Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

Latest post 11-24-2014 7:35 PM by M Egge. 221 replies.
  • 06-18-2009 12:24 PM

    • Uncleb23
      Consumer
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    • Joined on 06-18-2009
    • NJ
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    Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

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    Hello Everyone,

     

    I own a second floor unit in a condo building. Recently the drain pipe leading up to my Unit cracked (made of lead) and leaked into my neighbors unit below. The pipe is located in the walls/floor between the two units. It’s in my floor and his ceiling below. The lead Pipe needed to be replaced with a PVC pipe. The property management company is saying its my responsibility saying that because the drain pipe is going to my unit after branching off from the main sewer drain.  However everyone else is telling me that It’s a common area and the association should pay for the repair to the pipe. I’ve called my insurance company and they say that it is absolutely not my responsibility since it was a pipe in the wall.

     The funny thing is I’m on the board. I have always assumed that the Unit owners are responsible for any plumbing inside the unit and that anything in the walls that’s the responsibility of the association. I also can’t see how I was negligible with this if it’s a pipe that I cannot see nor gain access to.   I’m about to tell the management company that I’m not paying for this and plan on bringing it up at the next meeting.

    I’d like to hear some thoughts on this if you have a little time. Thank you all in advance!

     

    Mike –

  • 06-18-2009 12:55 PM In reply to

    Re: Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

    Which responsibility are you concerned about? The responsibility for the damage to the unit below or the responsibility to repair the drain pipe?

    I've handled a lot of condo damage claims for both unitowners and associations.

    Let's start with responsibility for the damage to the unit below.

    You can only be responsible for the damage to the unit below if you were negligent. Negligence means that you knew of or should have known of a hazardous condition that could damage others and did nothing about it.

    That's obviously not the case here because the drain pipe was hidden in the floor and had a fortuitous and unforseen leak.

    The unitowner has to look to his own insurance company for the repair to his ceiling or pay for it himself if he has no insurance.

    As for the repair to the drain line, instead of ASS-U-MEing "that the Unit owners are responsible for any plumbing inside the unit and that anything in the walls that’s the responsibility of the association", I suggest you read your CC&Rs which WILL contain comprehensive definitions of exactly what constitutes the UNIT and what constitutes the COMMON ELEMENTS and where the boundaries are in between the two..

    Uncleb23:
    I’ve called my insurance company and they say that it is absolutely not my responsibility since it was a pipe in the wall.

    I don't know who you talked to at your "insurance company" (your agent, maybe?) but nobody can make that statement about repairing the pipe without carefully reading the CC&Rs.

    I used to have to get the CC&Rs on every claim because there were always subtle differences between UNIT and COMMON ELEMENTS.

     

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 06-18-2009 1:25 PM In reply to

    • Uncleb23
      Consumer
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    • Joined on 06-18-2009
    • NJ
    • Posts 2

    Re: Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

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    Thanks Jack! I am only concerned about the repair cost to the pipe at this point. By CC&R do you mean the Master Deed and/or By Laws?

    I've been reading it and on several occasions it contradicts itself. One page saying that anything servicing the unit directly is the unit owners responsibility the next page saying that all items before the interior walls are the associations responsibility. There is a lot of Grey area here.

    thanks again for your feedback.

  • 06-18-2009 2:15 PM In reply to

    Re: Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

    Uncleb23:
    By CC&R do you mean the Master Deed and/or By Laws?

    Probably the same kind of document with a different name.

    Uncleb23:
    I've been reading it and on several occasions it contradicts itself. One page saying that anything servicing the unit directly is the unit owners responsibility the next page saying that all items before the interior walls are the associations responsibility.

    I don't think the definitions are as brief as the sentence you just wrote.

    And I don't see that as a contradiction.

    Generally, there is a definition of the separation between unit and common elements and then there is a separate definition that applies to items that go through that separation like plumbing and wiring.

    So if whatever services the unit is part of the unit then the horizontal drain line from your fixtures to the vertical drain line is your responsibility to repair.

    Given that scenario, your own insurance could cover the cost of accessing the drain line but not the repair to the drain line. You'll need to talk to a claim rep (not your agent) about that.

    However, before you officially make the claim, understand something.

    The ceiling of the unit below you is drywall and paint. Repairing a section that got water damaged (visible water stain) is cheap compared to the cost of cutting through your floor (probably two layers of floor boards and maybe tile) to access the drain line for repair.

