Responsibility for Condo Inside wall plumbing

7 Replies

One of the condos I own had sent a letter to owners indicating that some units have had leaks coming from the bathtub's faulty diverter valves (likely due to poor pieces from the developer) and it recommended all owners should change them as if leaks occur they would be held responsible for any damage to the building and other units.

I spoke to my plumber who had a look and said that the diverter valves are inside the walls which are inside my unit and the other units that he has fixed in the same building were all held responsible for going into the walls and fixing the plumbing. He estimated the cost for his labour to be about $700 and that wouldn't include repairing the walls. 

I spoke to the condo property manager about how this is a pretty expensive cost and whether it's actually the owner responsibility since this is plumbing inside the walls and for some units are the piping inside the common area walls. She said that from her understanding it would be a cheap fix and would just be changing the tub's diverter valves with no need to go in the walls. My plumber disagrees and says I should be proactive and do the fix to prevent a larger issue in the future.

Thoughts on if this is the condo board's responsibility and whether I should cover the costs for the fix?

@James Ma I've had this issue before many times. Technically the HOA is responsible for leaks in between the walls such as pipe leaks, etc. Since this is a valve issue you as the property owner need to replace this soon before it damages the ceiling of the unit downstairs and depending how deep the valves are sometimes it requires to break the walls to fully repair the valve pipes and then yes you will need to repair the wall after plumbing is completed. I would ask the HOA for compensation but I doubt they will do this. Your better off fixing this and not having to worry about it for a very long time.

I lived in and also had rental condos.

The problem with asking the HOA for reimbursement is if they did it for you, they'll have to do it for someone else. I ran into this before. The HOA doesn't pull money out of thin air. If this is such as major issue that they sent a letter around, and they feel everyone should do it, then the best way to make sure it's done is they make it building wide project.

When they do these projects however, they either increase the monthly fees for everyone, or do a one time assessment charge. Unfortunately, when the put it into monthly fees, they draw on their credit line, so everyone wind up paying interest on  top. What I don't like about this approach is the management company would give the job to it's favored contractor, you lose control, cost is inflated, and collectively you all have no control over the cost.

So it's not a simple matter of, "here's my bill, cut me a check".

At my rental condo, to control costs, they had resident condo owners volunteer doing chores. The problem for me being an absentee condo owner is if I complain, they'll say, why don't you volunteer on something. Problem is I'm in NY, condo is in MA.

At the condo I lived at, no one want to pay for repairs out of their own pocket, insists the HOA pay for everything. They did, and wind up having no money to pay for electric, gas, water etc. and special assessments had to be made to pay these utilities before they are cut off.

Financially, I think it's better that this repair be made out of your own pocket, at the time of your choosing, if there's nothing wrong with it right now. The other way is you'll get hit with special assessments when you least expect it. By then, the bill wouldn't also be inflated passing through the hands of the management company and it's contractor which you have no control over.

Appreciate the responses @Frank Chin @Jack V. Ospina

That was also  my thinking was that if it's a building wide issue and likely a developer problem, it'd be cheaper if we just re-piped the whole building and get a bulk rate which would be cheaper than individual owners doing it.I think the condo felt that it was only affecting some units and would be a pricey one-time levy to fix something is affecting only a portion of units. Sounds like I may have to end up eating costs then on this one.

I guess the next question then is do you think I'd be better off just letting my insurance cover any potential damages in the rare event that the pipes leak and paying premiums, or hiring a plumber/drywaller to do the work which would probably cost around $2K-2.5K  i'd imagine from the sounds of it.

There are two parts to a diverter. One is soldered into the plumbing, typically a brass piece that is mounted to the wall. Secondly, there the diverter assembly that goes into the brass casing that actually has the valves and pieces in it that turn on/off the water.

If it’s just the diverter valve that needs replacing, that can usually be done in about 5 minutes without damage. If it’s the whole assembly that needs replacement, then you need to cut out the wall behind and replace the whole assembly.

To me, it sounds like the HOA is suggesting the replacement of just the internal valve. Your plumber is suggesting replacement of the whole thing. I don’t know which is required, but your plumber doesn’t want a leak or for you to ever call him back about this. The HOA is going for the least expensive fix.

Originally posted by @James Ma :

Appreciate the responses @Frank Chin @Jack V. Ospina

That was also  my thinking was that if it's a building wide issue and likely a developer problem, it'd be cheaper if we just re-piped the whole building and get a bulk rate which would be cheaper than individual owners doing it.I think the condo felt that it was only affecting some units and would be a pricey one-time levy to fix something is affecting only a portion of units. Sounds like I may have to end up eating costs then on this one.

I guess the next question then is do you think I'd be better off just letting my insurance cover any potential damages in the rare event that the pipes leak and paying premiums, or hiring a plumber/drywaller to do the work which would probably cost around $2K-2.5K  i'd imagine from the sounds of it.

I have liability insurance and my agent tells me it doesn't cover damages from leaks in the walls. I think the management company sent the letter to mitigate their liability if something happens. Renter insurance from the tenant I believe would cover. 

If I were you, I would just spend the money and be done with it. It sounds like there's a cheap fix and an expensive fix and I found sometimes the cheap fix turned out expensive. A few months ago, a tenant complained the burners on the electric stove isn't working, instead of buying a new one for $600.00 I opted to fix it for $200.00. A month later, still got problems, I called back and argued with the repair company, and to see if it's another problem, would cost even more for another visit.  I gambled on the cheap solution and lost. So I went out to buy a new stove with it's warranty which I should have done in the first place. I should have spent $600.00 and be done with it.

Being an absentee owner, time is money, so $700 is not a whole lot in real estate investing. And if you plan to do it, do it soon, as you got a warning already in writing, 

Laws where you are could be different, here I am not responsible for things located in walls per the CC&R.

I too had owned a condo, I've had this issue before many times. House owners are responsible for the issues like plumbings. Last time, I consulted a professional plumber in Richmond Hill and discussed about the faucet leaks and bathtub leaks in our bathroom. After estimating the total cost of the repair, I sent a letter to the owner. But to be frank, there is no use. He told me that he will arrange a plumber, but I should take the expenses. 

As James specified, my owner is not ready to meet the expense. He told me that it is not so expensive and it is not his responsibility. Since it was my need, I gave the money and repaired the faucets. I had asked for the compensation.

It’s simple, although the plumbing is inside the wall, it EXCLUSIVELY services your unit, thus your responsibility. Once the pipe branches off the main stack or line going to your unit - that is your responsibility.

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