A simple leak of a pipe can lead to endless problems between neighbors. The humidity generated by the filtration deteriorates and weakens roofs or walls of an adjoining house.
The question is, who is responsible for the repair and is willing to pay?
According to Alfonso Costabal, a real estate law specialist at Valenzuela Abogados, it is the homeowner who must assume responsibility for third party damage if the pipes are broken.
“The Co-ownership Law establishes that the maintenance and repairs are the owner’s responsibility. If the origin of the filtration comes from inside the apartment the responsibility will fall on the owner of the specific apartment; this is unless the building’s co-ownership regulation establishes otherwise.”
In the event that the property is leased, it is also the owner’s responsibility because he is the one who cares about having a habitable place, unless the rental contract says otherwise.
“The tenant repairs the damage it causes, such as glass breakage,” he says.
If the origin of the filtration is a common good of the building, the responsibility will fall on the administration.
“Common goods are pipes and roofs. It is the responsibility of the administration to repair and maintain it. That is unless the co-ownership regulations provide otherwise,” says Francisco Talep. lawyer and teacher of the Civil Law Department at the Law School of the Central University.
Samuel Zapata, administrator of the Zapata Group, says that when there is a leak coming from the neighbour, the first thing to do is contact the administration.
“The idea is that we have proof of the facts. The affected person must send us an email. It must include the greatest amount of history of the damage caused by a water leak. This is important because if the resident above does not want to take responsibility, we act as a judge of the issue. We will inspect what happened and the damages that are in the housing of the affected neighbour.
Then we contact the resident of the house that generated the accident. We act as witnesses also, and generate instances of conversation,’ he explains.
According to the administrator, the problem can be resolved within the community and generate an agreement between people.
If there is no response and no agreement reached, the administration generates an act that can be used to present to the local police court where these problems are resolved.
Alonso Mendoza, general manager of ProUrbana Administrations, says that he works with co-ownership regulations. They establish that everything that happens inside the home is the responsibility of the owner of the property. While, if something happens in the network that feeds the common spaces of the building, the consortium is responsible.
“It is the owner who must detect the water leak. They must repair it and take responsibility for the damage it caused to a third party; even the corridors of the community,” he observes.
Mendoza mentions that many apartment owners use home insurance, which consider broken pipes and damages to third parties. If the problem occurred in the first five years of construction, the guarantee given by the real estate agents applies.
The problem is when the apartment is old and does not have associated insurance.
“Many of them begin to present failures due to the age and type of facilities they have. Before, elbows were not used. The pipe was bent, and that now generates micro filtration. There was a case of an owner who did not want to take responsibility and went into the lawsuit process,” he says.
Alfonso Costabal suggested sending a letter to the building management committee so that the building will set a deadline for the owner to carry out the repairs that cause the leak.
“If there is no response, either from the administration or from the responsible owner, a lawsuit must be filed in the local police court. This is so that they can be fined for infringement. Also, they will have a deadline set to repair the leaks that produce damage,” he explains.
Fines range from one to three UTM. In case the owner does not want to pay the damages, the affected one can resort to the Civil Court.
Translated from ‘Qué hacer para que le paguen los daños en su depto causados por filtraciones ajenas‘