We own a 3rd floor condo in a 4 story building in Los Angeles, California. We had a leak into our condo from above that caused mold and we are trying to determine who is responsible for the repairs and what options we have. According to the plumber the leak was from the connection of the copper pipe to the shower/tub valve for the condo above and was due to builder error when the plumbing was initiall installed. Our building is less than 10 years old but the builder is bankrupt. This is not the first time that a leak has occured in the building due to errors made by the builder. In prior instances related to leaks the HOA has decided to cover the entire cost rather than either attempt to recover them from the builder or require homeowner's to pay.
We discovered the drip coming from our bathroom ceiling and notified the tenants (renters) of the unit upstairs and the President of the board. Tenants agreed to not use the bathroom to see if leak stopped. The leak stopped temporarily but begain again when they used their bathroom at which time the entire board and property management was notified. The owner of unit above was also notified, but did nothing. Property management advised us to schedule a plumber to assess the situation and assisted with us scheduling.
A plumber cut 3X3 hole in our ceiling to find the leak. The insulation was moldy - green color and had black material on it. Plumber noted that due to the 3 foot space between the floors, he could not access the leak from our unit. Also, mold was present on all visible wood and drywall and he would not continue until it was addressed. They believe the small leak had been going on for at least months and possibly years. The plumber brought in a mold remediation company which set up heaters and sealed off bathroom. They warned us of the possible dangers due to mold. Upstairs owner paid for heaters. Plumber determined that the leak would need to be accessed from the shower in the upstairs bathroom, going through the tile. Upstairs owner would not authorize work until it was known for sure the leak was her responsibility.
The property management opened claim with HOA insurance to cover the entire leak issue and the insurance adjuster looked at the bathroom. We were told by insurance that they were waiting for HOA authorization and that they would cover the entire repair (based on mold not a leak) and they would go after the builder. HOA never went ahead with claim.
Meanwhile for 2 weeks the heaters remained and remediation co. eventually asked HOA what they wanted to do. The HOA authorized work in the units for mold remediation which started the following day. To get at the mold they removed the drywall on our ceiling, drywall on the 3 walls around our tub, all of the tile on the walls/tub, all of the insulation, removed the tub, shower glass, and toilet. The tub, toilet, and tile/drywall on one wall were removed to access a common wall shared with the building hallway (outside our unit) and the ceiling drywall was removed to access mold in the common area between the units.
One week later the board decides to meet to discuss situation and to understand if they are responsible for the mold remediation costs. The board votes 4 days later that their interpretation of the CC&Rs is that HOA is not responsible for leak and repairs.
3 weeks later we received an email from property management stating the board is revisiting their position. As requested we provided a written request for all repairs to be covered by HOA. 3 days later the board asked us for written estimates on the work to be done to make our bathroom whole again, which we provided. Another 3 weeks passed and we asked for an update. 2 days later the HOA said they are not responsible for repair but as one time gesture will pay for the mold remediation. This did not include the cost of replacing drywall, tile, or reinstalling the tub, shower, or toilet so we were left with a dismantled bathroom. We responded by sending a letter letting them know we would be filing our own claim with the HOA's insurance, which we did. The adjuster has contacted the property management and has not heard back. We received a copy of the claim request and understand the insurance has 40 days to respond. At this point it's been 5 months. CC&R's have mediation clause but CA law says thats only for $5k or less. Estimate for repair is $8k so if HOA refuses to use insurance we plan to take them to small claims court.
The owner of the condo with the leak has no individual home owners insurance and neither do we. The HOA has insurance that covers mold. The board has never sent out any information to homeowners suggesting that we have individual homeowners insurance nor have they raised the deductible or lowered coverage.
With good faith we allowed the mold remediation to be performed through our unit to access common areas. The vendor brought in by the board was the same vendor brought in by the insurance company. We believed that the board, by authorizing the remediation, would either cover those costs and the associated costs of making our bathroom as close to the way it was as possible, or would be moving forward with the insurance claim. We think the board should cover the cost of the repair to our bathroom because 1) the issue involved mold, 2) was in a common area, 3) is covered by HOA insurance, and 4) the board has set a precedent repairing leaks caused by builder.