Legally speaking, a nuisance is defined as “a course of conduct which has caused substantial harm to other tenants, to the building, to the landlord’s employees, or to the landlord,” says Himmelstein, and unless the behavior in question is severe, repeated incidents are a key factor. So in this case, the fact that you’ve flooded your neighbor’s place on multiple occasions does not work in your favor.
And while your neighbors don’t have the power to evict you (only to sue for damages), they can put the landlord in a difficult position by claiming that, by failing to evict you after your frequent overflows, the landlord is violating their right to a habitable apartment.
If the case ends up going to litigation, says Himmelstein, it would help to try to persuade the court that these floods were accidental, and demonstrate that you’re taking steps to prevent the problem from happening again. Your new insurance policy is a good start, and it’s also worth looking into devices like the Magiplug or Nova-Flo, which can be installed in sinks and tubs throughout the apartment to prevent future overflows.
“I’ve actually settled a case in the past where part of the agreement was that the tenant would get these devices,” he says. “Courts are reluctant to evict older people, and most likely the worst that would happen is that you’d be put on some sort of probation.” Sometimes the Landlord, the tenant who suffered the damage or the Court will contact Adult Protective Services, who will attempt to contact the tenant in order to evaluate whether she is competent or not and in need of assistance. In extreme cases, if they believe that the tenant is not competent, they find cause to start a guardianship case says Himmelstein.
As for your downstairs neighbors’ high-decibel retaliation, it’s illegal for them to hit back at you by creating their own nuisance in the form of loud music, says Himmelstein. While you should be working to come to a diplomatic solution here-be sure to let them know that you’re installing anti-flood devices, for instance-you should also start recording the noise they’re making, and taking note of dates and times, especially if it’s happening at night. If things get contentious later on, this evidence could come in handy.