1. Free Legal Help, Legal Forms and Lawyers. TheLaw.com has been providing free legal assistance online since 1995. Our most popular destinations for legal help are below. It only takes a minute to join our legal community!

    Dismiss Notice

New owner inherits water leak issue that happened a year ago

Discussion in 'Homeowners, Fire, Casualty' started by Needhelplease!1, Dec 3, 2020.

  1. Needhelplease!1

    Needhelplease!1 Law Topic Starter New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    Jurisdiction:
    California
    Hello,
    Hoping for some guidance:

    Two weeks after purchasing an upstairs condo (October 15, 2020), the downstairs owner informed us that the previous owner had a water leak in their bathroom from a year ago. The downstairs owner had tenants at the time and claimed they unsuccessfully tried to contact the previous owners of our unit but for whatever reason the damage and leak was never repaired.
    We took a picture of their bathroom ceiling which showed the damage was old (peeled paint and dry bubbles).

    We had an inspection prior to purchasing the unit and it was advised to change the toilet wax seal in one bathroom and caulk in the other bathroom. The inspector also advised changing the AC unit. We intended to do all. Since the unit was empty downstairs, the owner said we had time to repair the minor plumbing issues. A few days later they knocked out a kitchen wall for more light and opened the bathroom ceilings without telling us. The HOA forbid them from doing so and advised them to follow the HOA procedures due to asbestos issues and possible structural damage, but they did so anyways.

    Our plumber came to complete the repairs. He was invited by the downstairs owner to take advantage of the opened up ceilings to determine where the leak was coming from.
    Our plumber had us splash water on all the faucets, on the floor along the bathtubs, on the wall tiles, flush the toilet, run the water in the sink, etc. He confirmed leaks from both bathroom even though the second bathroom did not show any visible damage prior to them opening up the ceiling (perplexed why they opened the 2nd bathroom ceiling - maybe the tenants damaged it?). The plumber caulked the faucet in one bathroom and changed the toilet was seal in the other. The neighbor confirmed there were no more leaks visible through the opened up ceilings.

    Several weeks later, the downstairs owner is now asking us to pay them $800 cash to put up the drywall on the bathroom ceilings We had no prior agreement to pay for this since the leak(s) dated a year ago. Is this ethical? Shouldn't they have filed an insurance claim a year ago with the previous owner? I am afraid they may say the leaks are new since we purchased the home only to get money from us. I do have it in writing though that they said they tired to reach the previous owner about the damage a year ago. He now says we have to pay within 48 hours or he threatens to take us to court and that he will also sue us for the time he cannot rent out the unit (although they are still working on the unit replacing kitchen cabinets and finishing up the floors). What should I do?
     
  2. flyingron

    flyingron Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    817
    Likes Received:
    378
    Trophy Points:
    63

    You seem to be confused about insurance. First, they are under no obligation to file insurance claims. Even if they had, a slow leak causing damage is not usually the things homeowner's insurance covers. Even if it did and paid out, the insurance company would be entirely within its rights to come after you for the money.
     
  3. Needhelplease!1

    Needhelplease!1 Law Topic Starter New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    Thanks for your reply and yes, I am confused not just about insurance but about the entire situation.

    I understand it was my responsibility to assure the plumbing is in order even if this was not disclosed upon purchase, which I did.
    But.If the downstairs neighbor knew about the damage from a year ago and was negligent and decided to repair only after his tenants moved out when convenient to him and did not pursue the repairs with the owner at the time, why am I liable to pay for the drywalls in his unit? And who is to say he needed to rip out both entire bathroom ceilings rather than just repair the one foot diameter damaged area. My HO6 insurance said they would not get involved for something that happened prior to our purchase. Thank you and any additional insight is appreciated.
     
  4. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

    Messages:
    8,730
    Likes Received:
    2,678
    Trophy Points:
    113

    You're not liable just because somebody says you are. When somebody says you are liable for something and demands money from you, that's the exact moment that you stop talking and you notify your insurance company that somebody is making a liability claim against you (use those words when you call the claims department).

    Your insurance company has a contractual obligation to investigate and defend you from unwarranted claims.

    You do have a condo unit-owners policy, don't you?
     
    Needhelplease!1 likes this.
  5. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,498
    Likes Received:
    1,208
    Trophy Points:
    113

    Did the downstairs owner provide any evidence that the damage to his/her ceiling was, in fact, the result of "a water leak in [what is now your] bathroom"? Did the disclosure statement you received from the person from whom you bought the condo mention anything about this?

    What was the reason for all of this advice? Did the inspection report actually mention leaking?

    I assume this means you haven't done any of these repairs yet. Correct?

    This makes me question whether these are actually condominiums since a condo owner making structural changes to the building would almost always result in immediate legal action by the HOA.

