August 29, 2022: Another entry from the #whydidntyouwarnme desk
This summer we had historic levels of rainfall in the St. Louis metro area which have resulted in a lot of heartbreaking damage and costly repairs for many people. My husband owns a house and I own one house and one condo. We were fortunate to escape the ravages of water damage on our three properties until last week – and it wasn’t from any natural disaster.
I own a condo at 1544 High School Drive in Brentwood Forest Condominiums, of Brentwood, Missouri. It’s a long story how I came to own this, which I’ll get into later. I lived there as my full time residence from November of 2004 until August of 2018 when I got married to Tom Winkelmann.
Since our marriage, we have used the condo to store some of our extra stuff while I have used it on occasion as a crash pad and a studio for art and writing when I need some quiet time away to get some creative work done. Until recently Tom had a cat who liked to pee on everything so I avoided moving things over there like my favorite furniture, pillows, and blankets until he was gone. The cat Leo was ancient when we got married and he passed away this summer. Eventually I plan to rehab the condo and get it ready to rent out. Over the last four years I’ve encountered a number of obstacles which have made it hard to get this done (if anyone wants to know more about these obstacles I’ll get into that but it’s not critical to know for this first section). This is going to turn out to be one of those blog posts I’m going to keep adding onto as I go through an unexpected problem caused by a water leak from the condo above mine, 1542 High School Drive owned by William and Laurel Mahon of St. Charles, Missouri. My unit is on the first floor of a two-story building.
Last Monday (August 22, 2022) I entered the condo to do some cleaning and moving to get ready for rehabbing. I broke my foot last year and was grieving over the loss of my uncle and the suicide death of my brother which happened at this time last year. I haven’t really been able to function close to normally until a couple of weeks ago. When I walked by the closet where the water heater is, I stepped in water. I opened the closet door to see if it was leaking, and saw that that the inside of the closet was full of mold and when I looked up I saw the ceiling of the closet was moldy, and the ceiling near the closet spreading into the living room and the room I use as an office was also moldy. Part of the wall on the outside of the closet had mold. So did part of the kitchen ceiling and the pantry. The last time I’d been at the condo was about two weeks before that and none of that mold was there then.
My water heater was brand new as of 2017, and it seemed unlikely to me that it would have leaked and leaked into the ceiling above it even if it did. I asked my Dad to come over and diagnose the problem. Was the leak from my level or upstairs? He diagnosed the leak as being from upstairs, and later that week he met with the son of the owner of the unit above me to show him the damage and let him know that there was likely going to be a claim made on his insurance for the damage to my unit.
My Dad told me he was under the impression that the son was going to try to deny responsibility, even though he had a plumber to his unit to shut off the leak upstairs, which had apparently originated with the air conditioning unit in 1542. The leak not only caused the mold growth, but ruined my water heater, which will have to be replaced. I’m sure the upstairs owners would rather my insurance pay it than theirs. But since the leak was upstairs, their insurance should pay. I will keep a log here on this blog of what happens because I’m probably going to have to explain this several times, perhaps in court if it comes to that, and it’s easier to just have it written out and documented as it happens. I will add photos and updates as I go.
My Dad met with the plumber hired by the owners of 1542 along with the property manager of Brentwood Forest this morning, August 29, 2022. The plumber confirmed that my water heater was ruined because the box with the electronics was completely flooded. The property manager appeared to be there not to help me, the victim, but to blame the presence of mold on two aquariums that I have near the damaged area. Those aquariums have been there since 2005. They don’t leak and until last week I didn’t have mold in any of those spots. I don’t understand why the property manager wants to railroad me. Whatever the reason, I will not let myself be financially abused for damage I didn’t cause.
Instead of helping the wronged party, me, with the giant inconvenience and time suck this is going to be, the property manager was more interested in threatening to have the city condemn my unit for having mold in it. If I ever want to sell my condo, I’m not really doing myself any favors by telling anecdotes about what the condo association here is like. But I care more about warning people, and I’m sure there are other places on the web where you can read similar accounts. If you must live here, rent, don’t own. And don’t make a long commitment.
You can read some of the reviews of the Brentwood Forest Condominium Association on Yelp. I’ll likely be adding mine soon.
So here is my warning to people who own units in Brentwood Forest. If your unit is on a lower floor, before you go out of town, or leave the condo for awhile, such as on vacation or for the winter or whatever, take pictures or video of your ceilings to show they are clear of damage. Then if you get back and find a problem, it will be harder to pin the damage on you. Even though they admit the leak started upstairs, and common sense says water doesn’t flow upwards, it appears I’m going to have to fight for fair treatment. So there is a bit of advice to help you avoid a similar situation.
Stay tuned! I hope this doesn’t get as ugly as it looks like it might. But if it does, you’ll get the news here as it happens.
I usually don’t have back pain, but I have it today just from the emotional stress, so after I shut this laptop down I’m going to go swim in the excellent Brentwood Forest pool – probably the main reason I haven’t sold this place yet.
I’m going to be keeping a time log each day it’s applicable of how much time I’ve spent cleaning this up and managing and mitigating the repairs.
Time spent as of 08/30/22: 33 minutes
I sent the following email to Kent Allen, the BFCA general manager:
“I just want to let you know that as I make repairs on my condo, I’m going to be keeping track off all the expenses and time involved. I’m on the bottom level, and the water originated above me. That makes me the wronged party in this case. Since I’m the one who received the leaking water into my unit, I’m going to have to remove a lot of stuff so the walls can be fixed. This is going to be a lot of time for me, and the people upstairs are going to be charged for it. I’m going to be documenting all my time and expenses.
If you try to make things harder for me by making me spend extra time and extra fees to get this work done, say by trying to get the County to condemn my unit because of damage they caused, the extra time and expenses it’s going to take to reverse that will be charged to the insurance of the people in 1542, not me. So I hope you don’t try to hurt me that way because it will just end up hurting them in the end.
I’m not eager to cost the people upstairs more than is necessary because until now I have had no problems with them. They offered to pay for a leak from the bathroom up above mine before, but since I’ve been planning to rehab that whole bathroom anyway I told them not to worry about it. If they try to say the new damage is actually old, they are going to get a very different response. There is damage in several spots that came from above. I know what came from above and what did not. I have let the minor damage go in the past, because I’ve been planning to rehab and repaint everything, and it wouldn’t matter. But this damage is a lot more serious and it does matter. So please don’t hurt them by trying to hurt me.
Thank you for your time.”
Response from Kent.
“I’m not calling anyone. “
My expense tally so far:
08/24/22 – 64 OZ Air Dehumidifier Q=2 21.69
08/31/22 – 42 OZ Damprid Refill 4.86
1PT Concern Neem Oil 16.31
35 PT Dehumidifier 246.26
Time spent as of 09/09/22: 142 minutes
Photos and videos of damage visible in this online album:
Here are is a photo and some videos that help show the mold did not come from my aquariums as your clients claim. I’ve had these aquariums since 2005. I never had mold around them until after 08/08/22.
A photo from 2010:
Some videos from 2012 showing aquariums and rooms where some of the damage is:
Those aquariums had been there for 7 years at that point with no sign of mold. I think if you take all the evidence together you can see that the idea that the mold just happened to come from my aquariums at the time when they admit that water was coming in from upstairs is not credible and is an attempt at fraud.
Time spent as of 09/12/22: 180 minutes