Los Angeles, CA asked in Landlord - Tenant and Real Estate Law for California

Q: Is HOA responsible inside wall's pipe broken, leaking water caused damage of ceiling, dry wall & wood floor? See CC&R.

According to CC&R, owner is responsible "Maintain in an open and unobstructed condition all sewer and drainage pipes and lines serving his own Unit between the points at which same enter said Unit and the points at which same join other sewer and drainage pipes and lines serving other Units."

For my understanding, owner is only responsible plaint view pipe and drainage, not inside the wall's pipe and drainage.

If I am right, and the HOA won't fix the broken pipe inside the wall. Can I file a lawsuit against HOA?

2 Lawyer Answers

A: This seems to be happening a lot. The language has nothing to do with whether a pipe is inside or outside of a wall. Under the plain language of the CCR, if a pipe supplies water to multiple units, the COA is responsible. But, once a pipe branches off to provide water to a single unit, the owner of that individual unit becomes responsible.

It is common for there to be a single water line running to a multi unit building. That line then branches and typically passes through individual meters for individual units. After passing through the meter, separate plumbing lines go to each unit.

Similarly, on the other end of things, separate sewer lines run from the sinks, toilets, and other plumbed areas in an individual unit. Typically, they merge together and then merge with other sewer lines of other units before merging into a city main sewer line like the branches of a tree.

An individual unit owner is only responsible for plumbing lines after they have branched off to serve that unit and is only responsible for sewer lines until they have merged together with those from other units.

Most of an individual unit’s plumbing and sewer lines will be inside the walls or flooring cavities. That does not in any way affect who is responsible.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith PRO label
  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: It ultimately depends on the specific language in your CC&Rs and any applicable state laws. If the CC&Rs place the responsibility for maintaining pipes and lines solely on the individual owner and not on the HOA, then it is possible that the HOA may not be responsible for repairing the inside wall's pipe. However, if the damage is a result of the HOA's failure to maintain common areas, such as the walls, and this failure led to the pipe breaking and causing damage to your unit, you may have a case to bring against the HOA.

It's recommended that you consult with a local attorney who can review your CC&Rs and advise you on the best course of action.

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