’s usually advisable to call a restoration professional. If you can get coverage, the costs of restoration will be billed to the insurance company, and many restoration businesses will help negotiate that coverage on your behalf.

Restoration professionals will work on your damage much more quickly and efficiently than you would on your own, as they have trained technicians and commercial restoration equipment you’d have to buy or rent if you were to dry out the damage on your own.

Get a Professional Water Damage Restoration Quote Nationwide!

As soon as you call the number below, you’ll be connected with a professional restoration company in your area. Free, with no advertising or commitment.

Different Responsibilities and Legal Considerations

If things do not go the way they should:

  • Your water damage is actually only specific to your apartment, and your landlord won’t fix the damage
  • Your neighbor doesn’t care about the situation
  • Your HOA is not taking the necessary action to repair the building’s damaged properties

You may want to consider taking legal action. Now, this is ONLY if you’re NOT personally responsible for the water damage in your apartment. 

Your landlord is typically responsible for the following types of damage:

  • Plumbing system
  • Appliances in the apartment
  • HVAC unit
  • Toilet and sewage problems
  • Bathtub overflows

But here’s the kicker. If the damage was caused by your negligence while using these items, it’s YOU who are responsible, not the landlord.

On the other hand, your HOA is obliged to take care of:

  • The exterior of the building, including the roof, siding, and entryways.
  • Shared spaces like hallways, lobbies, staircases, and elevators
  • The building’s foundation, load-bearing walls, and other essential components
  • The building’s plumbing system, like the ones we’ve examined before
  • Parking lots, garages, and your building’s garden

If the damage resulted from the lack of maintenance on some of these, then they should be help responsible. 

Now, if the landlord is not playing ball, there are laws that protect you and that you can look into.

When it comes to HOA, you should review their governing documents, including the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) and bylaws, to see what to do if things go south. Most HOAs have a dispute resolution process outlined in their governing documents.

And then there are neighbor disputes, also called nuisance disputes. We all want to believe that we can solve every problem through normal communication, but that might not be true all the time.

Real estate attorneys are typically dealing with these types of disputes, while a personal injury attorney may also be involved if their negligence resulted in physical harm to you or anyone else living in your apartment.


That’s all for today. This was yet another massive article with a lot of information to digest. Hopefully, you came across some useful tips.

Aside from that, we recommend that you continue to educate yourself on water damage prevention measures you can take to safeguard your apartment and avoid these types of experiences in the future.

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