Something’s not right here.

So, we haven’t been at the city apartment for a while, but we headed down late last night—dogs in tow, of course—and were greeted with this sight upon our arrival:

Yes, that’s right, the kitchen ceiling has been relocated to the kitchen floor. And on its way down, it decided to extinguish both pilot lights on the stove…so the entire apartment was filled with gas. Scary stuff. (This photo was taken after we’d opened the window.)

We opened the window and turned off the gas, but we can’t stay there until the gas clears and the ceiling is repaired. Even just being in there for a few minutes made me feel sick. I think the gas must have been pouring out for days, since this was clearly the result of rain damage to the ceiling coming in through the roof (our apartment is on the top floor), but everything was bone-dry.

After making numerous calls to the management company and our superintendent, we all got in the car and drove all the way back up to the house. We’re extremely lucky to have that as an option—I don’t know what we’d have done if this was our sole residence!

Let’s see how long it takes for the ceiling to get fixed, shall we? Things like this are exactly the reason why I prefer to be a homeowner. The lack of control you have as a renter can be frustrating—especially since I know they won’t actually fix the source of the leak…they’ll just patch the hole and move on. We could tell it had been “fixed” before we moved in, so this isn’t even a new problem. Argh!

UPDATE: The ceiling is FIXED! And the roof, too. Whaddya know?

72 comments
  1. NubbyAug 22, 20118:10 am

    How scary! I’m glad you didn’t wake up to that but had instead stopped in and were able to leave!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    ME TOO. I’m extra-glad that it didn’t happen with the dogs in the apartment and us away!!

  2. Jaime from Design MilkAug 22, 20118:11 am

    That is awful.

    [Reply]

  3. Dan @ Manhattan NestAug 22, 20118:16 am

    Oh man, Anna, sorry that happened!! Scary stuff. I’m CONSTANTLY worried about this happening in my place, too, as a top-floor resident with some mysterious water marks/peeling paint in places on the ceilings. You’re totally right, they just patch the wall and basically wait for it to rot and fall again.

    In the meantime, if you need a place to crash…door’s open!! On the condition that I get at least one dog per night to snuggle, you know, if they want.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Every apartment ceiling will leak at some point—top floor apartments are especially bad. You DO have renter’s insurance, right? And a list/photos of everything in your apartment?

    Alicia /

    Just a suggestion about documenting what you own for insurance — Making an iphone video is super easy and fun since you just have to walk around your apartment! :)

    Anna @ D16 /

    Is there any reason why a video is better than photos? It’s never crossed my mind to make a video!

    Alicia /

    It won’t let me reply back to your comment, Anna, but I love the video because it’s just 2 minutes long and that’s exactly how long I spent walking around. I bet it would have taken longer to take pictures and if I did it that way, instead of having one video file that if paused could create a still of any frame I want, I would have had the dozens of pictures I took of every angle of the apartment cluttering up my iphone photos folder, hehe. The movie is like a giant panorama, so nothing was ever just out of frame.

    It was the insurance company that recommended the video, actually!

  4. DeeAug 22, 20118:19 am

    Quite scary!
    I didn’t even know stoves with pilot lights existed, suppose that’s American? Isn’t that always a bit dangerous to have in your kitchen?
    With our stove you always have to switch on the gas first and then add a spark or flame so it can never happen that gas spills out.
    I hope it will be repaired soon!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Very cheap stoves with no electrical source (the stove is just connected to a gas line, there’s no power line) still have pilot lights here. It’s common to see in NYC apartments where they put the cheapest-possible appliances in. And yes, it always scares me!

  5. MonicaAug 22, 20119:54 am

    =:o Too many “what ifs” to think about. Glad all 4 of you are okay.

    [Reply]

  6. jodiAug 22, 201110:00 am

    yikes!!

    [Reply]

  7. Maggie@Okay, now what?Aug 22, 201110:08 am

    Oh no! That totally bites.

    [Reply]

  8. JillAug 22, 201110:25 am

    So sorry to see the ugly situation you’re dealing with — it’s the pits! A friend of mine dealt with this same caving-in ceiling situation for FOUR YEARS all over her apartment. It ruined her MacBook (and she’s a freelancer), it ruined her couch, it caused thousands of dollars of damage. On the plus side, it was a testament to the power of renter’s insurance since they replaced everything. It’s so cheap, yet so amazing when you have terrible problems with your apartment.

    Glad you guys are all okay, and fingers crossed for a more helpful super!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    I am a big advocate of renter’s insurance. With a single exception, EVERY apartment I’ve ever rented in NYC has had a leaky roof and/or ceiling at some point.

