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Q&A: Drip, Drip

A simple window air conditioning unit seen from the outside on a brick urban residential building

Q. I have outdoor space that is accessed by a door from my unit and with steps leading down to an outdoor patio and garden. There are two floors above where the unit owners or occupants have window air conditioners that drip onto my steps and a section of my outdoor space, making it annoying to walk down or up the steps.

Who is responsible for diverting the water so that it does not disturb use of the steps and patio?

                                                 —All Wet

A. “The writer refers to the ‘unit owners or occupants’ living above the writer’s apartment, indicating that the apartment is located in a condominium building,” says attorney Jeffrey Reich with the New York City law firm of Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas. “In such a case, both the unit owners whose units are dripping onto the back steps and the condominium board of managers have some responsibility for addressing the air conditioning–related issue. 

“While it would be necessary to review the condominium bylaws to determine exactly what they provide with respect to nuisance behavior, most condominium bylaws prohibit a resident from doing or allowing to be done anything that would unreasonably annoy another resident of the building or unreasonably interfere with another resident’s use or enjoyment of their unit. 

“As such, if the amount and/or frequency of the dripping is such that it is unreasonably interfering with the writer’s use of the yard, it would likely be a violation of the terms of the condominium bylaws. Because the enforcement of the terms of the bylaws are an obligation of a condominium board of managers, in a situation where the leaking was unreasonably interfering with the writer’s enjoyment of the yard, it would be the board’s obligation to address the upstairs unit owners’ conduct and to ensure that those unit owners took the steps necessary to address their air conditioning discharge. 

“Depending on the severity of the discharge from the air conditioning units, the writer could potentially pursue claims of trespass and/or nuisance against the upstairs neighbors. However, before taking any such action, the writer should contact the upstairs neighbors to advise them of the issue. If that outreach fails to resolve the issue, the writer should contact the board of managers and/or the managing agent for the building and should advise them both of the issue and of the fact that the writer had brought the issue to the attention of the upstairs neighbor to no avail.” 

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