Whose responsibility is it for water leaks and water damages caused by the leak from a plumbing pipe inside two units’ floor and ceiling?

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Whose responsibility is it for water leaks and water damages caused by the leak from a plumbing pipe inside two units’ floor and ceiling?

The plumbing pipe is branched off from the main pipe and serves the upper unit, but not getting inside the upper unit yet. Water leak damaged the lower unit. Should the upper unit caused damage, or the lower unit had damage, or the HOA be responsible for the water damages on the property?

Asked on July 31, 2015 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Responsibility depends in part on who was responsible for maintaining the section of pipe that failed: if it was outside the upper unit, that is most likely the HOA, since generally unit owners are only liable for what is inside their unit.

However, resonsibility for maintenance is not enough to establish liability, or an obligation to pay. Liability also depends on fault, such as a failure to maintain or fix a pipe if there was some sign, symptom or warning that there was a problem, like a small leak, a drop in pressure, visible parts of the pipe (if any) showing corrosion or cracks, etc. If there was no reason to suspect a problem and the pipe simply "let go" without warning, then the person or entity otherwise responsible for it most likely did nothing wrong; and if they were not at fault, would most likely be liable. In that instance, anyone damaged would have to rely on their insurance for compensation.


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