United States: The Creston Avenue Bathtub Brouhaha

Who has the time and energy to fight about a leaking bathtub? Some people apparently do. In a recent case, a residential apartment tenant (acting without an attorney) prosecuted claims against his landlord for tub-related building code violations relating to the stability of the bathtub and the containing walls in the upstairs apartment.

To resolve the dispute, a Civil Court Judge, his Court Attorney and three Court Officers went to the apartment, a third floor walk-up on Creston Avenue, to conduct an inspection.

They were met by the managing agent. The Court Officers inspected the apartment and then the Judge and the Court Attorney entered. The apartment had a large vestibule on the left and long hallway just past the front door. Behind the third door to the left was the bathroom. The tub was immediately to the left. The bathtub ran along the left wall of the bathroom with its foot against the hallway wall and its head abutting a floor to ceiling wall.

The inspection began with the Judge entering the room and walking to the head of the tub. Kneeling, the Judge looked at the seal where the tub met the floor. Cracks were apparent running parallel to the length of the tub in a sealant that appeared to be made of cement or a cement like substance where the tub met the floor. Standing, the Judge then viewed the tub and noticed that there were brownish stains at the bottom center of the tub that appeared to be rust and that there was standing water in the tub. The Judge saw that the rest of the tub was dry including the shower curtain. The Judge suspected that, if the tub was properly pitched or positioned, there would be no standing water.

The tenant claimed that the tub was not stable. So the Judge placed his right foot into the tub at the head of the tub just past the faucet. The tub seemed stable at that point and no additional water gathered. However, as the Judge moved towards the foot of the tub a significant bounce developed and progressively increased. And a squeaking sound became audible and increased as the Judge moved his foot closer to the foot of the tub. Finally, in the left rear corner of the tub an area of dirt or grime and water was present. As the Judge moved to the rear of the tub water leaked in and out from that corner with the application of greater and lesser pressure from the Judge's footfall.

The Judge found that the tub was not properly placed and affixed in the bathroom. The pitch of the tub was such that it caused water to gather in the center of the tub instead of draining. The last row of tiles along the longest wall lining the tub between the foot and the head of the tub were cut on an angle that created a graded steepness and were not uniformly rectangular as to match the rest. Finally, the placement of the tub along with the other supporting elements in the bathroom caused water to gather upon pressure and release from an area of the tub that should have been sealed where the tub met the wall.

The Judge found that several of the violations were not contested. And an Order was entered directing the landlord to correct those violations.

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