Water leaks in condos in California can put you in an uncertain situation. Are you responsible for the leak, or should your HOA or upstairs neighbor foot the plumbing bill? There are no hard and fast rules for who is responsible for a leak. It all depends on your situation. Here are the questions you need to ask yourself to determine who is responsible for your water leak.
Is the Source of the Water in Your Unit?
In a condominium, the owner of the unit is responsible for maintaining and repairing everything in their unit. Therefore, if the source of the leak is in your unit, you will most likely be responsible for repairing the leak and any damage it caused.
That doesn’t mean that if you can see a burst pipe, it must be your responsibility. However, sometimes when the water is leaking in your unit, something outside of the unit has still caused it. For example, a pressure problem in the building as a whole may cause a burst pipe in your unit. Or, a backed-up sewer may cause a leak into your unit.
Your plumber can tell you if the leak was caused by something in your unit, like a poorly installed tankless water heater, or if the cause is further down the line.
Is the Source of the Water in a Common Area?
What happens if your plumber finds out that the source of the leak isn’t in your unit at all? For example, a common room above your unit has a leak that is trickling down into your unit. If it’s a common area of the building, then your HOA is responsible for repairing the leak and the cost of any damage it caused.
Once your plumber has determined the source of the leak, double-check with your condo agreement that it is the HOA’s responsibility. If so, get in touch with your HOA right away. They can be slow to address problems, and while they are ultimately responsible for the damage they cause, more damage is only more inconvenience for you.
Is Your Upstairs Neighbor the Source of the Water?
While HOAs can be slow to respond, they typically do take responsibility for any leaks caused in their portion of the building. Neighbors may be less upfront than the HOA about taking responsibility if the leak is coming from their unit. It may also be challenging for a plumber to determine exactly whose responsibility the leak is if they cannot enter into your upstairs neighbor’s suite. You may need your plumber to perform a water leak detection to confirm for the neighbor that their property is the problem.
As soon as possible after the issue is confirmed, you should reach out to your neighbor to talk about repair costs. Your plumber may be able to quote an amount to fix the neighbor’s issue, or your neighbor may prefer to get their own plumber involved. Either way, ask your plumber to make a statement about the source of the leak, so you have proof if you need to bring your neighbor to court.