    What kills me is that you KNOW they’re not going to actually fix the roof.

  9. ShellyAug 22, 201110:25 am

    Oh no your pretty kitchen! Renting is the worst when you need something done quickly. I once had a hot water heater broken for a month! I was boiling water on the stove and adding it to a cold bath just so I could take a warm-ish bath.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Ugh, that sounds terrible! We had the same thing happen in our loft in Brooklyn, but we didn’t have a bathtub—so icy-cold showers it was!

  10. dabneyAug 22, 201110:42 am

    that’s pretty bad. if they are being blase´ send a letter to the management company – start putting it in writing. in my neck of the woods, that alone usually freaks landlords out. nyc landlords might be a tougher breed than most, but it’s a step towards documentation, should the problem escalate.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Yeah, we just had to send them a certified letter a few weeks ago about something totally unrelated. I’m looking into how long they legally have to repair the ceiling, because they’re telling us TWO WEEKS at this point.

    dabney /

    since it’s uninhabitable, the rent should be pro-rated for the month.

    Anna @ D16 /

    It’s not uninhabitable. The gas will have (hopefully) cleared by today, and the damage to the ceiling is confined to the kitchen. There’s nothing stopping us from living there while we wait for the repairs. NYC rent guidelines are pretty clear about this. I guess we could technically withhold 1/30th of the rent for a single night, but that seems a little crazy!

  11. AdamAug 22, 201110:50 am

    12 Years ago I was on a bottom floor apartment of a four apartment brick house with a kitchen below the upstairs apartment’s bathroom. One night while I was student teaching our kitchen ceiling collapsed due to an upstairs plumbing problem. Ceiling tiles and toilet water all over my kitchen and stove. Thankfully our pilot lights somehow stayed on. Terrible mess though. I’m so sorry this happened to you! I hope it gets fixed quicker than you think it will!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Were you living with me yet when the bathroom ceiling on Quarropas Street caved in?? That was a NIGHTMARE.

    Adam /

    I remember that bathroom on Quarropas leaking in a lot of places whenever it rained, but it didn’t cave in when I was there.

  12. NinaAug 22, 201111:06 am

    Oh no! Luckily you guys weren’t home when it happend.

    In our two last rental places we had problems with water coming through the ceiling and neither landlord was able to fix the problems permanently…

    The rain was really bad two Sundays ago that’s probably when it happend (?). Because we gotten a new roof in the spring we stayed dry on top that day but our basement flooded….

    [Reply]

  13. maddyAug 22, 201111:12 am

    EEK. So glad your doggies were not there when it happened. Scary. I also believe in renter’s insurance and always had it when renting. It would be nice if you got a real fix for the roof, but yeah…probably not.

    [Reply]

  14. HayleyAug 22, 201111:51 am

    That sucks! If they don’t fix the roof, maybe you could request a hood of some sort put over the stove. That way if it happens again it won’t extinguish the pilot lights. Cheers!

    [Reply]

  15. AngelicaAug 22, 201111:54 am

    Ooof! Sadly, I can relate. My greatest hit was when a construction worker’s leg actually came through my kitchen ceiling. Long story short, I have since moved. Unfortunately, my friends and I have quite the history of living in buildings here in Montreal where roof leaks are ignored, and ceilings are just patched and repatched. I hope for your sake (and, in an oblique way, for the building owners’ sake) that they decide to fix the roof once and for all!

    [Reply]

  16. AudrieAug 22, 201112:01 pm

    Wow that’s just terrible! Glad you guys weren’t there when it happened. I’d probably send them a stern letter to get things hopefully moving a little quicker. It boils my blood that your super is being so blah about it.

    [Reply]

  17. Ana @ Rearranged DesignAug 22, 201112:13 pm

    I had this happen to me. My culprit was the guy upstairs doing construction in his bathroom and a water leak. I noticed the bulging ceiling just in time to move our computer out of the way, as I was moving it the ceiling fell.

    Our landlord was quick about the repair.

    [Reply]

  18. kelly wAug 22, 201112:20 pm

    I am totally paranoid about gas appliances. SO SO SO glad nothing exploded and that you are all safe. xo

    [Reply]

  19. KathyAug 22, 20111:05 pm

    Ugh! Sorry Anna!

    [Reply]

  20. LAug 22, 20111:06 pm

    Count me in on the “so glad you weren’t standing at the stove!” crowd.

    And I’m a loud second to the motion about home ownership over renting — IF you have the $$$s to do repairs when they are needed.

