Condo leak from unit above caused mold - who's responsible?

Previous | Next
 rated by 0 users
Latest post 11-21-2012 12:44 PM by Drew. 7 replies.
  • 11-20-2012 9:30 PM

    Condo leak from unit above caused mold - who's responsible?

    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.  Other facts:  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. 

  • 11-20-2012 9:39 PM In reply to

    • Drew
      Consumer
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on 03-30-2000
    • PA
    • Posts 48,250

    Re: Condo leak from unit above caused mold - who's responsible?

    I have no idea about the HOA's exposure and what they did for other problems may not be binding as to what they need to do for you , if anything.

    In general the guy above is not liable if he doesn't know about the problem and its not caused by his overt negligence --HOWEVER once there was a determination that there was a leak comming from upstairs plumbing and the folks upstairs were put on clear notice of 'hey, you have a leak in your pipes draining down on me" and they failed to stop the water flow --then at that point they may be negligent .

    Me I'd suggest your discuss options with local RE attorney with an eye on suing the  upstairs LL  and let him/her enjoin the HOA.

    Wait for adjusterjack to comment --he knows 10X more than I do about these kinds of problems



  • 11-20-2012 9:43 PM In reply to

    • DPH
      Consumer
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on 10-08-2001
    • TX
    • Posts 7,175

    Re: Condo leak from unit above caused mold - who's responsible?

    westlacondo:
    The owner of the condo with the leak has no individual home owners insurance and neither do we.

    Shame on both of you.  Why don't you have it?

    westlacondo:
    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.

    It is hardly the responsibility of the HOA to educate owners.

    westlacondo:
    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. 
     

    Make an appointment with a local attorney and lay it out for them  Let them review everything and have them provide you with a paid legal opinion.  You will then know what, if any options, are available to you.  You might also see about getting some additional estimates to repair the damage and weight that amount versus attorney's fees if you decide to sue somewhere other than small claims.

     

     

    "Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience."  -  Mark Twain

     

  • 11-20-2012 9:51 PM In reply to

    Re: Condo leak from unit above caused mold - who's responsible?

    You're about the 4th or 5th condo unitowner in a week to report no insurance.

    What the heck is wrong with you people. Those policies only cost a few hundred a year.

    Well, I have to tell you that you are probably on your own for your interior repairs. Interior drywall is often defined as part of the unit, whereas mold above the drywall is part of the common elements between the units, which is probably why the HOA is taking care of the mold remediation.

    As to who's responsible, the builder is out of business so he's gone, the upstairs tenant and owner had no knowledge of the leak until you discovered it so there is no negligence there. The damage was already long occurring by the time you discovered it.

    And the HOA is not responsible for damage within the unit as defined in the CC&Rs, so the HOA insurance isn't likely to pay for it.

    Can't imagine what you were thinking when you chose not to buy insurance but it was an incredibly bad decision.

    If you had a unitowners policy, your own insurance company would be taking care of your damage.

    westlacondo:
    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.

    Unfortunately, none of those beliefs are valid and won't hold up in court if you took it that far.

     

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 11-20-2012 10:00 PM In reply to

    Re: Condo leak from unit above caused mold - who's responsible?

    Drew:

    I have no idea about the HOA's exposure and what they did for other problems may not be binding as to what they need to do for you , if anything.

    Agree. It's almost a sure thing that what they did previously doesn't bind them to doing it now.

    Drew:
    HOWEVER once there was a determination that there was a leak comming from upstairs plumbing and the folks upstairs were put on clear notice of 'hey, you have a leak in your pipes draining down on me" and they failed to stop the water flow --then at that point they may be negligent .

    That's true.

    Unfortunately, by the time that kind of leak is discovered, the damage is already done and it takes the same amount of repair the day of discovery that it would take even weeks later. So apportioning negligence to the upstairs neighbor or owner would likely be pennies on the dollar if that much.

    Drew:

    Me I'd suggest your discuss options with local RE attorney with an eye on suing the  upstairs LL  and let him/her enjoin the HOA.

    Never hurts to talk to an attorney, but I suspect that suing the upstairs neighbor or owner is likely to be an expensive task (unless OP wings it in small claims court without an attorney) bearing no fruit, if one can even get an attorney on board without insurance upstairs.

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 11-20-2012 10:25 PM In reply to

    Re: Condo leak from unit above caused mold - who's responsible?

    DPH:

    westlacondo:
    The owner of the condo with the leak has no individual home owners insurance and neither do we.

    Shame on both of you.  Why don't you have it?

    We were naive. We thought the HOA insurance covered everything outside of any condo walls and everything else would be covered by any unit that had a leak. 

    In this case the damage is mostly in common areas so it shouldn't be our responsibility to repair the damage made to access the common areas.

    DPH:

    westlacondo:
    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.

    It is hardly the responsibility of the HOA to educate owners.

    True, but depending on the associations other actions it could make a difference. From things I've found on the internet regarding CA condo's, I think the HOA can be liable for not doing its duty by treating us different than other homeowners when they previously covered all costs related to leaks caused by improper plumbing installed by the builder, but didn't cover ours. The fact that the association's insurance has additional coverage for mold seems to support that they are prepared to cover these issues otherwise why would they have the additional cost, and possibly higher deductible for mold coverage?

     

  • 11-20-2012 10:51 PM In reply to

    Re: Condo leak from unit above caused mold - who's responsible?

    Thank you all for your quick and very helpful reply's so close to the holiday.

    adjuster jack:

    Drew:

    I have no idea about the HOA's exposure and what they did for other problems may not be binding as to what they need to do for you , if anything.

     

    Agree. It's almost a sure thing that what they did previously doesn't bind them to doing it now.

    Drew:
    HOWEVER once there was a determination that there was a leak comming from upstairs plumbing and the folks upstairs were put on clear notice of 'hey, you have a leak in your pipes draining down on me" and they failed to stop the water flow --then at that point they may be negligent .

    That's true.

    Unfortunately, by the time that kind of leak is discovered, the damage is already done and it takes the same amount of repair the day of discovery that it would take even weeks later. So apportioning negligence to the upstairs neighbor or owner would likely be pennies on the dollar if that much.

    Drew:

     

    Me I'd suggest your discuss options with local RE attorney with an eye on suing the  upstairs LL  and let him/her enjoin the HOA.

     

    Never hurts to talk to an attorney, but I suspect that suing the upstairs neighbor or owner is likely to be an expensive task (unless OP wings it in small claims court without an attorney) bearing no fruit, if one can even get an attorney on board without insurance upstairs.

    I agree that delays didn't change anything to the cost so that's not something we can pursue.

    The problem is we're not talking about a couple hundred in drywall. This is $8k in drywall, tile, and insulation, and installation of tub, toilet, and shower. Can the association authorize the mold remediators to remove our walls, ceiling, tub, shower and toilet to get to the common areas and not put everything back? We don't even know if there was mold behind our walls nor were we given the choice to consider less instrusive options. Does it matter that the association's insurance adjuster said that it would be covered because it's a mold issue and not a leak issue if the association chose to go forward with a claim?

  • 11-21-2012 12:44 PM In reply to

    • Drew
      Consumer
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on 03-30-2000
    • PA
    • Posts 48,250

    Re: Condo leak from unit above caused mold - who's responsible?

    No clue how to address if HOA needs to do $5000 of demo work to access an interior repair situation



Page 1 of 1 (8 items) | RSS

My Community

Community Membership New Users: Search Community