QUESTION: My neighbor's washing machine hose burst in the middle of the night and flooded my unit and the unit below mine. The board said it's not getting involved because the association was not at fault. I know it wasn't their fault but I think the association still has a duty to get involved. Am I wrong?
ANSWER: You are correct that the association has a duty even though it did not cause the flood. It has a duty because the common areas are affected. Your unit is surrounded by common area walls, ceilings and floors, all of which the association is responsible to repair and maintain. This is true regardless of who caused the damage. (Civ. Code §4775(a).) The board must make sure that everything is dried out as soon as possible so as to avoid mold in the common area walls. If the owner that caused the flood refuses to hire an emergency restoration company, the board should do so immediately.
Assess the Owner. Depending on your governing documents and insurance, the association can assess your neighbor for the clean-up and repair costs. If you or the other two owners delay the water clean-up and wall dry-out process, you will be responsible for all mold testing and remediation costs resulting from your delays. Repair and replacement of hardwood floors, carpet, furniture, etc. will be each owner's responsibility rather than the association's. Each of you will have a claim against your neighbor with the washing machine, but the association has no duty to get involved in your claims.
CC&R Provisions. If your CC&Rs do not have provisions addressing damage and reimbursement, they should be amended as soon as possible. Floods will certainly occur again and the association needs clear CC&R provisions concerning damage, mitigation of damage, and reimbursement of costs. Your association should also consider adopting a program of resizing the lines.
Unauthorized Installation. If a board discovers that a washer/dryer has been installed without association approval (and often without meeting Building Code requirements), appropriate action must be taken to address the unauthorized installation.
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.