I am a condo owner and recently had water damage to my unit (and a neighboring unit) caused by a burst in the heating

Expert's Assistant chat
Customer: I am a condo owner and recently had water damage to my unit (and a neighboring unit) caused by a burst in the heating pipe. The property manager is claiming that the burst is due to the freezing of a pipe and is therefore saying it's my responsibility to pay. The damages are estimated to be in excess of $70k with a $50K deductible passed down to me. Unfortunately my home insurance lapsed, and my tenant currently living in the unit also does not have coverage. I would like some advice as to whether this is owners responsibility
JA: What steps have you taken so far? Have you prepared or filed any paperwork?
Customer: Property manager has sent some reports from restoration contractor and plumber. The standing water had been remediated and the apartment is currently drying
JA: Where is the property located?
Customer: 10 sierra morena mews sw, Calgary Alberta
JA: Is there anything else the Lawyer should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: The insurance claim process has been initiated by the property manager
Answered by null in 4 mins 9 months ago
imglogo
10+ years of experience
logo

Satisfied customers

Expert in: Family Law, Legal, Estate Law, Real Estate Law, Criminal Law, Employment Law, Business Law, Consumer Protection Law, Bankruptcy Law, Traffic Law, Personal Injury Law.

logoBack
logologo
logo
logo
Satisfied customers
logo
10+ years of experience
imglogo
10+ years of experience
logo

Satisfied customers

Jessica

Jessica

Consultant

31,131 Satisfied customers

Pearl avatar
Lawyer's, Assistant
116 Lawyers are online right now.
img

null, Expert

Hello! Thanks for using JustAnswer. My name is ***** ***** I am an attorney ready to answer your questions with top-quality service. Just a few quick things before we get started:

  • I’m sorry to hear you are having these problems with your legal issue. I know that can be frustrating. However, we can get this resolved quickly;
  • We are transitioning to a new system to better serve you, so there may be a slight delay in my responses. Your patience is greatly appreciated.

Did the insurance adjuster say this was the case?

Customer
No, just the property manager
img

null, Expert

Got it! Do you tend to disagree?

Customer
i disagree. Not sure how the heating pipe burst, but it was not due to leaving a door open during winter as indicated by the property manager
Customer
The claim is the for was left open and the freezing temperatures caused the pipe to burst
Customer
Door*
img

null, Expert

Understood! But they have no proof this occurred, correct?

Customer
Correct. Plumbers report only notes that the line did freeze
img

null, Expert

Got it! I believe I have everything I need, but was there anything else you’d like to add before I answered? If not, I can begin working on your answer.

Customer
The only other thing to point out is the heating is within my unit
img

null, Expert

No problem! I’ll certainly address that. Anything else you'd like to add you think is relevant before I answer?

Customer
No
img

null, Expert

Got it! I just need a little time to do some research and draft up a high-quality answer. I'll be with you as soon as possible. It won't be terribly long!

Customer
Thank you
img

null, Expert

I'm so sorry to hear about your situation!

So a few things to consider:

1. Just because they are saying you're liable doesn't make you liable;

2. Unless the governing documents specifically prohibit certain actions, then they can't hold you liable;

3. The law would only consider your tenant to be negligent if the association can prove that this is the only way that the pipes could have frozen;

4. What this means is that you can ask a court to make the decision here. Basically, you can ask the court to decide conclusively whether you not paying for this would constitute a breach of contract. This is called getting declaratory relief.

Declaratory relief is a procedure whose purpose is to “set controversies at rest before they lead to repudiation of obligations, invasions of rights or commissions of wrongs.”

To seek a declaratory judgment, you have to prove four things:

1. A bona fide justiciable substantial controversy exists;

2. The controversy must exist between parties with adverse legal interest as to their present or prospective obligations related to the contract;

3. A judgment would serve as a useful purpose in clarifying or settling the legal issues; and

4. A judgment will finalize the controversy and offer relief from uncertainty

.All this really means is that you are asking a court to determine definitively what each party’s rights, duties, and obligations are before there is a violation (e.g. a breach of contract). It’s important to know that there has to be an actual controversy.  You can’t base it on hypotheticals.  For example, if a party has a non-disclosure agreement, but one of the parties didn’t sign the agreement, a person may ask the court for a judgment as to whether the agreement is null and void on that basis.  By getting a judge’s blessing one way or another, the parties will know where they stand.  No damages are awarded; however, it helps the parties basically “know the score.”

So in the end, you aren't legally required to pay right now.

Please let me know if this has answered your question fully. I hope this information is helpful to you. If you need additional assistance or have follow-up questions, please reply to my message below, and I will respond as soon as I can.

Customer
Thank you for your feedback. There is one item in the condo bylaws that state; "an owner shall duly and properly clean, wash, repair, maintain, and when required, replace any interior wall or ceiling mounted self contained heating, ventilation or air conditioning system located on his unit not forming part of the common air conditioning system". Just wondering if this in any way makes me liable
img

null, Expert

Sure thing! So nothng here would make you liable. The truth is they don't want to pay, and are simply guessing as to how this happened, without acknowledging that it is late fall, and it is possible that the pipes just froze!

Customer
Ok thanks. I would not think to do any maintenance on the heating pipes because my condo fees pay for heating so i assume the property manager would be responsible for this type of maintenance even though the pipes are within my unit. Is my thinking accurate or should i have been maintaining these pipes in some way.
img

null, Expert

Correct! In my opinion, I would see if they will reach some sort of settlement to avoid court, but if they won't, they have to prove their case, making it very unlikely.

