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Subject: Wall pipes are common area, HOA refusing to maintain
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JosephG9
(California)

Posts:1


07/03/2019 11:39 PM  
We have what appears to be a clog in a wall pipe leading from the washer. The CCRs clearly state that all pipes are part of the common area or exclusive common area, they are never mentioned as part of the unit. The HOA is refusing to cover the costs of the repair unless the clog is a minimum of 6 feet deep (essentially one floor down in the garage). No where in the CCRs does it state anything about length/depth requirements. In addition the clog has caused water overflow damaging my floor. This should also be covered by the HOA since it is their responsibility to maintain the pipe. If they continue to refuse am I able to sue them? Since I'm in California is small claims possible if the costs are under $10k?
RichardP13
(California)

Posts:3650


07/04/2019 12:15 AM  
$5K, since the association is a corporation or business. $10K if an individual.

Been there, Done that
SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3269


07/04/2019 5:21 AM  
Typically the HOA is responsible for the existence of the pipe in the walls, broken, etc.

Its typically not responsible for clogs caused by the homeowner.

You need to call a plumber. Its typically $100 to snake a line. No lawyer needed to sue.
MarkM31
(Washington)

Posts:463


07/04/2019 6:54 AM  
Posted By RichardP13 on 07/04/2019 12:15 AM
$5K, since the association is a corporation or business. $10K if an individual.




No, the limits are based on the status of the plaintiff, not the defendant. So the $10K limit woul apply here

Small claims courts have an upper limit on the amount of money that a party can claim. You can sue for up to $10,000, if you are an individual or a sole proprietor. Corporations and other entities are limited to $5,000..




https://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/small_claims/file.shtml
MarkM31
(Washington)

Posts:463


07/04/2019 7:04 AM  
Posted By JosephG9 on 07/03/2019 11:39 PM
If they continue to refuse am I able to sue them? Since I'm in California is small claims possible if the costs are under $10k?




Yes, but effectively only after you suffer damages (spend money).

Liability due to clogs caused by negligence may be ommitted, but that is probably not the case here. Laundry drains clog because of build up of soap and lint. They can also clog because of obstructions down stream and you just happen to have the lowest point for the overflow to breach.

You also have a duty to minimize the damage. You are not allowed to sit, pout and do nothing while the damage increases because you're in a disagreement with your HOA (I'm not implying that is the case here, just giving a broad hypothetical). If your clog persistes, call a rooter with a camera and then make a claim to your HOA.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:299


07/04/2019 7:36 AM  
Posted By SteveM9 on 07/04/2019 5:21 AM
Typically the HOA is responsible for the existence of the pipe in the walls, broken, etc.

Its typically not responsible for clogs caused by the homeowner.

You need to call a plumber. Its typically $100 to snake a line. No lawyer needed to sue.




In my community, pipes inside a wall that serve multiple units are defined as common elements while those serving a single unit only are considered to be part of the unit. The homeowner is responsible for routine maintenance such as removing blockages in pipes serving his unit alone.

Depending on the kind of insurance the OP's HOA carries, all of the pipes may be covered by the HOA *for an insurable event* such as a broken pipe. A clog is not an insurable event. The OP stated that he was sure these pipes were his association's problem, but sorting out responsibility can be difficult and confusing unless you who owns what, and who insures what and under what circumstances.
AugustinD


Posts:1791


07/04/2019 7:37 AM  
Posted By JosephG9 on 07/03/2019 11:39 PM
This should also be covered by the HOA since it is their responsibility to maintain the pipe.


Like SteveM9 posted, when a problem on a "common element" ordinarily maintained by the HOA is likely caused by a member, then the member pays. It's a "trespass" type situation where debris from your washer trespasses onto common area.

It does work both ways. E.g. suppose a tree on the HOA's common area produces a root that clogs your sewer line. The part of the sewer line that is clogged is a member's responsibility to maintain. But the problem emanates from a "trespass" by the HOA's tree. So the HOA would have to pay to repair the damage the tree root caused to the homeowner's sewer line.

If I were the HOA, for liability reasons I might advise the HOA to do the repair but then bill you.

Ever handled a sewer snake? You might be able to fix this quietly yourself.

For the archives: Serious clogs may require a sewer camera to investigate. This is also not so expensive.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6421


07/04/2019 9:02 AM  
Welcome to the forum. What do your documents say about responsibility for exclusive use common areas?

We're in a multi-story condo too and when a unit has a clog of any kind-- toilets, water source heat pump condenser lines, washing machine, etc., the HOA generally covers clogs that are in the common area risers. It does not cover the piping between my sink and where it joins the common area riser (pipe).

With any clog, the resident calls a plumber not the HOA. If our building engineer is on the premises, he'll come check it first, and sometimes it's simple. When plumbers come and need to snack the line, they always write on the bill how far from the fixture the clog was.

So, get it fixed. The floor damage, even if HOA responsibility for the clog, also might be yours to fix. Read the insurance section of your CC&Rs and your HOA's policy.
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