What is the most frequently reported loss in a condominium? The answer will vary, but for my money, it is water heaters.
Water heaters only last so long. They are made to break and wear out, just like a tire on your car. It either wears out and you replace it before it blows or goes flat like a tire, or you wait for the blow out that never happens at a good time.
Approximately 5 to 7 million water heaters leak each year. That’s a big number.
What happens when it breaks? The water heater is filled with hot water lots of it, more than enough to fill your tub for sure, so when this goes, the water goes everywhere and floods the area all around the heater. If this is in a basement, the water will do less damage. But if you own a unit on the fifth floor, then it goes out then down, affecting not only your unit, but all the units below you.
Who is responsible for the damage? I wish I had a nickel for every time someone asked me this question.
Responsibility can be defined by the association by-laws, or whether or not you were negligent. If you knew of the defect, or were aware of the possibility of rupture, then you may be responsible for the damage to the property of others and the condominium. If for example, you have a newer unit with a longer shelf life and a pipe breaks in the wall, then you are probably not responsible and the other affected unit owners will have to fix their own damage.
This is much like if a neighbors tree falls on your property in a windstorm, it is your problem not theirs, unless they were aware of a defect or were on notice that the tree needed removal before it fell.
What can you do?
- Have a program in place to replace the water heaters at a designated time, before they break. My association does this and there are no problems.
- Buy the best one out there. Water heaters come with different periods of expected use. They are printed on the side
- use a tankless system
- Have pans placed under the water heaters with drains.
- review your by laws and make sure everyone knows their responsibility.
- Send newsletters and ask people to inspect and replace their heaters if necessary.
Accidents happen, but many of them can be avoided with proper loss control.