    That depends on which subjective set of ethics you apply. Whether something is or isn't subjectively ethical is not a legal issue. As far as legality, it's unquestionably legal to ask.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "filed an insurance claim . . . with the previous owner" might mean. Since we don't know what evidence was known to the downstairs owner at any particular time, we have no way of opining intelligently about what he/she should have done.

    Put your home/condo owner's insurance carrier on notice of what has happened. You probably should also refrain from communicating with your neighbor except to say that "my insurance is looking into this."
     
    Needhelplease!1 likes this.
  6. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,098
    Likes Received:
    1,678
    Trophy Points:
    113

    It may behoove you to negotiate and not just refuse to pay outright. If you do come to an agreement to pay, then you should make sure that they sign a release. You probably want to have an attorney draft that release for you.
     
    Needhelplease!1 likes this.
  7. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,498
    Likes Received:
    1,208
    Trophy Points:
    113

    You quoted my prior post (#5 in the thread), and I think you may have inserted some additional comments into the quote boxes, which makes it a pain to distinguish what you've quoted from your added comments. If I'm correct, can you please separate out the new information from the quotes?
     
  8. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,098
    Likes Received:
    1,678
    Trophy Points:
    113


    Maybe this will help - your (zdoodah) portion of the post is italicized.

    Did the downstairs owner provide any evidence that the damage to his/her ceiling was, in fact, the result of "a water leak in [what is now your] bathroom"? Did the disclosure statement you received from the person from whom you bought the condo mention anything about this?

    1. The downstairs neighbor did not provide any evidence that the water leak came from what is now our bathroom. We only saw the damage on the ceiling and took a picture. Our plumber, when he came to repair what was listed on our inspection to repair took advantage of the fact that downstairs neighbor had just opened up both bathroom ceilings and had us splash water in many locations to see where the water was leaking from.. After he caulked faucets and replaced the toilet wax seal, the neighbors said the leak went away. The downstairs owner did not provide any paperwork, if that is what you are asking The disclosure statement for our sellers did not mention any ongoing disputes or leaks.

    What was the reason for all of this advice? Did the inspection report actually mention leaking?


    2. Our inspection we paid for prior to purchase did not mention there was a leak. If there was one, it would have been mentioned. The inspector suggested caulking the faucets and replacing a worn toilet wax seal. We did not see any visual evidence of a leak.
    The inspection also highlighted repairs to consider with the AC and a few other points.

    I assume this means you haven't done any of these repairs yet. Correct?

    3. Yes, we did the repairs with a plumber we hired. We also installed a new AC.

    This makes me question whether these are actually condominiums since a condo owner making structural changes to the building would almost always result in immediate legal action by the HOA.

    4. The HOA requires an Architectural application to be completed prior to any work and to include contractor drawn plans, contractor license, liability insurance and copy of workers compensation insurance. The Architectural Review Committee by the CC&R's has 45 days in which to review. No construction of any kind is permitted until written approval from the architectural review committee is received. They did not comply. In our presence they even told the downstairs owner that the ceilings cannot be opened up before

    Separately the CC&R's say that each owner shall have the right, at his or her sole expense, to maintain, repair, paint paper, plaster....the interior surfaces of the ceilings, floors...subject to the requirements of the restrictions. Such owner shall have the right to substitute new-finished surfaces in place of those existing on the ceiling, floors walls and doors of his residential unit.

    That depends on which subjective set of ethics you apply. Whether something is or isn't subjectively ethical is not a legal issue. As far as legality, it's unquestionably legal to ask.

    5. got it.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "filed an insurance claim . . . with the previous owner" might mean. Since we don't know what evidence was known to the downstairs owner at any particular time, we have no way of opining intelligently about what he/she should have done.

    Thank you for your sound advice about only saying our insurance is looking into this. Does that mean I should file a claim?

    Put your home/condo owner's insurance carrier on notice of what has happened. You probably should also refrain from communicating with your neighbor except to say that "my insurance is looking into this."
     
    Needhelplease!1 and army judge like this.
  9. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

    Messages:
    33,025
    Likes Received:
    5,239
    Trophy Points:
    113

    I don't think anyone can honestly say it didn't help, mate.

    May many good blessings befall you for your efforts to assist others.
     
  10. Needhelplease!1

    Needhelplease!1 Law Topic Starter New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    Thank you
    Yes, we have a H06 insurance and I informed them of the situation and they said they are not liable for damage that occurred before we purchased the condo in October 2020. They provided me this site to seek advice. I do not know if the downstairs owner has insurance. And yes, I hope they will defend us from unwarranted claims but no claim has been made yet. Only the demand to pay $800 in cash. Thanks for helping!





    Looks like Zigner kindly sorted this above. Hope that helps.
     
  11. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,498
    Likes Received:
    1,208
    Trophy Points:
    113

    TY

    As far as I can discern, you acted promptly to repair what was happening upon taking possession and being notified of a problem. That should mean you have no legal liability, but you still should put your carrier on notice of what's happening.
     
    Needhelplease!1 and Zigner like this.

Share This Page