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Own A Condo? Who Pays When Your Neighbor Develops Plumbing Problems?

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Living in a condominium can provide a number of advantages over a freestanding or single-family home. You'll be able to experience the investment appreciation of owning a home without the exterior maintenance requirements. However, one potential disadvantage of living in a condo is being directly affected by the plumbing problems or general negligence of your neighbors on either side (or directly above you).

What should you do if you're facing major plumbing issues due to a neighbor's clog or other plumbing problem? Who must pay for damage to your home? Read on to learn more about some common plumbing issues in shared-wall situations, as well as what you can do after you find yourself the victim of a neighbor's plumbing debacle.

Is there anything you can do to prevent damage to your condo when your neighbor begins having plumbing issues?

When it comes to shared-wall plumbing issues, there are a few common culprits.

The first is due to an obvious leak that could be caused by mistake or negligence -- for example, an overflowing bathtub or burst pipe under the sink. This can have disastrous consequences if it happens to the neighbor above you. Water leaking down can weaken your ceiling, as well as the floor above it, and you may run the risk of a ceiling collapse. If you notice any water coming from above, you'll want to immediately notify your neighbor and (if he or she isn't readily available to stop the leak) an emergency plumber. This plumber should be able to stop the flow of water and help remediate any damage that has already occurred. 

Another common issue may take place when a neighbor clogs his or her toilet or sink and water begins to back up in the surrounding pipes. If the clog is severe and makes its way to a central pipe that services both your and your neighbor's condos, you may find that your own pipes aren't able to drain well. While liquid drain cleaner can provide some relief, you'll generally need plumbing services to snake your pipe or potentially enlist even more heavy-duty cleaning agents. 

Who pays for damage to your condo caused by another owner's plumbing issue?

If you're forced to pay for a plumber or do your own DIY plumbing repair due to a problem caused by your neighbor, you may be wondering whether you have any recourse. Fortunately, there are almost no situations in which you'll be ultimately responsible for bearing these costs. 

Sorting out who specifically must pay for these damages can be a complex issue. Your best bet is usually to turn this claim over to your homeowners insurance company. Your insurance company will be able to write you a check to help pay for any damaged furniture, repair costs, or even hotel and food bills if this leak has made your condo temporarily uninhabitable. After you've gotten your check, your insurance company will likely go after either your condo homeowners association (HOA) or the neighbor's insurance company for repayment of any funds expended. It's unlikely your insurance premium rates will increase if your neighbor was at fault for this claim.

You'll also want to carefully review the HOA documents you received when you purchased your condo to determine whether you'll need to file a complaint with the HOA against your neighbor. In some situations, your HOA's insurance policy will cover your damages but seek repayment from your neighbor. It's important to have a documented claim on file with the HOA so that fault is placed with the responsible party and you won't be expected to shoulder any of the costs of repair.