Our upstairs neighbor had a major leak in her bathroom and, since we live in an apartment building, as a consequence two walls in our apartment got damaged. The walls need to be repaired and painted. Since painting only two walls will make the room look ugly, we will need to repaint the whole room.

Our neighbor is not insured

Our neighbor is not insured for this kind of event (her choice).

My question is this: I had planned on painting the room even before the flood happened. So does my neighbor pay for the damage and we pay for the painting (or split the cost of painting), or does she pay the full cost of both the damages and painting of all four walls?


Before discussing whether your neighbor is obligated to pay for painting all the walls or just two, we first need to find out exactly what happened and ascertain whether or not she in fact has to pay for any of the damages.

The key questions are: a) Did the leak occur because the neighbor was negligent, or did she do all in her power to maintain her plumbing system and the leak happened due to no fault of her own? b) Once the neighbor learned of the leak, did she try to take care of it promptly?

A person is required to ensure that his belongings and property don’t cause damage to others. However, if one fulfilled his obligation of properly maintaining and guarding his property, but nevertheless, an unforeseeable accident occurred, and his property caused damage to someone else’s property, he is not obligated to pay.1

In your case, this means that if your neighbor used a qualified plumber to properly install the piping, using quality materials, then in most instances, she has sufficiently ensured that her property does not cause damages, and she has fulfilled her obligation to guard her property.

However, once the leak has sprung, your neighbor is required to take care of it as soon as possible. If she was negligent after finding out about the leak and this resulted in damages, she is obligated to pay. If she found out about it at night, and was therefore unable to get a plumber to come, she is not held liable for damages.2

Evaluating Damages

Assuming your neighbor was negligent and she is required to pay for damages, we still need to figure out how much she needs to pay.

The general rule is that we evaluate how much an item was worth before the damages occurred and how much it is worth now, and the damager pays the difference.

However, this only holds true for items that cannot be repaired. For items that can beDid the leak occur because the neighbor was negligent repaired, most halachic authorities are of the opinion that you don't evaluate the depreciation; rather, you need to pay for the full repairs.3

Who pays for the paint?

Although we have established that in this case, your neighbor would have to pay for the full repairs, she may not be required to repaint all four walls.4

Since the leak only directly damaged two of the walls, the “damage” done to the two other walls is indirect, due to the fact that if you only paint the two damaged walls, the other two walls will not be aesthetically pleasing. If a person’s property indirectly damages another’s property (“gerama”), then the rabbinic court cannot technically obligate your neighbor to pay.

However, on her part, your neighbor should still pay for all four walls in order to fully rectify the wrong that was done. After all, one is prohibited from even indirectly damaging someone else’s property.5

So if it is ascertained that your neighbor was negligent and is obligated to pay, she is only obligated to pay for the actual damages. However, on her own, she should still pay to paint the other walls.