Liability. The failure of a water line in the wall does not automatically make an association liable for water damage inside a unit. There must be negligence by the association that caused the damage. In the absence of negligence, each party is responsible for repairing their own damage. That means the association repairs the common areas and the owner repairs any damaged cabinetry, floor coverings, and personal property. Thus, the importance of carrying proper insurance by the association and by members, and establishing a deductible policy.
In addition, associations should establish a checklist of things to do before, during, and after water damage occurs.
BEFORE THE FLOOD
1. Clearly define maintenance responsibilities in your rules and adopt a water damage & mold policy.
2. Adopt rules regarding angle stop valves and supply lines that:
- require that all angle stops be heavy-duty brass or stainless steel with quarter-turn ball valves and Teflon seats
- require all supply lines be high-grade braided stainless steel
- include standards for washing machine valves and hoses, dishwasher hoses, and ice-maker lines
3. Adopt rule regarding payment of the insurance deductible.
4. Amend CC&Rs to:
- clearly assign maintenance responsibilities
- add mitigation provisions
- require owner insurance
- address insurance deductible
- clarify who and what is covered
- add exculpatory language for simple negligence
DURING THE FLOOD
1. Immediately fix the leak to prevent further damage. Take pictures of the damage and the cause of the damage, both of which will be valuable for determining who pays for the damage.
2. Call an emergency restoration company to clean up the water. Worry about liability issues later. Dry damaged areas within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold. Take pictures.
3. Make sure the company dries out wall and ceiling cavities. Take pictures.
AFTER THE FLOOD
1. Notify the association's insurance carrier.
2. Call legal counsel (depending on the size of the leak).
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.