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CalAttorney2, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 10244
Experience:  I am a civil litigation attorney with experience representing HOAs, homeowners, businesses and others in real estate matters.
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I own a condo. It leaked in January. Building Management hired

Customer Question

I own a condo. It leaked in January. Building Management hired a contractor who looked for the leak and didn't find one so decided to do repairs for me against my wishes. I wanted to hire a plumber and we were advised by the roofing people to hire a plumber. I told them we had to find the source of the leak. They advised me not to look further.
4 months later it leaked again causing serious damage to walls and floor. Each time the association repairman came out in May we had to nudge him to look further. He wanted to close it up. I kept finding damp areas on my own and now they are acting if I'm responsible for the flooring because I didn't wait for them to pull up the materials and expose the wet areas.
Ultimately and entire room hardwood had to be pulled up. I found a 7 foot diameter circle of wet area and have been drying it. A corner of the sub floor broke off exposing another layer made of plywood which was wet. Now they are slow to respond to my calls and emails. All along they have been difficult to get ahold of, and they say I should have talked to them. Now it's almost the end of June. They say it was my leak but I believe it was a common leak that was allowed to go on for months. But I can't prove it. Even if it was my leak, how could I have possibly known it was there and how could I have known not to take their advice and close it in January.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 2 years ago.
I am sorry to learn of this matter.Unfortunately, my very best advice to you at this point is to hire an HOA lawyer (I know that customers don't come to this site to be told to "go hire a lawyer" - so I will explain why I am providing this answer to your specific question).Hiring a lawyer on your side is going to trigger a couple of things - even short of actually filing a lawsuit against the HOA, by simply receiving a demand letter from a law firm, the HOA may "tender" the claim to their insurance carrier - this will often get a defense firm on board, (this gives you at least 2 outside professionals that are going to look at the case and reevaluate the conduct by the HOA - based on the description you have given, it is unlikely that they are going to agree with their assessment).The HOA's insurance will likely insist on hiring their own construction expert (either a forensic architect or a contractor) to inspect the property and find the source of the water intrusion. Hopefully this will lead to a practical fix (actually stop the leak).Furthermore, getting the insurance carrier involved will provide a source of money to fix your separate interest (remember, the HOA's common elements are the cause of the leak, and therefore they are liable for the damage to your separate interest.I get the impression that the HOA is not interested in negotiating a fair resolution for you informally, hiring a lawyer is probably your best bet here (not only will it help trigger all of the above, but it will also take the burden of arguing with these people off of your shoulders and pass it on to your attorney).(I spent most of the last half of my career working in firms with HOA clients - both representing Associations and Owners - while it is preferable to reach resolutions informally or in direct negotiations, if you have a situation where the HOA will not even go so far as to investigate to find the source of the water intrusion, that is usually a good point to retain an attorney).
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
The building management copied me on an email in May (an email to her contractor) for him to do what I needed. I have been sending most emails and leaving phone messages for him. Often his vmail box is full. It takes days or weeks to hear back from him.
I have already put a lot of expense into it. The gist I got from my homeowners insurance is that they won't pay for it (although I actually haven't reported it). The weather went from 39 degrees to 21 degrees the night of the leak, but I am told by repair men that since the pipe was not on an outside wall, it probably won't be considered a weather related event.I have kept fairly good records of my correspondence. They did finally hire a plumber in May, after a lot of damage, but won't give me a copy of the plumbers report. I think they were trying to help me out and just close it up and now charge me but now I think that may have been their way of not having to pay more themselves. I have asked for the plumbers report 3 times, one of which by going directly to the plumbers office.
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 2 years ago.
I would again recommend hiring counsel.You can get into a pushing match with the HOA by demanding records through the Management office, but it appears you have already been trying this. Based on what you have posted it appears there is a substantial amount of damage to your unit. If you are fairly certain this is due to an HOA common element problem (HOA controlled pipe, external surface - roof, exterior wall, etc.) it may well be worth the effort of retaining counsel.If there is a question as to whether it is an HOA element or a separate interest element (i.e. if you think it may possibly have been one of your pipes that you were responsible for (some HOAs do have pipes that the individual owners are liable for, I don't have a copy of your HOA's CC&Rs or other governing documents, you will need to review those), then I would recommend hiring your own contractor first to investigate the situation and locate the cause of the leak. Once you find the cause of the leak you can better proceed - i.e. if you find it is a separate interest issue, you know it is your problem and you can take a more cautious approach, if you find it is a common element issue, you can take a more aggressive one.