Are Your Condo’s Walls Dripping? Who Is Responsible – And What Should You Do?

Owning a condominium unit can provide you with the best of both worlds – the wealth-building and autonomy that can come with owning real estate along with the ability to outsource exterior maintenance and repairs to the condominium association. However, these benefits are not without some potential pitfalls, and sharing walls (and plumbing access) with neighbors can sometimes present problems, especially when a plumbing leak develops. Read on to learn more about your options if you discover a water leak in your neighbor's condo is infiltrating your own.

Who is responsible for in-wall water leaks in a condominium?

The answer to this question is often contained within your condominium association's commitments, covenants, and restrictions (CC&R) document. Some condominiums have a "walls-out" policy – the homeowner is responsible for all maintenance and repairs from the drywall in, while the condominium association is responsible for maintenance and repairs of the outside and basic structure of the building. In other cases, the demarcation between owner and condo association responsibilities may be less specific and handled on a case-by-case basis. 

In condos that adopt a "walls-in" policy, plumbing leaks located behind the drywall may be the responsibility of the condo association, not the condo owner; on the other hand, condo associations that claim responsibility only for purely exterior maintenance (like snow removal and re-roofing) are likely to place responsibility on the owner of the unit closest to the leak.

What should you do if you notice a water leak coming from a neighbor's condo?

Often, your neighbor's first sign of a leak could be your knock on the door to inform him or her that water is running down your bathroom walls. Because of this, it's best not to assume your neighbor is aware of the leak and simply being difficult or refusing to correct it, instead bringing it to their attention as soon as possible. Your neighbor or the condominium handyman should shut off water to the affected pipes until the leak can be fixed. 

Next, you'll want to contact your homeowner's insurance agent. Whether the leak repairs are deemed to be the responsibility of the condo association or your neighbor, your insurance company will seek subrogation from the responsible party – but having this leak repaired and the water dried as quickly as possible is key in avoiding serious water damage that may harm your resale value. If you find you're getting nowhere with the condo association or your neighbor, you may want to contact an attorney to determine whether you have any escalation options.