Leaking toilet blamed for ceiling collapse in ground-floor apartment

SAN DIEGO -- A leaking toilet is being blamed for the ceiling collapse in a first-floor apartment that left five people homeless Tuesday.

The collapse was reported around 5:50 a.m. at an apartment complex on Julian Avenue near Cesar E. Chavez Parkway, San Diego Fire-Rescue spokeswoman Monica Munoz said.

“The neighbor called and came out and pounded on the door and said that his ceiling was leaking water and he thought we may have a pipe leak. So I got out of bed and I had about two-and-a-half inches of standing water throughout the house,” resident Margaret Koeniger said.

Koeniger lives on the second floor with her daughter and grandchild. She said they have had a toilet that has been leaking for months.

"I’ve been telling him for a month and a half now that the waste is not going down. It’s overflowing.  He just says, 'Oh well, I’ll get to it when I can,'" Koeniger said. "We’re fed up with his inability to take care of things."

Both the tenants and the landlord agree that a bathroom leak in the second-floor unit  eventually caused the ceiling of the unit directly below to collapse. Another resident of the building told FOX 5 the tenants living in the second floor unit that flooded were known for causing problems and had let the water leak go too long before notifying anyone.

"If your bathroom is flooding and you don’t notice it right the first thing you do is shut off the water. But they didn’t do that and they didn’t call anyone I mean obviously there’s an issue," the resident, David Elesser, told FOX 5.

City records of the apartment complex, which was built in 1978, indicated that a roofing company did maintenance work on the roof last year.

"The thing was built in 1978. The contractor that built it didn’t put enough nails in the stucco so 40-some years later it came down, but it was cleaned up immediately and right, and it’s all safe now," Elesser said. "They have issues where they should be supervised, and their apartment should be inspected regularly that’s not the landlords fault they keep paying the rent,"

No injuries were reported.

The American Red Cross was dispatched to assist the five adults displaced by the incident, Munoz said.

An estimate of the damage caused by the collapse was not immediately available.

The owner of the property and the city engineer were notified of the collapse, Munoz said.

The landlord did not want to comment on camera.