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  1. #1
    Judd Mealey's Avatar
    Judd Mealey Guest

    Default My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    Hello-

    I live in a studio apartment in San Francisco that was built somewhere in the 1930's. The ceiling is made of mesh/plaster. Two years ago, a ceiling in my building collapsed. Within the past year, I noticed a crack in my ceiling and it was starting to sag. When I alerted the building manager, he sent over a building maintenance company to look at the problem and they concluded that the portion of sagging ceiling needed to be removed and replaced.

    When they arrived a few days later to do the work, I asked if I should remove any of my belongings. They said that I didn't need to, and they just moved the furniture that was directly under the sagging part of the ceiling.

    Two workers then started smashing into the ceiling. I could hear chunks of ceiling slamming to the floor. A few minutes later, I heard a huge crash and walked into the room to find that the entire ceiling had come down in one piece. Everything underneath was damaged.

    When I asked for compensation from my landlord, he said that the maintenance crew was using "standard methods" and that the collapse was "unforeseen and undetectable" and they were not negligent in any manner.

    Am I wrong to assume that if you are working on 75 year old mesh/plaster ceiling in a building with a history of ceiling collapse, you would take the precaution to remove all property from under the ceiling being worked on?

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Judd Mealey

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
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    Rolla, MO
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    126

    Default Re: My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    It would be typical for the landlord and maintenance company to carry General Liability insurance to cover this. I would document as much as you can including pictures, dates, names, damages estimates, replacement costs, etc. I would place your landlord on notice by submitting a certified letter stating the problem and your request for compensation for the damages. If you have renter's insurance talk to them they may also want to wade in on this issue with your landlord. I would also state in your letter a reasonable timeline for a response before you turn this over to your attorney. Good Luck

    Randy Mayo, P.E.
    Residential Engineering & Inspection Services
    http://www.rlmengineers.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Columbus GA
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    Default Re: My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    Hello Judd
    The LL is responsible for the repairs.
    The LL is also responsible for the people that were hired to do the repairs.

    Were you given the pamphlet "Renovate Right", before work began?

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  4. #4
    Judd Mealey's Avatar
    Judd Mealey Guest

    Default Re: My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    Hello Judd
    The LL is responsible for the repairs.
    The LL is also responsible for the people that were hired to do the repairs.

    Were you given the pamphlet "Renovate Right", before work began?
    No. What is that?


  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Ormond Beach, Florida
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    Default Re: My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    First call I would suggest would be to the management company to ask how they plan on dealing with the damages, including your personal belongings.

    Depending on their response, and if their response was effectively no response, then the second call I would suggest would be to an attorney.

    BUT FIRST ... take more photos, document as much as you can from as many angles as you can. You will want those photo regardless who handles this, whether it be the landlord or the attorney.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  6. #6
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    Default Re: My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    Take lots of pictures, right down everything you remember about the day the workers should up, who, how many, what they looked like, tools, time they were in the room, their responses to you about removing stuff, etc.
    Call the landlord, be nice, be firm, let him know he has two options, do the right thing and pay for your stuff or deal with your attorney and the city inspectors.
    That ceiling did not come down like that because of what the workers were doing, it came down because it was defective. Since they supposedly knew it was defective they should have taken precautions to not only safeguard your belongings but their own health. An easy, simple, fairly common precaution would have been to bring the drywall jack with, throw a piece of plywood onto the jack and run it up against the ceiling.
    Call an attorney.

    www.aic-chicago.com
    773/844-4AIC
    "The Code is not a ceiling to reach but a floor to work up from"

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    Default Re: My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    Quote Originally Posted by Judd Mealey View Post
    No. What is that?
    He is referring to Health and Safety information required to be shared with occupants of rental residential properties warning about lead exposure and other exposure (asbestos, etc.?) when rennovation, maintenance, or repair takes place in pre-1973(?) properties. IIRC California has even stricter requirements. When you leased there would have been at least a HUD (US Housing and Urban Development) pamphlet about Lead given to you and a receipt signed. Something similar joint HUD/EPA before the instant project, California or San.Fran. may require more.

    I'd start with the city and work/identify up the chain. Some building/occupancy official needs to document this condition and determine the habitability of your rental residence and the safety/occupancy status of the remainder, P.D.Q.

    Determine if workers were direct employees of the LL or contractors/subcontractors. Appears in the photo two individuals are wearing disposable coveralls and masks. Were you?

    Bright side, apparently you and no one else was in the area where the falling ceiling eventually landed.

    Contact your rental insurance agent immediately.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Plano, Texas
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    Default Re: My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    Assuming you have renter's insurance, make a claim through them and let them worry about who ultimately pays. You will have a check quickly to cover your losses rather than waiting to get the contractors or LL to pay next year when it goes to court.
    If you don't have applicable insurance, get a lawyer.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  9. #9
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    Hm

    Do you have any idea how much lead and or asbestos you were breathing in while standing there on this 75 year old ceiling????????????????????????

    I would think the LL would be hot on this clean up and repair as well as an health code concerns there are.

    Just the breathing in of plaster dust over extended periods of time even if it is a short time can and probably will have lasting effects on you and especially anyone that already has breathing problems.

    The entire apartment , or did you say home, should be thoroughly cleaned by a professional clean up company for such events.

