Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

Latest post Sun, Apr 16 2017 8:38 PM by karen2222. 250 replies.
  • Fri, Nov 4 2016 7:38 PM In reply to

    • Berkley
      Consumer
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    • Joined on Fri, Nov 4 2016
    • VA
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    Re: Condo - Leaking pipe in wall - Who is responsible.

    Apologies but this is my first question on this forum.  I own a lower level condo with a unit above me.  6 months ago I discovered water damage in my ceiling.  I had a contractor look at it provided by my condo management company.  He did a quick visual inspection of the unit above but could not find visible signs of water in his unit.  It's a rental and the tenant showed us around.  The tenant and the management company notified the owner of the issue.  We waited 2 days and no additional water appeared so the management company paid for the repair and decided it must have been a one-time anomaly, but the tenant said they did not have a toilet overflow or a one-time anomaly.  What was not disclosed to us by the tenant or the owner, at that time, was a panel behind the washing machine that could access the internal pipes that went upstairs.

    6 moths later we have the exact same water damage issue in the exact same spot.  This time upstairs unit has visible damage around their washing machine, tile floor and dray wall.  A day passes and the tenant tells me that he and the owner have found two leaks in the pipe that runs between the washing machine and their second floor bathroom, they attribute them both to wear from clamps and will be fixing them themselves over the weekend.  One behind the washer accessible by the panel the other somewhere upstairs.  He also tells me "a few months back while he was traveling "someone" was doing some plumbing work upstairs and must not have adequately fixed that issue.  The owner routinely does his own work, hires day laborers, or relies on his tenant to perform the work in his unit.

    Could the owner be negligent for this second water damage to my unit?  Was it his responsibility to have his plumbing inspected after the first incident? Would a trained professional have spotted the wear due to the clips as he suggests.  One would have been visible behind the washing machine.  Per his tenants comment "someone" did some plumbing work a few months ago and maybe they didn't fix the problem”.  I assume based on history that someone was the owner or a day laborer type who is not certified of insured.  The tenant and the owner fixed the two leaks after the second leak confirming that he does not hire professional plumbers or contactors to do work in his unit.  His insurance adjuster came and looked at his damage and ours, and we have not heard from them since.  The owner tells us his insurance company says he was not negligent so he and they are not responsible and we should make a claim on our insurance.  I called his agent and placed a formal claim against his policy for negligence and still have not been contact by them.  If a condo unit owner who is not a professional performs his own inspections, maintenance, and repairs is he not liable and thus negligent? If he was aware that water leaked into our unit from his unit 6 months ago, doesn’t he have to do everything he can to maintain and inspect his plumbing or he's negligent?

    0 0 1 454 2593 62 Blue Research. LLC 21 6 3041 14.0 Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE

    Apologies for the long email and thank you in advance.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Sat, Nov 5 2016 10:45 AM In reply to

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

    Berkley:
    Could the owner be negligent for this second water damage to my unit?

    It's POSSIBLE, but it does not sound as though you have the facts to show he was negligent.

    Berkley:
    Was it his responsibility to have his plumbing inspected after the first incident?

    It was his responsibility to do what was reasonable under the circumstances.

    You didn't say whether the first repair involved opening up the ceiling and replacing part of it.  If it did, then your repair contractor should have looked up there to see if he could spot the cause, or at least learn what could be learned from looking up from there.

    But I'm guessing the repair only consisted of repainting, which would suggest the problem was not very serious, and it would not have been reasonable to expect the other owner to drop everything he was doing and run over there, disconnect and move the washing machine, and open up the wall that same day.  Then of course the problem self-healed, so if your neighbor had come and done all that the next day or the day after that, everything would have looked fine at that time and all his effort would have been wasted.

    Berkley:
    If a condo unit owner who is not a professional performs his own inspections, maintenance, and repairs is he not liable and thus negligent?

    Not just because of that!  You would have to show that work he or his workers did was done completely improperly (not to generally accepted standards of workmanship) and that was the cause of your damage.

    Berkley:
    I called his agent and placed a formal claim against his policy for negligence and still have not been contact by them.

    You can't place a claim against anyone else's insurance.  You can inform his insurance company that you believe their insured's negligence caused your ceiling damage.  But the only way to force them to pay you any attention is to file a lawsuit against your upstairs neighbor.