    And you probably have at least a 500 deductible.

    So, even if you are not legally liable for the ceiling below, it might be better for you to offer to pay for the ceiling repair with the agreement that you make the repairs to the drain line from down there. The whole thing might cost you 500 or less. And the alternative is to have a water leak claim on your insurance record (not a good idea) and still have to be out your deductible.

     

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 12-07-2009 5:30 PM In reply to

    Re: Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

    I'm having a similar issue, maybe a tad less complicated, and am hoping you might be able to help?

    I am on the 3rd floor and our downstair neighbor had a leak from their ceiling that was coming from a leaking pipe that connects to our bathtub. We do not own the pipe and it is in the the common skeleton on the building. The pipe is considered a restriced common pipe which means it services only our unit. My problem is that the HOA Managent company is billing us for the repair to the downstairs neighbor ceiling, to have it dried and tested for mold, and I don't understand why?

    The HOA Management company is paying for the repair to fix the pipe, butholding us responsible for the damage the pipe leak cause... is this leagal? There was visible signs of a leak and the leak did not even occur on or in our unit.. it happened in the common walls, from a common  restricted pipe!

     

    Please help!!!

  • 12-07-2009 5:39 PM In reply to

    Re: Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

    There was NOT* visible signs of a leak in our unit. Sorry!

  • 12-07-2009 5:46 PM In reply to

    Re: Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

    HOAs are notorious for using their NAZI power to force unitowners to pay for things whether they are legally obligated to or not.

    I don't see you being responsible in negligence for the damage to the downstairs leak if you didn't know the pipe was leaking until the leak was discovered.

    I suggest you report the claim to your unitowners insurance carrier if you want a big gun to back you up. Then, if the insurance company denies the claim and the HOA takes legal action against you, your insurance company pays for your defense. That's what you pay premiums for.

     

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 01-09-2010 11:10 AM In reply to

    Re: Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

    Hi,

    I'm facing a similar issue. I live on the second floor of a garden style condo (not sure if this makes a difference or not), and last night, my downstairs neighbor had informed me that there was a leak coming from my unit into his. He had been traveling, so the leak has been going on for a while and his carpet was damaged. I had no clue there was a leak since there are no signs or damages to my unit at all. I'm not sure what the extent of the damages are yet for the downstairs unit. I'm waiting for the plumber to come as we speak (who's 2 hours late already), and I just wanted to get some more information regarding what I would be responsible for.

    I also assumed that this would be my responsibility since that's what the condo maintenance person and property manager had told me. I tooked through the insurance policies and apparently I only have the condo master insurance policy and I don't have individual unit owners policy like I thought I did. From what I've been told, the master insurance policy only covers outside structures, but after reading this post, I would be interested in finding out more about what pipes may be the condo's responsibility. What is the CC&R and where can I get that information?

    Please help!

  • 01-09-2010 12:05 PM In reply to

    Re: Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

    smilenstacy:
    I live on the second floor of a garden style condo (not sure if this makes a difference or not),

    It doesn't.

    smilenstacy:
    last night, my downstairs neighbor had informed me that there was a leak coming from my unit into his. He had been traveling, so the leak has been going on for a while and his carpet was damaged. I had no clue there was a leak since there are no signs or damages to my unit at all. I'm not sure what the extent of the damages are yet for the downstairs unit. I'm waiting for the plumber to come as we speak (who's 2 hours late already), and I just wanted to get some more information regarding what I would be responsible for.

    As I explained to the previous posters, depending on the location and nature of the leak it could be your responsibility to fix the leak. But, under the circumstances you describe, you would not be legally liable (under negligence law) for the ensuing damage to the unit below. You share the same lack of notice or knowledge as the previous posters.

    smilenstacy:
    I also assumed that this would be my responsibility since that's what the condo maintenance person and property manager had told me.

    They are the last people on earth that you should pay attention to.

    smilenstacy:
    I tooked through the insurance policies and apparently I only have the condo master insurance policy and I don't have individual unit owners policy like I thought I did.

    Unfortunate, but that's your own fault for not buying a unitowners policy when you bought the place.

    Without your own liability insurance you might end up having to choose between paying a lawyer to defend you against a damage claim or just paying to repair the damage. Although if you get sued in small claims court you have the option of representing yourself.

    smilenstacy:
    From what I've been told,

    Never rely on what you are "told" without seeing it in print. 

    smilenstacy:
    I would be interested in finding out more about what pipes may be the condo's responsibility. What is the CC&R and where can I get that information?