Customer
What would you suggest as a next step since i have no insurance. Should a retain a lawyer like yourself?
Customer
Should i respond to the property manager that i don't believe this to be my responsibility?
img

null, Expert

Sure! My recommendation is to just ask them what proof they have this is your responsibility, and what evidence from the CCRs do they have that suggests that you are liable for the freezing pipes, which are typically common elements. Without some proof int he law or the CCRs, I'd recommend advising them you will not pay.

Customer
Do you have any recommendations for a lawyer if and when I may need one?
img

null, Expert

3nocontacts

img

null, Expert

I don’t have any specific contacts; however, I can do the next best thing.

One thing I recommend is going through your state’s lawyer referral service (LRS). The LRS typically only lists experienced attorneys who have adequate staffing to assist people.

Yelp.com is a surprisingly good place to find lawyers.

You can check out find.lawyer.com - Lawyer.com Free Consultation Lawyer Form - JustAnswer

You can also find a lawyer on the Legal Services Corporation website. The LSC is an independent non-profit organization authorized by Congress in 1974 to help people find legal aid services (https://www.lsc.gov/what-legal-aid/find-legal-aid).

Sometimes, the local law schools can provide free legal assistance, too. Yelp.com is a surprisingly good place to find lawyers.

You can also return to this site and ask questions to me as you go through this process to keep your costs down.

Did you have any other questions for me today?

Customer
Just to clarify, this condo unit is located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Are there specific laws in this city or province that could alter your previous responses or are they generally the same throughout Canada?
img

null, Expert

These are the same throughout.

Also, because this is a Canada law question, a Canadian law expert must also review this and give you the right info. I just barely realized it was turned over to the USA side.

The system is still in the process of properly filtering out by country, but it’s not there yet. This is particularly troublesome for English-speaking countries like yours. This means that I have to opt out of this discussion, alert our moderators, and have them shift you to the appropriate website so a legal expert licensed in your country can help. Thanks so much and I apologize for the inconvenience.

Customer
No problem and thank you. I assume i wait for someone to contact me then
img

null, Expert

Hi, welcome to Justanswer. My name is ***** ***** I will be happy to assist you today
Customer
Hi Michael, are you familiar with Canadian condo laws?
Customer
I am a condo owner in Calgary, Canada. On Monday 12/6, my unit had a heating water line burst which flooded the apartment with approximately 2 inches of standing hot water. The water penetrated to the neighboring units below and has caused some damage to flooring, ceilings and walls. A restoration contractor was called immediately to take care of the standing water in the apartment, which is currently in the process of drying. This occurred while a tenant was occupying the space as I don't live in the apartment. Unfortunately my home owners insurance lapsed prior to this event and my tenant doesn't have tenant insurance either. I received a report today (12/8) from the Condo corporation claiming the cause of the pipe burst was due to leaving the patio door open overnight, and as a result is holding me liable for the damages. This is not the case as I conferred with my tenant. The door was opened only after she noticed the flooding because the apartment was getting hot and humid, the fire alarm was going off, and she wanted to air the place out while trying to determine how to shut off the valve. I would love some advice as to whether this is my liability or the condo corporation?
img

null, Expert

I am. Upon review of the matter I do not believe you will be liable for any damages as the damage was not caused by something from inside your unit. The building would be responsible and are trying to put blame on you.I do not believe you have anything to worry about. Let the building be the ones to make a case against you. I am assuming you had a tenant agreement with your tenant and if there is proof that the damages was causes by your unit then your tenant will be the one to indemnify you.I hope that helps. If you have any other legal questions please let me know. Thank you again for visiting Justanswer!
Customer
Thank you Michael. Upon reading a few articles online about similar situations, it seems they do put the blame on condo owners if the piping was within the unit, regardless of cause. Not sure how true some of these articles are but it has me concerned, esIscually since i didn't have insurance at the time of the event
img

null, Expert

I am sorry that you are going through this. Did you make it a condition for the tenant to have insurance while they were living there?
Customer
I did, but they chose not to because of financial hardship during covid and because they didn't feel it was necessary based on their property they own
Customer
Do you know if Alberta law is any different from other provinces in Canada?
img

null, Expert

Then they are responsible for paying for the damages. You may have to pay for it initially but you can go after the tenant for reimbursement
Customer
When you say damages, are you referring to all the damages incurred. Or just damages to their personal belongings?
img

null, Expert

they will most likely be responsible for all damages

Ask a lawyer and get your legal questions answered.
See all Legal Questions
img
Related Legal Questions
How it works
logoAsk for help, 24/7
Ask for help, 24/7
Members enjoy round-the-clock access to 12,000+ verified Experts, including doctors, lawyers, tech support, mechanics, vets, home repair pros, more.
logoExpert will respond in minutes
Expert will respond in minutes
After you reach out, we match you with an Expert who specializes in your situation. Talk, text, chat, whichever you prefer.
logoSave time & money
Save time & money
No scheduling hassles, missing time from work, or expensive consults.
A JustAnswer membership can save you significant time and money each month.
img
logo 593 Verified lawyers, 10+ years of experience
DISCLAIMER: Answers from Experts on Askalawyeroncall.com are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney. Askalawyeroncall.com is a public forum and questions and responses are not private or confidential or protected by the attorney-client privilege. The Expert above is not your attorney, and the response above is not legal advice. You should not read this response as proposing specific action or addressing your specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law that might affect the situation you describe. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances should be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on any information received from an Expert, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction to which your question pertains. The responses above are from independent, freelance Experts, who are not employed by Askalawyeroncall.com . The site and services are provided “as is”. To view the verified credentials of an Expert, click on the “Verified” symbol in the Expert’s profile. This site is not for emergency questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals. Please carefully read the Terms of Service.
Explore law categories
Powered by JustAnswer