Q&A: Who Pays for Leak Repair?

Q&A: Who Pays for Leak Repair?
Q My aunt owns a condo. The condo on top of hers had a plumbing problem that was leaking to her bathroom. They opened a hole in her wall to see the condition of the pipes and they were rusty and with leaks. Is the building association responsible for this repair or she?

—Maintenance Mishap

A “Your question leaves me with a number of questions myself,” says New York-based attorney C. Jaye Berger. “What “plumbing problem” was the unit owner above your aunt having? You do not say. If the leak was clearly coming from something in the condo unit above your aunt’s bathroom, what would have caused your building to make a hole in your aunt’s wall to see the condition of the pipes in her unit? That does not make any sense. If the leak was clearly coming from something in the unit above your aunt, they would have been looking for a problem in that unit to see what the source was of the water leak was into your aunt’s apartment. A tub could have overflowed. A seal at the base of the toilet might need to be replaced. There are many possibilities. Therefore, I do not understand what caused them to focus on pipes in your aunt’s unit, unless there appeared to be water leaking within your aunt’s apartment, when you were claiming it was really coming from the unit above. It is also not clear which pipes you are referring to. So let’s go back to some basics.

“Generally speaking, the unit owner is responsible for pipes within the unit. So if a pipe that you could see under the sink was leaking, the unit owner would be responsible for fixing it. However, the pipes within the walls are usually the responsibility of the building, because they are part of the structure of the building. This is why insurance companies always ask to see the Offering Plans and bylaws of condominiums when claims are reported to them. They want to know who is supposed to be responsible legally.

“The next question is what was going on in the unit above your aunt ? Were they renovating or did this just randomly occur ? If it had something to do with a renovation, there might be insurance to cover it. If it randomly occurred and was due to a maintenance issue with the unit owner above, that party still might be responsible legally, even if there was no applicable insurance. The fact that the building opened the wall in your aunt’s unit makes me wonder if that was a side issue unrelated to the leak. Many buildings have old risers which are in need of replacement. I can’t tell if those were the pipes that were looked at, but if they were, sometimes buildings try to “kill two birds with one stone” and have both issues fixed at the same time. In other words, the fact that pipes in her unit are old and rusty may have nothing to do with the leak from above, but they may be using it as an excuse to get her to update the risers.

“You might want to have someone come in to view the problem on your aunt’s behalf. You might want to do this in conjunction with an attorney who knows this area of the law. I often help clients to sort out these kinds of issues and the responsibility for them.”

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  • Back in September 2011, I received 2 phone calls. One was from the condominium superintendent stating that the unit owner who lives below me banged on his door claiming that I was leaking water into his hallway bathroom before he (owner) left the building. The second call which was coming in was from my boyfriend who was home at the time, stating that the owner below was came banging on the door like a mad man handed him a not claiming that there was a leak coming from my hallway bathroom and it was flooding his floor and had caused considerable damage to wall over his bathtub. My boyfriend said there was nothing leaking in the bathroom. I instructed the superintendent to go upstairs to my and unit and that my boyfriend was home so he could see what was going on. The super informed me that he observed no leaks, the floor, tiles, tub were dry and that the leak was not coming from me. When I returned home the super informed that upon the unit owner returned he had the opportunity to check his bathroom. I was told that there was water damage over the tub as stated in note but that leak had not come from my unit. A 1 or 2 later I encountered the unit owner in the hallway of our building. I was asked when I was going to take of the damages. I never went into to home to see what he was talking about, but did reminded him of what the super told the both of us...it did not come from me and that he should have the ceiling up to see where leak is coming from. I never heard anything else about it again until this month, May 2012. I received a letter from small claims court. The unit owner is suing me for $3,000 to recover monies arising out of property damage. I never saw the alledged damage(s), no one other than the super visited my home to conducted an inspection. Forgot to mention I instructed the super and boyfriend to allow owner in so he himself could see that leak was not coming from my unit...he never took up the offer. There estimates or bills, etc. I had thought to have my bathroom walls opened up but then realized why should I if there were no visible signs. what do you suggest ?
  • Am I responsible for leaking Tub Shoe ? Neighbor has me in court for water damage to his bathroom. He had a plumber come into today ( court order). We were informed that leak was coming from Tub Shoe and drain body. I was also told that my whole shower and drain system needed be replaced. Who's responsible for leak, repair of damages to neighbor's unit and the replacement of my tub fixtures? This is a condominium.
  • I had a similar problem to the one in the article. I found leak spots in the the ceiling of my bathroom. Within a few days, the plaster became soft and pieces started falling. I called the super and he said he thought the bathtub above me may not be properly sealed. He also punched holes in my ceiling to better see what the plumbing area between our apartments looked like. I later found out that apartment above had recently renovated their bathroom and the reason he went through my ceiling was to do as little damage to that new renovation as possible. I live in a coop and the super told me that I could not fix it myself even if I wanted to because it involved another unit and the public space between us. It took two years and three attempts to get the leak completely resolved. Mostly because the tenant above insisted that the Super try to solve it without tearing apart his renovation.
  • the celing in the apartment below me been leakin , the plumber came in and said it s coming from the pais below my bath tub, sin have done what i could do to stop i by changing the part where the pipe opens ensure that no water is going down through there, but it continued now they want me to pay to repair the plumbing in their cealing, who is responsible for that ?
  • I own a second floor apartment. Below is the coffee shop owned by the company that maintains the common areas of the building. About a month ago superintendent came and said there was a leak in downstairs, he inspected the apartment and no sign of water found. Couple days later he came back with the plumber and said there was a pipe leak behind our wall, they made a hole in a wall to access the pipe, fixed the pipe, and promised to come back with the tile to fix the wall. Now the maintenance company says it is not their responsibility to fix the tile and they are not going to.