    Attack, attack, attack is what I say and then attack some more.

    Also...the standard method of repairing a ceiling is not smashing into it with hammers. Where did they think the ceiling was going to go with such methods. Now if the ceiling was in an empty building it may be a different story but not in an occupied building with ceiling below in a building with a history of ceiling collapse.

    This has been some time but I am going to recommend you take further steps with one I do not like at all....An attorney. Free consultation.


  10. #10
    Ron Bibler's Avatar
    Ron Bibler Guest

    Default Re: My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    Hm

    Do you have any idea how much lead and or asbestos you were breathing in while standing there on this 75 year old ceiling????????????????????????

    I would think the LL would be hot on this clean up and repair as well as an health code concerns there are.

    Just the breathing in of plaster dust over extended periods of time even if it is a short time can and probably will have lasting effects on you and especially anyone that already has breathing problems.

    The entire apartment , or did you say home, should be thoroughly cleaned by a professional clean up company for such events.

    Attack, attack, attack is what I say and then attack some more.

    Also...the standard method of repairing a ceiling is not smashing into it with hammers. Where did they think the ceiling was going to go with such methods. Now if the ceiling was in an empty building it may be a different story but not in an occupied building with ceiling below in a building with a history of ceiling collapse.

    This has been some time but I am going to recommend you take further steps with one I do not like at all....An attorney. Free consultation.
    You should check for rat feces and urine this can be very bad for your health. do you see any little black tirds take photos. you have been breathing there dust... Do a google search on this subject...


    Best

    Ron


  11. #11
    Philip's Avatar
    Philip Guest

    Default Re: My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    The real villain in all of this is the original builder or plasterer. Look at the spacing of the lath. That is cutting cost for sure. Lath boards should be spaced no more than one-half inch, but the well built homes are usually one-quarter inch spacing. Then again, it did last seventy-five years. The repair men were probably expecting the original plaster to be lathed correctly, they got caught by the old 'assume'. If the landlord was smart they would be addressing this issue in every unit.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip View Post
    The real villain in all of this is the original builder or plasterer. Look at the spacing of the lath. That is cutting cost for sure. Lath boards should be spaced no more than one-half inch, but the well built homes are usually one-quarter inch spacing. Then again, it did last seventy-five years. The repair men were probably expecting the original plaster to be lathed correctly, they got caught by the old 'assume'. If the landlord was smart they would be addressing this issue in every unit.
    Speaking of "the old'assume'" Philip, and your "Lath boards" statements, apparently you are unfamiliar with other forms/types of lath for plaster.


  13. #13
    Philip's Avatar
    Philip Guest

    Default Re: My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    Speaking of "the old'assume'" Philip, and your "Lath boards" statements, apparently you are unfamiliar with other forms/types of lath for plaster.
    You could be right, but I have gone into the walls of a couple of seventy plus year old homes and that is how I found the lath. Plaster is heavy, but then again these houses did not have mesh. So, I am going to assume that tighter lath works better than mesh and lath, and I will leave it at that.


  14. #14
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip View Post
    You could be right, but I have gone into the walls of a couple of seventy plus year old homes and that is how I found the lath. Plaster is heavy, but then again these houses did not have mesh. So, I am going to assume that tighter lath works better than mesh and lath, and I will leave it at that.
    That is not wood lath that you see. That is the joists above. The lath is metal lath and the spacing is pretty typical.

    Wood lath on a wall or ceiling would be a 1/4 to a 1/2 max spacing.

    This is a metal mesh like you would have on the sidewall of the exterior of homes but a bit stiffer. All the way into the fifties they used metal lath in bathrooms behind the tile. That was always hell to smash off the wall when renovating. usually it was a smash it off the wall from behind with also a wrecking bar prying it off from in the bathroom.


  15. #15
    Philip's Avatar
    Philip Guest

    Default Re: My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    Why did it collapse. Evidently the metal lath was not secured properly to the joists. Either way, if this was the second ceiling to fall I would suggest the landlord spend some money before someone is seriously injured.


  16. #16
    Join Date
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    Default Re: My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    Judd,

    I would suggest you consider keeping a diary/log of all calls, communications in- or out-bound, and getting a housing inspector from the Authority, over there right away to determine and declare (memorialization, citation, posting) the unit's uninhabitable status. The change in events may require your performing certain notifications in a particular manner to preserve your rights. Seek guidance on this.

    You should download this booklet from your DCA, it might offer you some general "information" to consider, in the interim while you explore your concerns and options. It further suggests consulting resources regarding your rights (advocacy organizations, etc.).

    Additionally SF has rental ordinances and others. See especially the "Dealing with Problems" section.

    Here is a clickable direct link to the pdf file: http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/l...atenant.pdfHTH.

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 08-17-2010 at 09:04 AM.

  17. #17
    Elliot Franson's Avatar
    Elliot Franson Guest

    Default Re: My ceiling collapsed! Please help!

    Mr. Mealey:

    All of the previous recommendations are well-intentioned. The best of those is to call an attorney - now. Then commence to document the entire incident in excruciating detail. There are many health risk factors involved, such as lead paint, asbestos, et al. Have you called that attorney yet? What are you waiting for?


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