J.T. from Westchester County, New York writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Pipe located in the wall opposite my condo’s kitchen sink/dishwasher broke. Per the By-Laws below, should the Condo pay to remove my cabinet, sink, etc., or am I responsible? Note: I do not have any water damage.
Section 10. MAINTENANCE AND REPAIRS. (a) All maintenance of the repairs to any unit, structural or non-structural, ordinary or extraordinary, (other than maintenance of and repairs to any common element contained therein, and not necessitated by the negligence, misuse or neglect of the owner of such apartment unit) shall be made by the owner of such unit. Each unit owner shall be responsible for all damages to any and all other apartment units and/or to the common elements, that his failure so to do may engender; b) all maintenance, repairs and replacements to the common elements, whether located inside or outside of the units, (unless necessitated by negligence, misuse or neglect of a unit owner, in which case such expense shall be charged to such unit owner) shall be made by the Board of Managers and be charged to all the unit owners as a common expense.
The Management Agent had admitted that since the broken pipe was in the wall, it was the Condo’s responsibility and the repair would be made via the stairwell wall. However, Management Agent was informed by plumber that he couldn’t do the job and suggested Agent contact a contractor—that’s when he decided it was MY FAULT. Appreciate any suggestions/advice you can give me,
Mister Condo replies:
J.T., the wording of the governing documents is a bit of doublespeak in my opinion. However, if the pipe is broken and causing water damage, it is in everyone’s best interest to get it repaired quickly. I realize that you are not the party getting damages but the pipe may be your responsibility based on the wording of the governing documents. Depending on the cost, you might wish to speak to an attorney for a legal opinion on the matter but Section 10 b. of your documents says that you are responsible for the common element (the pipe) even if it is outside of your unit under the circumstances of “negligence, misuse or neglect of a unit owner, in which case such expense shall be charged to such unit owner”. My guess is the Board is claiming that the aged pipe that broke was caused by “negligence or neglect” and trying to charge the repair to you. I would counter with you had no access to the pipe so you couldn’t maintain it even if you thought you needed to. I think you would prevail but unless the Board changes its mind, they will likely tag you with the cost of the repair. Your homeowner’s insurance may or may not cover the cost (the pipe is outside of your unit so I wouldn’t be surprised if they denied the claim). Petition the Board citing the same rules you quoted here and see if they don’t change their mind. If not, you may have a legal battle on your hands, predicated on how expense a repair this is going to be and how much you will be out of pocket. Good luck!