Minh Nguyen

Is the Owner or Association Responsible for a Water Leak Bill?


When water leaks into a structure, permanent damage may be done to the exterior and interior structure, the occupants’ health, and to personal belongings. This damage and the cause of the leak can be expensive and time-consuming to fix. Whether it is a mold issue or an insurance issue, a simple complication or a complex problem, the debate always ends with the repair/maintenance company wanting to know who will be responsible for the bill.

Different Properties May Have Different Jurisdictions
When a leak or damage to a single family residence occurs, the owners are generally responsible for roofs, walls, windows, and almost anywhere that the water may enter. Unless the home owner decides to receive a thorough inspection that uncovers the real root of the problem being related to common areas of drainage, sewage, or development, the association will more than likely be left out of resolving the issue. However, in the case of condominiums and townhouses, there are many more common areas because of shared walls and/or connected piping.

How to Determine Responsibility
The first step is to obtain a reliable plumber that may be knowledgeable about the plumbing situation of the complex. If the plumber concludes that the leak is coming from one specific unit that does not share walls, space, or plumbing, then the owner of the unit is liable for the damage. Often times, condominium agreements include a provision that requires associations to give the owner a reasonable notice and time allotment to complete water leak repairs and replacements. If the owner does not comply, the maintenance will still be performed, and the owner will be charged and a possible lien will be put on the unit.

Delaying the process will only allow more time for damage to spread and opens the owner up to charges of negligence. If the plumber decides that the leak is not coming from the unit, the association-management company must be notified and provided with sufficient evidence of the claim immediately. They may then choose to perform their own investigation on the situation with their own expert. All aspects of the leak will be considered including: the damage that the leak caused, the origin of the leakage, and the reason for the problem.

After all the conclusions of the investigation are vocalized, the owners may still be found at fault and, as previously mentioned, will be asked to fix the problem and cover the charges or there will be repercussions. The owner should then get a second opinion and depending on the outcome, should consider legal counsel. If the association-run investigation ends in favor of the owner, the association’s insurance company is likely to also do its own investigation. The owner needs to pay particular attention to the repairs to assure that it is properly done and no further problems will ensue.

The foundation of a property can be a fickle area of control. If is best to read and understand documents that were signed by the owner and the associated group to determine the ultimate liability on such cases that involve problems with the foundation of piping and plumbing. Depending on the contracts, either parties may have specified clauses that will immediately resolve the dispute over particular responsibilities concerning leaks and water damage.

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