R.P. from Fairfield County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
The toilet in my rental condo leaked into the unit below mine. Without my knowledge or any notification, the property management company replaced the entire ceiling in the bathroom below because it had two small water marks caused by this minor leak. I would have been happy to fix any damage to the unit as I am a contractor by trade but I was never made aware of any damage to the unit below until getting a $900 bill from the property management company after the fact. Please advise; this is not right.
Mister Condo replies:
R.P., as the unit owner of the condo where the damage originated, you are certainly responsible for any damage caused by the leaky toilet. My guess is that your condo documents clearly state this. What is unclear to me is why you were never notified until after the repair was completed, although the fact that you are a contractor really doesn’t figure into this matter at all. Most likely, the property management firm, at the request of the Board, retained a contractor that has history with the association for making similar repairs. You may be able to get your name on the short list for future repairs by making your services known to the Board and going through whatever bid process they use for hiring contractors for such repairs.
The short question for me to you is do you have insurance for your unit that will cover some or this entire bill? Leaky toilets and, more commonly, failed lavatory supply lines are common culprits of water damage at many condos. More importantly, were the toilet and supply lines properly maintained? Many associations now require regular replacement of these items as they commonly wear and cause water damage. If the toilet components and water supply lines were past their useful life (in most cases, 5 to 7 years) then even the insurance may not cover the loss. By the way, this would be a good time to check other potential leaking items in your condo – water supply lines to dishwashers, washing machine, sinks. If they are old, replace them to avoid similar occurrences.
As for whether or not the association’s actions were right, I am afraid I have to side with the association on this one based on what you have shared with me. The person living below your unit had a problem. The association took steps to correct the problem. Your by-laws very likely spell out what steps are taken when such an event occurs. If you are unhappy with the outcome, you are certainly able to contact an attorney to discuss other legal options but I think for $900, you are more likely better off just paying for the repair and doing all that you can to prevent future occurrences. I have heard many stories where the resulting damage from water leaks involves several units and much more money. You may have actually gotten off easy this time. All the best!