After my bathroom ceiling collapsed, I got my landlord to cover a hotel stay. Here's what I did

  • Emma’s bathroom ceiling nearly collapsed on her head in her Morningside Heights apartment
  • She and her roommate negotiated with their landlord to put them up in a hotel and lower their rent
Celia Young Headshot
By Celia Young  |
July 17, 2023 - 9:30AM
A ceiling collapsing in a bathroom.

Emma's bathroom ceiling sagged before it later collapsed. 


Emma (a pseudonym) is a Californian who relocated to New York City after graduating from an East Coast college. She works in audio production. Here she shares her story of her ceiling collapsing in her first apartment in Morningside Heights, and how she learned to stand up to her landlord (without pissing him off).

I lived with a roommate on a block that was apparently affectionately known by Columbia students as Rat Row, simply because there were so many rats. So if the rats weren’t bad enough—one day my ceiling collapsed. And to make matters worse, after a brick fell into my bathtub, my landlord tried to play it off as not a big deal.

[Editor's Note: Brick Underground's Inside Stories features first-person accounts of dramatic, real-life NYC real estate experiences.]

Eff this noise

One morning in the spring of 2021, insanely loud construction work suddenly began in the apartment directly above us. We wondered: What the heck is that? And at the time, I worked from home in audio. 

I didn’t know how it was possible that the construction was allowed because it was so disruptive to us, so I texted our landlord. The one half-hearted promise he made was that they would be done by 5 p.m. every day, and I left work at 5 p.m. so I wasn’t home until they were gone. 

Fast forward a number of weeks, in a new twist, my roommate got Covid. We lived in a two bedroom that was very small, so she and I both wore masks and avoided each other. We did our best to distance from each other, but it wasn’t easy in a small apartment.

Sink or swim

One fateful day, I texted my roommate that I was going to take a shower, and she used the bathroom first. Then I heard a knock on my bedroom door. Through my door, she said, “I need you to come check something out.” So I put on a mask and came out, and I started to hear a weird noise coming from our bathroom. 

I looked into our extremely tiny, narrow bathroom, what I saw was the ceiling over the bathtub sagging in at a pretty dramatic angle. And there was a seam close to the wall that was leaking dirt and little rocks. And I thought, oh shit. That's not supposed to happen. 

I immediately called our maintenance line. It was probably 10:30 or 10:45 p.m. The woman on the maintenance line said our facilities people were not available because it was late. I understood that, but the ceiling was actively caving in. I was watching debris fall. 

This wasn’t her fault, but I stressed that this was an emergency. But she didn’t really know what to do. And as my roommate and I watched, with her on the phone, it sagged further. I took a step back. And all in one moment, the whole thing collapsed. 

I was silent for a second, and then I said to this woman, “Did you hear that?” And she said, “Yes, I’m going to call someone.”

A ceiling collapses into a bathroom.

Emma's ceiling, after it collapsed.



Operation escape the apartment

She passed me along to one of the property managers, who I’ve met before. I told him, “Our ceiling caved in. Help.”

He got on the call with so much confidence for somebody who had no idea what’s going on. He thought the construction workers unsettled something in the ceiling. I was frustrated at this point because my ceiling just caved in, my roommate had Covid, and I had to pee. 

He played this off as not that big of a deal. But I was about to take a shower, and this brick fell through the ceiling and could have hurt me. He latched on to the brick, and said there shouldn't be any bricks above us. So I took a video of our bathroom with the brick that was in our tub. 

A brick and other rubble in a bathtub.

A brick and other rubble sit in Emma's bathtub.



My roommate had the brilliant idea of asking for a hotel. He started bargaining with us, but after a lot of back and forth, we convinced him to give us around $200 for each of us for a hotel room. I had him text this to me so we have it in writing. 

We packed a bag and went downtown to this hotel. As we’re leaving, a little past midnight, our maintenance man Jerry showed up. We thanked him for coming and left. 

A call to arms

The next morning I got a call from the manager, who said that he wouldn’t have set us up in a hotel if he knew Jerry was coming. And I said, “Well, I sure hope you would have, because we needed to go to bed and we didn’t have time to wait. And it’s your responsibility to put us up in a hotel if our ceiling caves in on us, because our apartment was not a livable place last night.”

Much later, after a lot of back and forth with our landlord, my roommate got us a rent abatement for around half of our last month of rent. We later found out from Jerry that not only had the ceiling collapsed before, but it had been fixed incorrectly. There was a pipe issue, where something had broken in the apartment above and leaked, leading everything to collapse. 

What I learned: Be firm, yet respectful

There are situations where you know the right thing is to stand up for yourself. But you have to be careful about how you do it. Even if you are so completely sure that what you're doing is right, your landlord can try to screw you, like by withholding your security deposit and blaming you for the damage. So what I learned was to stand up for myself, but to be smart about it and to learn what you can. 

Do your research and get everything in writing. Even if you’re not going to sue, there are a lot of things you can do, like get money back on your rent or get out of your lease early. It’s always worth investigating a little more because there are protections for you, even if they are not written into your lease. 

Editor’s Note: Those protections include a right to a habitable apartment under the warranty of habitability. Your landlord has to comply with the NYC Housing and Maintenance Code, which guarantees you heat, hot water, pest treatments, repairs and an apartment free of persistent leaks and mold. 


Celia Young Headshot

Celia Young

Senior Writer

Celia Young is a senior writer at Brick Underground where she covers New York City residential real estate. She graduated from Brandeis University and previously covered local business at the Milwaukee Business Journal, entertainment at Madison Magazine, and commercial real estate at Commercial Observer. She currently resides in Brooklyn.

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