    CC&Rs = Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions

    You should have gotten those before you even made an offer on the place, or made the receipt of same a condition of your purchase contract.

    You can ask the HOA management for a copy or one of your neighbors for theirs so you can make a copy.

     

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 01-09-2010 5:22 PM In reply to

    Re: Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

    Thanks Jack!

    I've already assumed the responsibility and paid to get the plumbing repaired. My concern now is if I need to pay for the damanges of the unit below. I know he had to get the water sucked from the carpet and from what the plumber said, there's some water stains on the walls of the laundry room as well the hole in the ceiling they had to cut out to reach the pipes.

    So from you're saying, I wouldn't be responsible for the damages below under the negligence law. Does this negligence law apply across the board or does that vary by each condo association and what's stated in the CC&R?

    Thanks again for all your help!

  • 01-09-2010 5:33 PM In reply to

    Re: Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

    smilenstacy:
    So from you're saying, I wouldn't be responsible for the damages below under the negligence law.

    Right.

    smilenstacy:
    Does this negligence law apply across the board or does that vary by each condo association and what's stated in the CC&R?

    Good question.

    Negligence law is rather universal and absolves you from damage for which you aren't negligent.

    But it is possible for you to enter into a contract which gives you responsibility for damages for which you are not negligent.

    CC&Rs are a contract between you and the HOA.

    So you'll need to read them to see if, perhaps, there is something in there making you responsible for payment for the water damage below.

    My experience reading many examples of CC&Rs would lead me to suggest that there is no such provision.

    You'd stlll better read yours to make sure.

     

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 01-10-2010 10:39 PM In reply to

    Re: Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

    I looked through my condo CC&R and it doesn't seem like there are any provisions for who's responsible for whose damages.

    Thanks again for all your help Jack!

     

  • 01-12-2010 12:21 AM In reply to

    • njnell
      Consumer
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    • Joined on 01-12-2010
    • NJ
    • Posts 3

    Re: Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

    Hi, my situation is very, very similar - with a couple of twists.

    I had a routine declogging/snaking from a plumber and the next morning awoke to find my downstairs neighbor's ceiling caved in, and a hole in the trap of the pipe leading to my drain. There had never been any problems with my pipes, no leaks etc. The plumber (my neighbor's) who fixed the pipe (at my expense) said it's unlikely I could blame the puncture on my plumber since the pipe was old and corroded and no one could see that until the ceiling was open.

    There was water damage to my neighbor's ceiling and walls that was fairly extensive.

    Long story short I paid to fix my trap and told my neighbor to call her insurance co. for the interior damages. My insurance had already told me that I was not liable because there was no negligence on my part.

    Instead she waited almost three months and then mailed - yes, mailed - me a bill for $1500. When I confronted her about this she claimed that our condo bylaws state that I'm responsible for all the damage to her apartment and that she hadn't/wouldn't bother to file a claim.

    I looked at the rules and regulations that "are promulgated under the provisions" of our bylaws. The is what our association regularly send us. The relevant statements in there go as follows: "Each member shall be liable for any damages, liabilities, attorney fees, etc., for failing to promptly perform repair or maintenance" on their unit. Since I've always maintained my unit but had no warning of this impending disaster, how could I be held responsible under such vague rules?

    Is there more detail in the actual bylaw agreement I don't know yet that would supersede this? Could anything more draconian be enforced on me? If you could spare a bit more of your excellent advice, I would be very grateful!

     

  • 01-12-2010 12:35 AM In reply to

    Re: Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

    Your insurance company has already told you that you weren't liable.

    And I agree.

    Now that you've been sent a bill, I strongly suggest you turn it over to your insurance company and let the experts handle defending you.

    That's what you pay premiums for.

     

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 01-12-2010 12:58 AM In reply to

    • njnell
      Consumer
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    • Joined on 01-12-2010
    • NJ
    • Posts 3

    Re: Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

    I don't know how I could have forgotten to mention this - I changed policies since this incident happened (It was back in October). It happened a few days before the policy was to expire, but nevertheless I was insured at the time, and spoke with an agent about my situation. I had been thinking of switching for a while because of the high premiums I was paying.

     

    Who do I take this up with then? My previous insurer? I hope this doesn't fatally complicate things!

     

    Thanks so much for your help! Ok

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