    Do you have insurance on your own unit?  Are the ceiling repairs costly enough to be worth filing a claim against your own policy?  If so, I recommend reading your policy to see (1) whether this would be covered and (2) how promptly they require you to contact them.

  • Thu, Dec 15 2016 9:37 PM In reply to

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

    I have somewhat a similar situation -  I have a  leak coming through the common wall from my next door townhouse neighbor.  My plumber and HOA plumber found no leak on my side. Pressure tests revealed a leak at the neighbor's side, yet he refuses to acknowledge a leak. He had is "Contractors" check and they claim no leak.  Contractors may not have a license and neighbor may not have gotten permits for recent bathrooms and kitchen remodel.  HOA is on my side, but cannot force  my neighbor to have the leak fixed. In the meantime my walls are getting saturated with water, my carpet is ruined and there is still water seeping into my place. I have no homeowners insurance and HOA has a deductible of $20k.  I know I can litigate and probably will, but in the meantime I need to have the leak fixed before my place goes to pieces. Any advice for immediate action? 

     

     

     

  • Fri, Dec 16 2016 7:19 AM In reply to

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

    BettySpaghetti:
    Pressure tests revealed a leak at the neighbor's side

    Is the source of the leak located where you can fix it without having to enter your neighbor's townhouse?

  • Fri, Dec 16 2016 11:19 AM In reply to

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

    Unfortunately not, Karen!   I found a paragraph in the Davis Stirling Act (I am in CA) where the Association can fine the non-compliant owner daily up to $2500 max.  and try to get their own plumbers into the unit to repair what's necessary.  I have sent it to my HOA and hope they'll act on it.  

    Next door owner is an attorney and you'd think he would understand that the leak I have coming through the common wall will eventually be his leak too.  My guess is that he doesn't want to pay for the damage and is trying to push it off onto the HOA.  At this point I just want to have the leak fixed,  it's been 8 days too many!   

     

     

     

  • Fri, Dec 16 2016 11:54 AM In reply to

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

    BettySpaghetti:
    Pressure tests revealed a leak at the neighbor's side

    Can you explain how this pressure test "revealed" a leak on the neighbor's side?  Is there any possibility that your neighbor's plumbing is not the problem after all?

    I guess one more question would be, do the HOA governing documents define the plumbing as being part of the units (i.e. not common areas)?  That's probably the way most townhouse developments are, but it's worth a check just in case.

    In the meantime, is there any way you can collect the water (e.g. in a bucket, or some jury-rigged system involving heavy-duty plastic sheeting, duct tape and/or construction staples, buckets or pots, whatever you can think of) and keep it from doing more damage?  Would buy you some more time, and show you are mitigating damages.

  • Sun, Dec 18 2016 1:53 PM In reply to

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

    I am no plumber, but the experts said that if there is a leak somewhere in the house, the pressure will drop. They had shut off the main water supply, opened all faucets and shut off all supply to toilets, showers and water heater.  With some equipment they tested the water pressure - it remained constant in my house, dropped quite a bit at my neighbor's house.  Three tests at my house and three tests at the neighbor's came out with the same results.  

    The HOA will have tomorrow morning a leak detection company out to check at my neighbor's house - he's not compliant, however, he can be fined on a daily basis (Davis Stirling Act) and due to their demands on him, he will let the leak detectors in the house.  So by tomorrow I hopefully will know more...(stay tuned)

    Yes, I went to home depot and tried to get a flood barrier which they did not carry - unfortunately!  However, I got these Swiffer absorbant pads and they are just great and absorb quite a bit of water.  I clean up the mess about three times a day to diminish the damage that's already done.  The  restoration people were here on Friday (sent by HOA) and they  marked just about every wall in my bathroom and adjacent closet/vanity space.  It will cost the neighbor quite a bit - the HOA is now after him with a vengence and I will call the building permit violation dept tomorrow too! He had no permits for the remodel.  The Karma bus will stop at his house!! ;-)) THank you for your help, Karen! 

