Having repairs done when you live in a condo is not always straightforward. Take plumbing repairs. When plumbing breaks, it can damage a single unit or multiple units. It can damage both individual units and common areas. Who pays to repair the damage? What sorts of damage is covered by homeowner’s insurance?
There are few black-and-white answers when it comes to plumbing repairs in condominiums. In every kind of scenario, the ultimate arbiter is the agreement each homeowner signed when purchasing their unit. A condo’s governing documents should clearly spell out each party’s rights and responsibilities.
Ownership of Plumbing Infrastructure
Common sense dictates that the party with legal ownership of the plumbing infrastructure is responsible for maintenance and repairs. In a high-rise scenario, the main water line and the feeder lines that carry water to individual units is likely owned by the homeowner’s association (HOA). This includes the water line leading directly to each individual unit.
Once plumbing enters a unit, ownership of the infrastructure is transferred to the unit owner. In simple terms, all the plumbing inside your condo is owned by you. Therefore, you would be responsible for all maintenance and repairs.
For simple issues, infrastructure ownership settles the question. But things can get sticky when problems with HOA infrastructure ultimately lead to damage to homeowner property. Then you have to sort out liability. Determining who pays for what can become a process that drags on for years.
Negligence and Liability Issues
Questions involving plumbing repairs and infrastructure ownership are easily resolved compared to issues relating to negligence and liability. To illustrate the point, imagine your HOA hiring a local plumber to come in and replace aging shut off valves throughout the property.
Imagine that the plumber, during the course of their work, makes a careless mistake that results in a major water line springing a leak. Also imagine that the leak causes damage to multiple units. Who is responsible now? Ultimately, the plumbing in question is owned by the HOA. The HOA is also the party that contracted with the plumber. The damage would be their responsibility.
That being said, Salt Lake City Utah’s Salt City Plumbing explains that plumbers are required by law to carry liability insurance. In this type of scenario, the HOA would be reasonable in expecting that the plumber’s insurance would cover the damage.
Negligence by a Homeowner
A similar accident might occur as a result of homeowner negligence. Unfortunately, homeowners can do dumb things just as easily as contractors. When their negligence causes damage to other units, they are responsible for it. A negligent homeowner’s insurance policy would be called on to pay for damage caused by the homeowner.
Governing Documents and Attorneys
When all is said and done, plumbing repairs and water damage have to be paid for by someone. Determining the responsible party is almost always a matter of consulting a condo’s governing documents. When necessary, attorneys may be brought into settle the finer legal points.
If you live in a condo, it is important that you know your rights and responsibilities as far as repairs are concerned. The general rule is that all infrastructure contained within your unit is your responsibility. Everything else is considered community property and is, therefore, the responsibility of the HOA.
In the event your unit ever experiences water damage as a result of plumbing problems, look at your governing documents to figure out who should foot the bill. If that party is you, your insurance agent should be able to answer any further questions you might have.