Peace of mind is a major reason for buying a property within a homeowners’ association (HOA). The end of shoveling snow and exterior paint jobs is a tempting prospect for many. When you live in a single-family home, the buck (literally) stops with you whenever an issue arises.
HOA plumbing responsibilities can be a huge blind spot for condo and duplex dwellers, who find themselves confused about what’s their responsibility versus what’s up to their HOA.
In this Blog, we’ll clear up what you need to know about HOAs and likely plumbing issues, so if a problem arises, you’ll have the facts needed to take control.
The what, who, & where of condo plumbing
Let’s say that your toilet isn’t flushing, or your sink is overflowing, and you don’t know why.
If you live in a single-family home, you’d pick the phone and call your local plumbing expert to fix it. Yet, condo life isn’t as straightforward.
Before you figure out whether you need to call your HOA or take out your wallet, it’s important to know the following:
- WHAT is wrong? Is it a leak, garbage disposal, or something else?
- WHOSE unit is the problem coming from? Is there a leak in your unit, a neighbor’s unit, or coming from a common area?
- WHERE is the problem coming from? Is there water coming from your ceiling? If so, is a neighbor above you, or is it an upper floor in your unit?
Knowing the answer to these questions will help you sort through who is responsible for addressing your plumbing issues. This information is your starting point from which you can act.
This process can be a confusing one, especially when the repair bill is costly. The best starting point? It’s in your HOA’s bylaws.
A ‘common’ guide for HOA plumbing responsibilities
Your HOA is responsible for all plumbing issues taking place in common areas. Funds to repair and replace all plumbing in these common areas are typically paid for with your monthly HOA dues.
Ultimately, your HOA’s bylaws govern who is responsible for who pays what when it comes to plumbing repairs. To that end, each association has unique governing bylaws, and even these may vary from state-to-state.
Here’s a general rule that’s safe to follow:
- If the problem originates within the structure of the building, it’s the responsibility of the HOA. Yet, if the issue takes place within your unit, it’s likely up to you.
Think of it this way. Say a water line leading into your home bursts. The HOA would most likely be responsible for that. However, if the pipes under your bathroom vanity are leaking, then it’s up to you.
Specific examples include plumbing issues in hallways, rooftops, lobbies, and other common answers. These would all be under the purview of the HOA.
QUICK TIP: It’s vital to carefully read your HOA bylaws and stay current with any changes taking place within your association. Knowing upfront what’s up to you versus your HOA will save you from a surprise headache should something eventually go wrong.
It gets (even more) complicated
What if a pipe bursts inside a wall adjoining two units? Who’s responsible then? You, your neighbor, or the HOA?
Furthermore, what if a neighbor has a leak, and it causes water damage in your unit? Who pays for that?
Rest assured that your HOA board (as well as your neighbor) will be carefully reading the bylaws to protect their interests. You may need to consult an attorney for additional clarification, especially if your unit incurs damage from an externally unrelated plumbing issue.
Sometimes these issues can be decided at the paint level. (Yes, some HOAs take responsibility from the exterior paint and outward, while everything else is up to you! Again, check your bylaws for clarification, and don’t be afraid to consult an expert.)
Insurance is a must
While you wait for your HOA plumbing responsibilities to be sorted out, having an insurance policy is a smart way to carry yourself through an uncertain time.
Your insurance will sort out most issues with the HOA and potential neighbors and may serve as an extra layer of verification between you and other parties. Remember, the insurance business model is to pay out as little as possible, so your policy will do everything it can to ensure that you’re determined not liable.
A few tips to get you started
Here’s how you can quickly get a sense of whether your plumbing issues are coming from a common area or not:
- Clogs in common area pipes typically cause backups in toilets, showers, and sinks. They often originate in a clog in the above unit.
- Maintain your drains and sinks. If you’re in an above unit and are responsible for the clog that backs up a lower unit, you will ultimately be held accountable, even if the pipe is a “common” one.
These are not hard-and-fast rules, but they may give you a sense of where to begin resolving your issues.
Condo living comes with many advantages, yet it can also provide you with a good deal of confusion should plumbing issues arise.
Knowing your association’s bylaws is key to understanding your HOA plumbing responsibilities and avoiding potentially costly surprises.
If you’re a condo owner who has suffered water damage or another plumbing emergency, we offer reliable service with expert care.
Contact us for an on-site diagnosis of your plumbing issues, as well as a speedy repair. We provide service that’s anything but complicated.