     

     

     

     

     

  • Sat, Jan 7 2017 7:06 PM In reply to

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

    I have an update:  HOA forced a leak detection at neighbor's condo and the leak was found and repaired - after 12 days! Needless to say, the damage is quite extensive and I am negotiating with neighbor's insurance.  They're reluctant to commit to anything, but I will get an attorney involved if I have to.  This leak cost me a lot of anguish and sleepless nights, I'll get them to pay for my damage one way or another -either the insurance or the neighbor will have to pay!   

  • Sun, Jan 8 2017 8:02 AM In reply to

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

    BettySpaghetti:
    the leak was found and repaired - after 12 days!

    So right around Christmastime?  Happy holidays from your sweet, caring neighbor, eh?

    BettySpaghetti:
    I'll get them to pay for my damage one way or another -either the insurance or the neighbor will have to pay!

    I'm sorry to rain on your parade, but it is quite possible your neighbor (and his insurance company) will only be legally responsible to pay for any ADDITIONAL damages you incurred due to your neighbor's failure to address the problem promptly.  For your neighbor to be responsible for the damages that occurred before you informed him of the problem, either one of two things would need to be true:

    (1) the leak was caused by his negligence, or

    (2) your condo association governing documents say each unit owner is financially responsible for all damage caused by something that goes wrong in his or her unit even if he or she was not negligent.

    Merely hiring unlicensed contractors, or doing home repair and remodeling oneself, does not prove negligence.  The work itself has to be bad enough to constitute legal negligence.  At least, that's my understanding (you should know that I am not a lawyer).

  • Fri, Apr 14 2017 11:13 PM In reply to

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

    I'm so happy I found this thread.  I've been having a long-time, ongoing issue with ceiling leaks in my first floor condo.  There have been multiple different issues in this regard, so I'll just concentrate with the latest and then we can expand into the whole narrative.

    This latest leak appeared in my laundry room and kitchen. Upon discovery, I contact the upstairs owner and eventually it was determined that it was a leaking sink that he says has been fixed(I have not yet pressed for specifics as to where exactly).  At this point in the past, I've asked him to contact his insurance company regarding my damage and it usually(slowly) gets resolved.  However, reading through this thread, it certainly seems like him  repairing the leak releases him from responisbility for my damage and that I'll have to pursue this with my insurance policy.  Is that correct?

    And to tangent from that, I have had ongoing issues with leaks(as I said above) to the degree that I've pretty much had every inch of my condo ceiling replaced in the time I've owned it.  In the past, when I've gone to my insurance company, they've always turned me away saying to pursue it with the upstairs Owner.  Again, reading this thread, it seems like I've been getting the run around.  But, it's not like I haven't been getting stuff covered.  I've only had one instance of his insurance not fixing the repairs(that was a common area problem, which I understand).  I'm just wondering if I'm missing something here.

    And, finally, (and this might be beyond the means on this thread) is there any recourse I have for these consistent leak issues?  It happens regulary enough(from different places) that I don't know how I can sell this condo.  I have no faith that it won't happen again.   

  • Sun, Apr 16 2017 8:38 PM In reply to

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

    Backside of Water:
    At this point in the past, I've asked him to contact his insurance company regarding my damage and it usually(slowly) gets resolved.

    On a practical level, if your upstairs neighbor's insurance company has been paying for your repairs so far, it'd be dumb not to ask again.

    On the deeper question of whether they legally owe you the cost of your repairs, that might depend on what your condo association's governing documents say about it.  Have you read those governing documents? They probably include, at minimum, a declaration and some bylaws.  It is not very common, but some condos have a rule that a unit owner is responsible for all damage resulting from something that goes wrong in his or her unit regardless whether he or she was negligent.

    .

    Backside of Water:
    In the past, when I've gone to my insurance company, they've always turned me away saying to pursue it with the upstairs Owner.  Again, reading this thread, it seems like I've been getting the run around.

    Well, maybe, but to know whether these leak incidents are covered under your insurance you'd have to carefully read your policy.  Not just the declarations, but the whole policy.  And sad to say, many condo unit-owner's insurance policies DON'T cover damage that is not the result of a storm or a fire or other insurable event.

    Backside of Water:
    And, finally, (and this might be beyond the means on this thread) is there any recourse I have for these consistent leak issues?

    I don't know.  It would help to know why all these leaks are occurring.  Do you know if you are the only one who has had these problems, or do other owners have similar issues as well?  Might this be a construction-defect issue?

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