Water from My Unit Damaged Downstairs Condo Unit

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D.S. from Fairfield County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

Last week at midnight, I had a downstairs neighbor come banging on my door complaining about a leak from his bedroom ceiling. My kitchen is located right above so he thought it must have been our dishwasher or sink. I inspected all the areas and didn’t find any moisture. The next night, the HOA management sent a plumber for an inspection. He didn’t discover any leaks in my kitchen area, either. He mentioned that another unit has had a leak for ten days already. I decided to open my drywall the very next day just to make sure that the water really wasn’t coming from my place. Lo and behold, I found a hole in refrigerator line. I fixed it right away and let the board and my downstairs neighbor know. Now the neighbor who had the leak first, wants me to pay for all the damages in his unit, including new carpet, floorboards, drywall, ceiling, paint, etc.. I think I acted proactively in the situation and found and fixed a problem that even the HOA’s contractor wasn’t able to solve. On the other hand, the neighbor in question didn’t contact any other owners to ask to check their water lines. The only party involved was the board who, upon inspection of his place, said to “wait and see what happens”. Because of that, 10 days passed without proper addressing of a pressing issue, in my opinion. Doesn’t part of responsibility fall on the owner of the affected unit? Shouldn’t he have taken steps to prevent damage from spreading, such as lifting the carpet, putting dehumidifier to help with the moisture, etc.? I want to be a good neighbor but I don’t want someone to take advantage of me. Isn’t not acting and trying to mitigate damages considered negligence in this case? He argues that time wasn’t of the essence in this case and has his best friend of 25 years, who is a lawyer, drafting up paperwork.

Mister Condo replies:

D.S., that leaking water supply line to your icemaker sure caused a lot of trouble; for you and your downstairs neighbor. I am not an attorney so please accept my advice as friendly and not legal. For a legal opinion, I strongly urge you to speak with a qualified attorney. That being said I have only your side of the story to comment on so here it goes:

The water supply line that failed was yours. The resulting damage is your responsibility. If you have homeowner’s insurance (HO6 here in Connecticut) you may be able to put in a claim for the resulting damage. Since the downstairs neighbor has already retained counsel to bring suit against you, I would recommend that you do the same. Regardless of how the leak was detected it can be clearly traced back to your unit and I believe you will be found liable for all of the damage that was caused, even if some of it could have been prevented by swifter action on the part of your downstairs neighbor. The actions of the association, while not all that helpful in resolving this issue, seem adequate to me and they are very likely not culpable for any of this. This may not be the answer you were hoping for but I think this is how it will play out over time. Like I said earlier, I would invest some money in an attorney to help you either defend against the lawsuit or work out a settlement with your downstairs neighbor. Hopefully, your insurance will cover most, if not all, of the damage. Good luck!

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