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Robert Lamoureux: HOA is off base on rotten roof

Posted: May 29, 2009 9:14 p.m.
Updated: May 30, 2009 4:30 a.m.
 

Mr. Lamoureux,
I have got a big problem with my condominium complex. We had a leak in our upstairs bedroom ceiling. They sent some people out to take a look at it and then I get a bill for $4,800 for damages we caused to our roof. We have an air conditioner/heater unit up on the roof with a leaking condensation line that had rotted the roof instead of channeling down into the gutter. Are we responsible for that? Even if that problem is our fault, you would think that we would at least have the option of calling different contractors and looking for the best price. Thank you,
Patrice H.

Hi Patrice,
In my opinion, I would say no, it is not your responsibility. The reason being is that any service company can go up on that roof. Or, one of the maintenance men from your association was up there cleaning the gutters and damaged that line. It could have been damaged by anyone. It’s very common that these condensate lines from your package unit, which are PVC, are not painted and will become very brittle from the sun. Let’s say the line was fine, someone came along and kicked it and there’s your leak. We see this all of the time.

With many HOA’s, the CC & Rs, conditions, covenants and restrictions, prohibit homeowners from going up on the roof. If you are not allowed up there, how can you be held responsible for maintaining the condensate lines? It would be up to the HOA to send someone up for on-site maintenance for a semi-annual roof check, especially since you have mechanical functions up there.  

Once there is a leak, it is very common to have these types of damages. You’ve got water dripping, with the sun baking it, more water and more sun. They said the roof was rotted, but what they probably mean is that the galvanized drip edge rotted out but this takes years of neglect. It was not an overnight problem. How they can suggest that this is your responsibility is beyond me.     

Hello Robert
,
I wrote you about one year ago with a question about installing an ADA lift in our complex. We followed your advice and are very happy with the results. Thank you very much. I would like to know if you could explain another problem that we are having. This doesn’t happen all of the time, but occasionally there are suds coming up through drains throughout the complex. Is this a cause for alarm? Do you know what this is or why this is happening? Thank you so much. We really enjoy your column,
Joyce B.

Hi Joyce,
I remember the lift question. I’m glad it all worked out for you. Regarding the suds, it is not a cause for alarm. It’s just more of an annoyance that someone else’s soap suds are coming up into your unit. What is causing this is one of your residents ran out of laundry detergent or dishwasher soap and they are using dishwashing liquid instead.

They are filling up the reservoir with this concentrated liquid and now you’ve got suds from here to Simi Valley. I’ve done it myself and it turns into a scene from the Lucy Show. This is the reason why laundry detergent is low-sudsing soap.

Mr. Lamoureux
,
We have had a problem for several months now and cannot find the cause. I have one neighbor below me and one above me. The family on the first floor has leaks in their shower ceiling. The plumbers have not been able to find this leak, but the board of directors is cheap and they don’t want to cut a hole in the ceiling. The plumbers say there is not much they can do without cutting the ceiling open. We have discovered that the leaks only happen when I and my upstairs neighbor are taking a shower at the same time, so we think it has something to do with water volume. Any information you could provide would be extremely appreciated.  Thank you,
Blair S.

Hi Blair,
I agree with what you are saying about water volume. No doubt there is a crack on top of the horizontal discharge line or the fitting.

When only one person takes a shower, let’s say the pipe is 1/2 full. When both showers are on at the same time, the pipe fills and leaks out through the crack on top of the pipe, causing it to drip down and leak onto the shower ceiling of your downstairs neighbor.

Another reason could be that you have ABS waste lines which are susceptible to expansion and contraction due to temperatures of the water and outside ambient air. If the crack is on the top of the pipe or fitting, this would explain why the leak is intermittent and not constant.

First of all, it is imperative that the ceiling be opened up. For one thing, you have to access the leak for repair, and secondly, it has to be dried out or they will run the risk of mold. There may also be insulation in there that has gotten wet and needs to be replaced. I would also recommend setting a dryer and a dehumidifier in their bathroom once the leak has been repaired.

I can’t believe the board of directors is refusing to open the ceiling. Maybe they were thinking this was caused by an overflow gasket or bad caulking around the tub? If so, they would have told the plumbers to check those two areas, but since the problem is still occurring, the next step is to absolutely cut out that wet drywall.    

I would call the plumbers again and have them do a head pressure test. They would fill both bathtubs with water and then release at the same time which will fill the discharge line with water. With this amount of volume, to simulate both showers operating at the same time, any leaks that are present will be easy to see.
 
This is a health issue, so don’t take any nonsense from your Board of Directors. This problem is entirely their responsibility.

Typically, the homeowner is responsible for air space inside their units. This means anything inside the surface of the walls.

Anything inside of the walls, like the plumbing, is an HOA responsibility.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send questions to Robert@IMSConstruction.com.

 

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