    Wonder what the landlord would have done if the gas HAD blown part of his building to smithereens (with, of course, nobody injured)?

    [Reply]

  21. Marie @ M2JL STUDIOAug 22, 20111:07 pm

    Too scary for and the reason why avoid places with gas. Your landlord is lucky to have someone who takes such good care of the place. Shouldn’t that count for something?

    [Reply]

  22. novaAug 22, 20111:17 pm

    Whoa! Lucky you didn’t leave the dogs at home or something! That sucks!

    [Reply]

  23. Rebecca MellorAug 22, 20112:51 pm

    That must have been awful for you all – scary stuff with the gas too! So glad you’re all ok though and really hope it gets fixed soon!

    [Reply]

  24. elisabethAug 22, 20113:25 pm

    Re: disinterested super: how well is the building maintained in general? i know it is not your primary residence, but i might put up a fuss to get them to move faster to fix it. often works for me….but then again, i am a lawyer, which my super knows……

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    The building is pretty well maintained overall, but because the building is about 75% co-op (we rent from the mgmt company), it’s my suspicion that renters get shafted when it comes to repairs within the units.

    That said, the super DID finally come into the apartment this morning before we got back, and I think he was pretty shocked by how bad it was.

  25. RosaAug 22, 20113:42 pm

    This happened to my aunt in Washington Heights. She was in the bathroom, on the loo, when the ceiling crashed on her head. She had an issue with management to fix it for months and the lawsuit that ensued for damages to her. I hope it gets resolved very soon. Stay safe.

    [Reply]

  26. oh my goodness!! so glad to hear that you’re both ok, but how scary! seriously not ok that it wasn’t fixed fully, but just ‘covered up’. hope they will now consider fixing it for good. :)

    [Reply]

  27. MKHAug 22, 20114:33 pm

    I had a metal cover cut for my gas stove (probably any metal work shop could do the work), but it keeps the cats out/off the stove and I guess in your case would protect the pilot light if the leak should happen again. Just an idea? Sorry about the leak that really looks like a miserable job to clean up – so sorry!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    That’s a really good idea! I wonder if there might be something I can buy pre-fab that would be the right size. Thanks!!

  28. victoriaAug 22, 20114:37 pm

    oh man. this is bad. i am so sorry you are going through this! i have been mostly offline, and just now catching up. i do hope they realize the severity of the problem and get it cleaned up soon and properly!! big, huge hugs!! xoxo

    [Reply]

  29. CarolAug 22, 20114:46 pm

    I went through this once, sans the possible gas explosion. The apartment above me was being renovated and long story short, my bathroom ceiling came crashing down due to water damage. I rent from the management company but the contractors were hired by the owners so there was a lot of back and forth. The contractors fixed the ceiling the next day but not the actual root of the problem The management company was so unhelpful until I finally called the owner crying (ugh- the shame.) But that’s not what really helped get the job done- withholding your rent payments until the repair work is done is key. Not sure what the rules are in NY, but for me I just had to show proof of $$ in escrow and that set the fire under their butts.

    Good luck!! And glad you’re OK!

    [Reply]

  30. BrightAug 22, 20115:26 pm

    Oh my god. I’m getting renter’s insurance next month for sure. I’m so glad everyone was uninjured.

    [Reply]

  31. EricaAug 22, 20119:18 pm

    Good heavens — I’m so glad you’re all okay and that the whole place didn’t get blown to bits by the gas. How lucky that you went in when you did. Yikes.

    [Reply]

  32. IsabelleAug 23, 20114:18 am

    Oh, my goodness. Good that you were not present when it happened.

    Interesting the story of the pilot light; never seen such thing in any European country; and if you have a single standing appliance here in EU, they always come with a lid that you can close to hide burners etc. and which serves as a splashing back while cooking. Just that 99% of people have build in appliances nowadays, and then you don’t have any lid.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    I think it’s mostly a NYC apartment thing, these crappy stoves with continuously-lit pilot lights! The stove at our house has closed burners and an electric starter, so something like this could never happen there.

  33. ElizaAug 23, 20116:21 am

    UGH. so frustrating. gooooooood luck!

    [Reply]

  34. Mrs BokAug 23, 20116:40 am

    Arch you poor thing! So lucky nothing happened…candles anyone?! Eek!!

    Insist they fix it and mention health hazard and news radio perhaps!!

    Glad you’re ok x

    [Reply]

  35. AnnapolitanAug 23, 20116:54 am

    How scary to read there was the strong smell of gas! To think there could have been an explosion and fire, possibly triggered by switching on the lights — it makes me queasy just to think about it. So glad to know you’re all safe, Anna.

