If a leak is caused by an upstairs unit and they agree on paying for the repairs, are they also liable to dry and patch up the hole they have created?

I had a water leak last Sunday in my garage that was caused by the upstairs unit. It took me 3 days to get a hold of the homeowner. They finally got back to me and with much hesitation agreed on me having a plumber come out and see whose pipe was leaking. After opening my garage sceiling the plumber determined that the leak was caused from their unit and she agreed to pay for the repairs. I made sure she would call their insurance company to file a claim. I didn’t hear anything from the insurance company until today. They only called me to tell me that the damages where my own responsibility.

Asked on December 1, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California


Michael D. Siegel / Siegel & Siegel, P.C.

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The insurance company does not want to pay unless you make a formal claim.  Her claim is not enough.  If you sue, you do not sue the insurance company.  You sue the person directly, and the matter is turned over to the company.  The likely reason they will not pay is that the damages are less than the deductible.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The answer is they *may* be liable. Agreeing to fix something or to pay for a certain cost does not itself establish liability to pay for other costs arising out of the same occurence--the agreement only obligates them to pay for those specific things they agreed to pay for. They would be liable to pay for other costs or repairs if they were at fault in causing the damage. Being at fault requires more than just that it was their pipe that leaked--it requires also a willful wrongful act, or, more commonly, negligence, or unreasonable carelessnes. Negligence could be found, for example, if they did not respond promptly when a problem was detected or reported to them.

Note also that if they refuse to voluntarily pay, then even if they are at fault, you would need to sue them to establish that and obtain the compensation to which you would be entitled.

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