When it rains, it pours...
December 29, 2016 5:59 AM   Subscribe

First time condo owner, bathroom plumbing leak of mysterious origin. Trying not to fall into a money pit. Ice pellets inside.

First time condo owner, Massachusetts.

SOMETHING in my bathroom is leaking mysteriously and causing mold to grow in my garage, which is downstairs.

My plumber addressed a shower valve leak last time he was here... and the leaking continued. He just visited again. Apparently the tub drain is leaking as well. However, he can't determine the exact source of the leak and believes he'll have to go through a wall in a common hallway to do so. Looks like even if he's right about the tub drain, he'll have to go through a common wall to fix that too. He's advised me to consult with my GC on how best to go about the wall issue before he starts work.

I just spoke to my GC, who's a little stumped by the shower valve being the source of any problem. I'll be getting a plumbing second opinion from someone he's worked with extensively. I like my current plumber, I don't feel like he's gouging me, but I've not worked with him on such a sticky problem before.

The condo association may insist on using their contractor if any wall work to common areas needs doing ... but I trust my GC on strategy.

The $5,000 question:

Does any of this sound like a loss that could be covered by insurance? Even if the condo association could have their loss (wall cutting) covered, it would help me out.

I will value constructive input on any aspect of the situation.
posted by Sheydem-tants to Home & Garden (3 answers total)
I have owned a condo for many years and have served on the Board for many years. Here, if a problem such as yours is determined to be from a pipe deemed owned by you, it is your responsibility to repair it and any damage that might occur to the common area. Also, if a common area wall needs to be opened to make repairs to your property (your plumbing) then you would be responsible for making or paying for repairs to the common area.

If the problem is plumbing deemed owned by the Association, then they are responsible for all repairs and repairs to your property for any damage.

As far as insurance goes, my personal insurance would pay for damage caused by something I owned. Either to my property or property owned by someone else.

The gray area is where your property causes damage to the Association property. Over the years here I have seen some issues arise as to who will pay. To my memory, the payment generally comes down to the homeowner personally and/or their insurance for Association property damage. In these cases we would have the work done and then bill the owner.

The first step is determining very clearly exactly where the problem is coming from. In other words, who owns the pipe in question. More than likely, if it is your drain, valve, etc. it will be on you for Association property repairs. And if the Association wants to use their GC, they will likely bill it back to you. I can't speak to if your insurance would reimburse you for that.
posted by jtexman1 at 6:35 AM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

(Plumber here) From a technical standpoint, If your bathroom is directly over your garage, would it be simpler to cut a patch from the garage ceiling below to get to the tub waste and overflow in question? Then your plumber could just fix it from a ladder, and you don't get tangled up over who pays for what in the common hallway. I'm picturing a newer condo building (1990 or newer) with a drywall ceiling in the garage, but correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by Captain l'escalier at 6:53 AM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

> The gray area is where your property causes damage to the Association property. Over the years here I have seen some issues arise as to who will pay.

In my experience on a condo board, the condo's insurance pays, and if a unit-owner is responsible, the condo goes after the owner's homeowner's insurance for the deductible only.

This was explained to me after an expensive owner-caused water-damage episode (fire sprinkers plus zealous firefighters = 5 units damaged after a small kitchen fire that never left the stovetop). If the condo could go after the owner for all the damage, then every owner in the building would have to have enough insurance to cover the entire building, which would be cost-prohibitive beyond belief.

Instead, each owner is a shareholder in the building and contributes, in dues, the premium for the condo's main insurance policy. Thus, the risk is spread among the owners. We've had 2 fire-sprinkler floods (the one minor fire and one dunderhead contractor) and a water-intrusion with roof damage in the last 2 years in my building, so I've gotten quite an education.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:30 AM on December 29, 2016

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