    [Reply]

  36. jbhatAug 23, 20111:57 pm

    Terrifying / frustrating. But what I am astonished at is how cute your kitchen is still managing to look, even under all the rubble. The workers who come to do the “patch” will have such a pleasant environment during their job. : )

    jbhat

    [Reply]

    Gracie /

    yeah me too, ha ha

  37. MandiAug 23, 20116:45 pm

    Oh my! What a mess! I hope it gets fixed soon enough. I know what you mean about frustrations with being a renter. I lived in my brother’s home for two years, and we gutted it from top to bottom. Now I’m in my own apartment, and am so blessed to have a live-in manager who keeps on top of my every need. Such a rarity. Anyways, good luck to you two!

    [Reply]

  38. borkAug 23, 201110:39 pm

    Read your renters’ insurance policies very carefully, everyone, especially if you are renting a second place like Anna is. Many (most?) such policies include provisions that the place cannot be left unoccupied for very long. In some policies the trigger is one week! Make sure to get housesitters or at least house-checker-uppers.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Not that this isn’t good advice, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with the situation in my apartment. It’s not my property that was damaged, it’s the building owner’s—my renters insurance doesn’t even come into the picture at all. (Not to mention that we’ve never left for more than a few days at a stretch.) Just clarifying.

  39. KelleeAug 24, 20118:54 am

    Oh no, Anna, how awful. Hope it gets sorted quickly :)

    [Reply]

  40. Alexis L., The StudioistAug 24, 201112:42 pm

    Oh that’s some spectacular mess.
    Glad no one was hurt.
    My indignation would have been positively boundless.

    [Reply]

  41. BunAug 24, 20112:24 pm

    OMG that’s scary! Good luck w/ the cleanup and repairs!

    xoxo bun.

    [Reply]

  42. KristinaAug 24, 201111:12 pm

    We had the exact same problem with a rental a couple of years ago — but with a bigger hole over the bed. Like in your case, it was an existing leak the landlord knew about. I’d called several times to report it was getting worse and had just left the room to get the camera to document how bad the cracks were when the whole thing came down on the bed.

    No one returned my call that weekend, and it took FOUR MONTHS (technically inhabitable, no proration) for them to repair the damage, which resulted in permanent sinus problems. But they did ultimately fix the leak that caused the damage.

    But it was the rat infestation that finally drove us out.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Oh good grief. :(

  43. GracieAug 25, 20115:16 pm

    Oh and yes beginning to see the downsides of renting too!

    [Reply]

  44. TuxAug 26, 20114:29 pm

    Are you doing anything to prepare the kitchen for Irene? Im assuming (and hoping) that the repair hasn’t been done yet, but with the rain they’re predicting for us here in NYC I bet the damage is just going to get that much worse. You should at least get any valuables out of the kitchen and turn the gas off completely if you haven’t already. If you just re-lit the pilot I’m sure it’ll be going out again…
    Ugh.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Yeah, we’ve had the gas completely shut off this whole time. Trying to think happy thoughts!

  45. KellyAug 26, 20118:03 pm

    DK is my ALL TIME FAVORITE!

    [Reply]

  46. AyanaAug 29, 20111:54 am

    Oh, my goodness..that is awful. I hope it will be repaired soon! Good luck Anna!!

    [Reply]

  47. RebeccaNYCAug 29, 201111:56 am

    Just catching up with my blog reading, and this post really caught my eye! The very first time I went to Europe about 10 years ago, I spent 6 weeks there. I had left my apartment SPOTLESS with clean everything for my return. When I entered my apartment I was greeted by the worst mold smell imaginable. The entire bathroom ceiling had collapsed on the floor and water was still dripping. Everything was a sodden disgusting mess. I have photos just like yours, only add my suitcase into the photo because I took pictures to add to the end of my vacation album. I continued to have problems with that leak until I moved out last year. I just moved down the hall, so I was able to give a heads up to the new tenant. sheesh. apartment living makes for some good stories.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    OMG, that sounds terrible!!! Yikes!!

  48. jjaSep 5, 20113:24 am

    Thats why I will never move in an apartmen with a gas (have two cats and they stay in there during I trevel, the catsiterr comes every day) and thats why I love german laws, it would get fixed as soon as possible.

    [Reply]

  49. Patricia AnnSep 12, 20117:49 pm

    I’m really curious, but forgot to ask you, what typeface are you using for the captions on the photos (i.e, “OH NOES”).

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    It’s Brandon Grotesque.

    Patricia Ann /

    Thanks!

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